I never thought I was an anxious person. A few years ago when I experienced anxiety and depression together I thought my world was falling apart. The sick feeling, the inability to be still or settled, sleeplessness and constant horrible feeling felt like the worst thing ever. And I remember saying that I’d never know what anxiety was before. Now, of course there is a difference between anxiety in its extreme form which is an illness and day-to-day anxiety which many of us experience. But I realise that I never recognised that day-to-day feeling as anxiety because I never let it permeate through long enough for it to reach my consciousness. Instead I would find ways to numb it, usually with sweet stuff. Other addictive behaviours like shopping or creating some drama also figured fairly high on my ‘coping mechanisms’, I use the phrase lightly.
Over the last few months I have been on a new learning curve. As part of a support group for compulsive eating I been ‘abstinent’ from sugar and other trigger foods for several months. That has taken care of the physical craving for all that stuff. But the hardest part, as everyone knows, is the mental obsession and the feelings that drive us to want to make ourselves feel better in the first place. Not so easy! And one of the first things that came up for me was, you got it, anxiety. At first I have to say I wasn’t too good at recognising it. Sometimes I must have it pointed out to me by my nearest and oh so dearest, “You are anxious” she’ll say, “about x or y”. My usual first response is to deny this vigorously. I didn’t get where I am today by admitting to having uncomfortable feelings! But I am trying to listen and not always be right ( That’s a Tough One). And 9 times out of 10 it’s true. ( It may be 10/10 but I have to have room for growth here). And then I am confronted with realising I have a Feeling That I Don’t Know What To Do With. My previous ‘coping mechanism’ hs been consigned to the bin ( food) and I am working on the shopping/drama/distraction ones one day at a time ( Sweet Jesus).
Last night for instance. I was giving a talk at the support group. This was the first time at that group that I had given a talk. I wanted to ‘get it right’. I re-wrote what I was going to say 3 times, I changed it again when I got to the meeting. I was pretty anxious. And this is even with a) planning b) praying c) knowing I was with friends. And I realised that the only thing to do was to say, ‘Yes, I am anxious!”. It didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do,
it was Just A Feeling. It wasn’t going to kill me. And the fear was what? That I wouldn’t get it right? That I’d make a mistake or make a fool of myself or not be helpful to someone else? Well phooey. Isn’t it wonderful how ego gets in the way of just being present and doing the job in front of you?!
So this morning I am sitting here knowing I did my best and that was good enough. That is pretty damn good for me to say. And today I am just going to be grateful to that anxiety when it comes along because it lets me know that all I can do is my best. And that the feeling will pass and today is always a new day.
Apple Blossom this spring in our garden
Feeling low today. It was a real effort to a) get out of bed and b) get dressed, breakfast, get to work. Mainly I think I am feeling sadness and grief. Anticipatory grief I suppose as well as sadness at the change in the last week with Mum. I think it sort of hit me in a different way that she may not be here much longer. It’s a weird time. There is the knowing that there is nothing specific to be done. I see here every day and we are organising a family rota so someone else pops in too most days. But some days it is hard to get my head where it should be for work and other things. I can concentrate on what I need to do and then my mind drifts off. I check my phone constantly. I have it on silent or vibrate but then worry I have missed a call even though I know they can ring me on the office phone in an emergency. At night I have started having anxiety dreams. Last night I was in a car which was sliding backwards down a hill on thick ice. I had the hand-brake on but couldn’t stop it from slowly rolling away.
I thought about not going in to work today but made myself dress and put some make-up on. My make-up is a good indication of my mood, although only I can interpret it! When I’m low sometimes making myself get my moisturiser on a bit of mascara and some lip gloss is a good sign of ‘putting my face on’ to meet the day. Lip gloss is a big signal. Today I re-applied it several times! Of course I may also wear it to weddings and happy events so don’t take my word for this, I can be contrary too. So I got through today. Working with families sometimes makes me realise how lucky I am, today was one of those days. Also today a colleague went off on maternity leave. She is having her first baby and has been glowing with excitement and anticipation throughout the pregnancy. Today in her bright pink top she looked like a luminous space hopper. I gave her a bunch of freesia just because they smelt so sweet.
Tonight Mum was asleep or dozing when I visited. I read the paper and made small talk and she knew I was there and occasionally responded. She is very tired but seemed quite peaceful today. We are waiting for a special nursing bed so she can be moved more easily and be propped up more so she can have a different view. I will try to speak to the District Nurse tomorrow. They have to put in a request to the PCT ( Primary Care Trust) and a ‘Urgent” request went in last week. Urgent seems to have more than one meaning. She is wearing one of her new nighties that we bought last weekend and looking pretty and well cared for.You hera such awful stores of old people in care homes wearing other people’s clothes and not having their hair brushed. I am so glad Mum always looks nice and the staff take such a pride in their work. I am so glad we live nearby and can keep an eye too on what is happening.
