Thoughts on my anxiety.
How much can you blame anxiety for? Can I blame it for the lack of writing I’ve done over the years? Or more accurately, that all I have to show for my ambition is many unfinished stories and novels. Someone could say that I was lazy. I could blame an over enthusiastic inner critic or a lack of self belief. But when anxiety and worry creeps into your mind you can’t concentrate on anything else. You can’t switch off and get into your story world and even when it eases, your mind is so tired that trying to do anything actually makes you feel anxious again. In the past it has been bad, I think it’s better now although some days when it comes back it feels like this is a lie and that I haven’t managed to deal with my anxiety at all. (When it comes back, I’ve just realised what I wrote, it never goes away, it’s there daily but I’m so used to it and there are times when it’s very bad.)
Other writers would say that I need to have writing goals and I also need to write everyday: ‘you can’t be a writer unless you write everyday’. I tried making goals, it gave me anxiety, they felt more like burdens, like little worries. Don’t ask me how or why (if I understood my brain life would be easier) but having lots of things to do, a to-do list, makes me anxious. I try to fit so much in and then worry that I won’t have time to do them or that something will happen (work will call) and I won’t be able to complete all my tasks. It seems so silly to write this and admit it but in the past this has caused me so much anxiety.
I felt that I gave myself so much to do: write a short story, re-write a short story, clean, buy bread and milk etc. (always forgetting that I need time to relax too!) but someone who isn’t me could easily say that I didn’t have much to do. I don’t worry about this as much anymore, somehow I’ve managed to change and writing a to-do list down recently made me realise that I was worrying about nothing before. That’s usually the case but you only realise in retrospect, at the time you’re locked in your own thoughts and anxious feelings.
Even the things you should do to help ease anxiety felt like another chore: daily yoga, daily mindfulness (not mentioning reading books on CBT and anxiety), it just adds to the to-do list. And when you spend all day (or even just a morning) working on your ‘to-do list’ you feel tired because you’ve been trying to get things done and been dealing with anxiety too (I wish this wasn’t true!).
I still need to remember to give myself permission to relax and not feel guilty about watching a movie or a TV series. Breaks and relaxing are important too! I’ve realised that I don’t need to follow someone else’s rules: writing or doing yoga everyday. I do what works for me, without being lazy.
There is so much I could tell you about my anxiety but it’d be a long story. Can I blame it for holding me back in life? For not having a better job? Can I blame it for why I quit Uni after a week: being so anxious travelling there and back on the train? I was unable to cope with that anxiety and stopped going. Is it to blame for why I stopped driving? Not because of nerves after a lorry went into my car, but because there was a point during my lessons, during my practical test, and when I later passed, that I was always anxious. They call these panic attacks (long story short: used to have them) the ‘fight or flight’ response, in these instances I chose flight.
I don’t know how much of this my family or boyfriend know. I can’t talk about this, when I do for some reason it feels like a lie. It doesn’t feel real. Maybe because it’s invisible, unless you catch my hands shaking (I don’t think they do anymore) or maybe see me lingering too long by a locked door or a plug- only mild OCD! Or maybe when I’ve had an outburst at work (anxiety can make me angry and I get a telling-off) or maybe I might look like I might burst into tears (anxiety can make you cry when it appears again when you think you had it under control). I can easily write this stuff down. Well, I say easily I’ve never written it for a blog post before only on a forum where nobody knows who I am. But when I try to talk about it, my mind goes blank and my tongue is unable to form the words.
Even if I did tell people, the ones who care would worry. They might act differently or what can they do anyway? There will be those who won’t understand, think I’m seeking attention (never, I’ve always hid from the spotlight) and maybe criticise my choices and behaviour. Nobody could really understand unless they’ve been stuck in that cycle of anxiety for themselves.
It’s not so bad now. In hindsight I do feel like anxiety has held me back and it still does. It affects so much of your life when it’s bad, everyday things are hard to do: leaving the house without checking things are off, talking to strangers or carrying out conversations without worrying about what you’re saying, buying essentials from a local shop. I remember when I used to be so anxious about simply catching a bus, it’s so absurd thinking back about how much time I wasted! Maybe some time in the future I’ll look back and think about how about how much I let hold me back right now. I hope that I will be able to let things go and be normal (OCD please go away) in future.
Even writing this now I worry about what you will think of me, about whether or not I should even be writing this. Anxiety is pooling in my stomach, can I be brave and tell this small story of my anxiety? Others do talk online about this and I hope if you can relate to this that you will talk too, even if like me you are only brave enough to write something like this.
Jen's blog: http://bookwormjenblog.wordpress.com/Jen's Twitter: @Jen_wales
Thank you so much, Jen, for telling your story, I know it was not easy and I hope in some way that it was cathartic to put this down on paper.
If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself, please visit a doctor and do not give up.