While my anxiety is heightened when I'm feeling depressed - toward the start of the year I was having attacks on my way to work, which was tied to how bad my depression was - it is also a separate entity that I struggle with every day. In fact, living with both can make it harder as I often get anxious about the way that depression makes me feel, trapping me in a cycle that is really hard to get out of.
Although I have been more open about my anxiety, there are some things that I want people to know about how I cope with it and how it can affect 'normal' things. Here are the five things I really want people to know:
Making plans is really difficult for me
Making plans in advance means I have plenty of time to get my self ready for something, however, it also means I also have time to go over everything in my head. I stress myself out as I panic about preparing for every eventuality, worrying that people will cancel on me and start to freak out a bit when the day gets closer to actually do the thing I've planned. A lot of the time, I end up cancelling because I work myself up into such a state. Those times that I don't cancel, my anxiety levels are often so high that I don't really enjoy myself, second guess everything I say or do and end up exhausted.
However, not having plans or not making them far enough in advance can be worse as I don't feel that I have enough time to get ready. This can result in sleepless nights, palpitations and bad moods, which affect those around me. Even if I really really want to do the thing I've planned, all of this can take that away.
I don't experience this all of the time, but there's no way of telling when I will, so I actually get anxiety about the prospect of possibly feeling anxious, meaning I am my own worse enemy.
Cancelling plans with me can be devastating
Not only does it get me upset and fairly stressed as I think about what other things I could have done with all that time and effort, I start to panic that I've done something that has made someone cancel. You could be ill, have something come up unexpectedly or anything else, but you can guarantee that whatever reason you give me for cancelling, I will blame myself, overthink it and panic that you hate me.
This can make me very withdrawn and trigger my depression. I don't say this so people feel bad about cancelling on me, but so they understand why I might seem off with them after they have. It's not that I'm angry at them, I'm just worried that it's all my fault and that I've upset them in some way.
I still definitely want people to invite me to things and make plans with me, but these are issues that I need to work through and that others should understand from the start.
Meeting new people is really stressful
Being loud and over the top doesn't mean that my anxiety isn't in play, it's just that I try too hard to stop it being a problem. The chances are, it's on these occasions that my anxiety is just below the point of bubbling over, which can mean I end up hiding in the toilet trying to get it under control by fighting off tears and a full-blown attack. You'd never know this, though, as when I step out of my hiding place, I plaster that smile right back on my face and go back to overcompensating. This is as exhausting as it sounds and can leave me feeling totally physically and emotionally drained for days afterwards.
When I'm doing my best wallflower impression, it is because I am totally overwhelmed. There are too many people, there's too much going on and I struggle to get passed these things. Sometimes, after a couple of hours, I can pull myself out of this and start coming out of my shell a bit more in order to enjoy myself, but this isn't always the case. A lot of the time, the fact that I've been quiet makes me more anxious as I worry that I've come across as too aloof and disinterested and so I get concerned that it has made people dislike me. This can make things much worse and can actually be a trigger when I meet the same people again, as I start to panic that I made a bad impression, which again makes me withdraw.
Even when I seem to be okay, my anxiety is always there and is always making me second-guess myself. There just happens to be days when it isn't as loud.
When I say I'm feeling anxious, I'm not just saying it
This doesn't mean that I'm always totally open about feeling anxious, as I do worry that people think I'm using it as an excuse. I get concerned that people will judge me for my mental health affecting even small things like going out to dinner, watching a film or grabbing drinks after work. As a result, I often just say no to things and make up some lame excuse when in actual fact, just the thought of doing something has made my heart pound and the panic build. This in turn causes me stress as I worry that people think I'm just be bitchy or that I don't like them, so, once again, I get stuck in a bad anxiety cycle over something small.
When I do tell people that I am feeling anxious, it's often because I need to vocalise it as a way of dealing with my anxiety. I've found that being honest about it helps me to feel more in control, even if it doesn't get rid of the panic. I don't feel comfortable telling everyone and I still worry that I'm being judged, but if I tell you that my anxiety is getting bad, it means that I trust you with that knowledge. I am getting better at talking about my anxiety in general - although writing this blog is actually triggering it, which is why it has taken me over a week to finish - but if I go into detail with you in person, it can tell you a lot about what I think of you and how much I trust you.
There isn't always a reason
It can be hard to vocalise this as people want to try and understand what is making me feel anxious, but if I can't figure it out, talking to people about it makes me feel even more stressed. I know that there have been times when my husband has gotten frustrated because he wants to help but doesn't know what he can do if I don't understand what has triggered me.
Anxiety is something that I have to deal with every day. Sometimes it's bad and other times I can overcome it. I could be in a great mood and be able to work through my anxiety or I can be in a good mood and suddenly get floored by it. It can leave me feeling depressed, which is then something else I need to fight through. There is no way of knowing how I'm going to react to it, how it is going to make me feel or what is going to set it off. I find this just as frustrating as other people, if not more so. All I ask is that people take these points into consideration and realise that things may not always be as easy as they seem and that there is usually some form of internal struggle going on.