Resisting my Stalker

I’m stalked by anxiety and resisting it is my daily battle.

It tempts me from the moment I wake up and feel a rush of panic as my heart becomes humming bird wings in my throat and I have to tell myself not to vomit; I have to tell myself that it’s just another normal day that I can cope with; I have to remind myself that there are no real threats; I have to convince myself to get out of bed. I talk to myself until my body listens and gets up. I’ve mastered it so well that no matter what, it works every day now. It’s been working every day for over a year.

The more I reflect in writing, the more I’m convinced by the immense power I have over myself, but the challenge is resisting anxiety which so sneakily steals the memory of all these sensible thoughts from me. I am so used to giving in to anxiety that it’s become a reflex- in my darkest moments I automatically connect to all the other dark moments and boy is it hard to make them go away.

But resistance is possible and the more I do it, the more I remember that.

I find noticing different textures whilst walking to work soothing- I sometimes run my fingers along fences and leaves, mentally recording the feeling.

I’ve not been reflecting enough in writing and letting my thoughts run loose, so the anxiety stalker has been right behind me, threatening to attach itself to those thoughts like a shadow during a never-ending clear-skyed noon. It’s OK though. I’ve spotted it in time and here I am. It’s time to think back to where I last was before I strayed: using philosophy and psychology to guide me by slowly working through Derren Brown’s ‘Happy’. I can’t remember when I stopped reading but I know why. I gave into the fatigue that accompanies that feeling of not coping.

Resisting anxiety is all about the conversations that I have with myself. If those conversations are in my head, I often fail to notice the anxiety stalker. If those conversations happen in writing, when I know someone else could read them, I’m forced to accept the illogical as illogical. Reading and writing is my savior. No it’s not. I’m my savior and I recognise that I can use reading and writing to help.

I don’t like the preachiness of life tips, but if you too are stalked by anxiety, I genuinely recommend you reflect on the conversations you have with yourself and think: am I ever expressing these thoughts externally to see how they sit outside of my head? If not, please look for a safe space to put your thoughts out in, to help you identify which are sensible and which are side-effects of anxiety leaving you in fight-or-flight mode.


Holiday Blues

I have my annual leave coming up, and while I’m looking forward to some much-needed time off work, the topic of holidays has been depressing me ever since I can remember. It’s high time I addressed this.

I know the reasons for it and I know they’re not good enough, but until I write them down and confront them, I don’t think I’ll fully accept it; instead, I’ll give into the self-pity and let myself be sucked into a depression yet again. So here goes, my attempt to explain why I associate holidays with stress…

I first started to get an idea of what a holiday was when I learned enough English to understand the kids in my class talking about their summer holidays. I remember once when I was 10, our teacher said that we’d received a postcard from Joseph in our class, posted when he’d been on holiday to Spain. Joseph had returned to England faster than his postcard and was there to hear it read to the class and there was such excitement as we got to hear that they stayed in a villa with a pool. These were all things that I wouldn’t hear about at home.

The holidays I knew of from home were those my cousins went on. They all went on the same holiday: to visit family back in Cyprus. I didn’t have great memories of Cyprus at age 10 . Plus, even at this stage I knew that terms like ‘indefinite leave to remain’ didn’t apply to my family yet, so no holidays abroad for us. Plus, even if we did get this status, how would we ever afford a holiday when my mum wouldn’t even allow us to keep our birthday money?

I was 17 when I had my first holiday trip. It was a random holiday literally the year we were granted citizenship, after a 10 year wait for a decision from the Home Office. I have to say I don’t even know where my parents got the money from, but somehow they scrambled it together and sent me and one of my sisters to Cyprus with my auntie. My mum made me pay for it in the end. When I was there I discovered a bank account that my name-sake had put some money into for me…and as I write this i have worked out for this first time where they got the money from. While we were there I heard my auntie talking on the phone back in England with my mum. My mum had borrowed money from her (I didn’t know what for then, but now I realise it must have been to pay for our flights) and she needed it. My mum was saying she didn’t have it. I offered to lend my mum was was in my bank account in Cyprus. Like my birthday money, I never got it back.

Still, that holiday, although it had its dark family moments, reminded me of my love and awe for the sea, the beach, the water, the sunshine and nature in general. Being able to just absorb it all, purposelessly. I basked in it and I knew if I could do it on my terms, it would be my happy peaceful place.

The following holidays were on my terms. As I struggled through uni, working far too many hours, I saved up and went on cheap and cheerful holidays, and though they were tainted with the fact that I would usually have minimal (and once no) spending money, they were still my bit of calm and freedom. I was in a place I’d chosen to be.

It’s now been 5 years since I went on a holiday abroad due to financial constraints. Yet, these last 5 years have been the most meaningful and fruitful of my life. I have finally addressed my mental health and am slowly starting to address my physical health too. I have begun a genuine voyage of self-discovery (slow as it may be) and I am making more informed, intentional choices, instead of letting life drag me along.

So, when people at work ask me where I’m going on annual leave, I shouldn’t feel this great anxiety and feel flustered into explaining why I’m not going anywhere. Sometimes I’ll say we might have to move soon, sometimes I’ll say I have family stuff on, because I just think that I don’t want to have to say that I can’t afford to go anywhere. I feel embarrassed to say I don’t have any plans, but why should I? Why is it such a big deal to me?

It’s because to me it’s a reminder that I’m failing at that aspect of life. I’m failing to be a normal person who has energy to do stuff after work and is organised enough to save money and plan holidays. But I’m not. As much as I want to, I can’t save money for a holiday, or a deposit for a mortgage, or even basic clothing. But I have to also realise that I could be as organised as can be, but I could never afford to save any money until we are both working. For now, this is a single-income household with 2 people and £1000 a month rent to pay.

And I need to remind myself that holidays don’t have to be abroad. They just have to not be wasted. This is me reminding myself.

Tomorrow is my last day at work before my holidays. I’m going to the beach. It doesn’t have to be abroad. It just has to be when I choose.

The British summer is beautiful and I know I can be happy in it.


Intentional Recovery

I love how these twigs are holding on.

So I dipped for a bit again and I noticed I was dipping and before I knew it I was struggling to get my head above water again. There wasn’t enough money, or time or energy in me to put up with everything life needed from me to keep things going, and this was all I could think about. I had to keep rewinding the TV, because my mind kept wandering and I kept missing whole chunks. I was ignoring pressing tasks at work for fear of failing at them, avoiding anything challenging or new for fear my in-competencies would be exposed, and I was struggling to empathise with colleagues or over-empathising with them and making their worries my own, too.

I’m well-versed enough now though to know I couldn’t let it continue. I had to lead by example- I tell people to seek help without shame when they need it.

I knew it would take a while to get some therapy to help me through so I asked the doctor to put me back on my beta-blockers.

I didn’t even hesitate, because I remember how they rescued me last time. I’ve done my research on it, I know how my body takes to it and it is helping. I’m finally able to have decent stretches of time that aren’t pestered by panic and anxiety. It’s amazing how quickly I just accepted the state of panic that was taking over my days and didn’t check myself until…I was going to say until it got too late, because that’s what usually happens; but I didn’t wait until it was too late this time. This time I got help in time.

This is why active reflection like this, in writing, is so much better than just letting my mind wander. Normally, I would have accepted that my response wasn’t good enough again this time and punished myself with guilt, endlessly.

So things are improving. I’m holding on. Intentionally.