Today is a day when it was so good to get home. We chatted over the day and have eaten our dinner of nut cutlets, salad and wholemeal pittas. I am feeling hibernating tendencies. I want to go to bed and hide under the covers where I can feel safe. I want to be a child again snuggled up with no serious things to think about and to pretend this sadness has gone away. I’m glad I can have a hug, a cup of tea and maybe sleep it all away for a moment. Denial is a wonderful thing. And real life will be here again tomorrow.
Note to self: 10 chocolate biscuits and a dinner of fish and chips are not the best way to stick to a sugar-free life or to a weight watchers points plan.
Ahem. The last couple of days have been a little stressful and something of an emotional roller-coaster. Mum has been ill, to the point that all the advice I was being given indicated she might not be with us much longer. Today she is back with us. Of course at 87 and with several existing health issues and some new ones cropping up it appears that she may be on some borrowed time but for now things are easier again.
Last night I sat with her as she drifted in and out of sleep / consciousness. I talked, sometimes she answered. I read the TV Times magazine. I watched a programme about having a million pounds budget to move to South Devon ( just ordinary people like us LOL) and I mindlessly ate 10 M and S Belgian chocolate biscuits until I came to my senses and put them away. Too tired and with my head in the shed it was not the day to go home and cook so a quick fish and chip supper at the local pub went down without touching the sides.
But as I’ve been good with my activity and stuck to my plan otherwise this week I should be ok I hope for my weigh in tomorrow. This is my own personal naked on the scales in the privacy of the bedroom moment you understand. No group weighing in for me. And today I’ve eaten well, stayed away from the sugar and had fruit with my meals to get me over that sugar withdrawal moment when things look appealing. I so need to work on this emotional eating thing. It is the time i am most likely to fall at the fence, whether it be sugar, fat or most likely both. I know all about the pleasure endorphins that come from a sugar/fat ‘high’. I know that to avoid that crash keeping up a good supply of gentle positive day by day moments is key. But its the crises that get me. Suddenly everything goes down in a great big ‘Whoosh’. The adrenaline kick from the shock of the crisis evaporates leaving me tired, fuzzy headed and needing a boost and suddenly my hand is in that biscuit tin.
Of course at home I try to make sure the biscuit tin is empty so there isn’t that temptation. But out and about and with it right there in front of me somehow yesterday I slipped up. Todays another day.
Mum is sitting up and once again eating chocolate and ice cream as opposed to fish, mashed potato and parsley sauce. I wonder where I get it from?
Talking to me is something I do quite a lot. Mostly I try to do it in my head but sometimes, like tonight after work when I was walking the dog, I forget and have those conversations out loud. So there is this middle-aged round woman in a green T-shirt with a beetroot stain on it from lunchtime, wandering around the field and talking to herself. The dog meanwhile is off investigating interesting sniffing material and getting a sneaky chew of the long grass. Still, it means people leave me alone to my meanderings which is just what I need.
I have had an odd sort of day today. I was feeling quite anxious this morning, which is something I have had much less of the last few months,. It’s always a bit of a shock when it resurfaces. Before I experienced being really ill with anxiety I never understood quite how horrible and gut wrenching it is. For me that’s where I feel it first, in my stomach. other people experience it as headaches or a tight feeling in the chest but for me its a low gnawing sensation. I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was about except I’d got a pretty busy work day with one thing after another and all of them being quite intense. I had to have a talk with me about that. It went something like this” It’s ok you can do it”, and “take it one bit at a time, if it gets too bad we can take another look at it”. I know how much progress I’ve made because I didn’t end up crying, panicking and not being able to function and I did get through the day and enjoy my job which is how I like it.
It’s days like this when I’m glad of routines. I had a great breakfast – my green shake from yesterday plus some porridge. I made my lunch and took a fork with me so I could eat it in the car between meetings. I took a bottle of water and my fish oil caps that I’m trying to remember to take every day. Just those little self-care things that make me feel anchored and stop me lurching for a diet coke and a chocolate bar.
When I got home, after a successful day, I felt a bit teary and emotional. What was that all about? I think it was a mixture of relief and a letting go of the tension. So I had a plan. Firstly take the dog for a walk. We have a routine walk that he knows as well as I do, so its a no brainer, change my shoes, get doggy bags and lead and get out in the evening sunshine. Whilst we were out I was thinking and talking to myself about what to eat when I got back. There is just me for an hour or two. Missus has gone out for tea with friends, two sons are away for the week with their dad and one son is permanently attached to his girlfriend at the moment. So my conversation was a lot about what I could be bothered to cook and what was good for me! I’ve settled on vegetarian spicy bean burgers with salad from the garden, tomatoes and beetroot and wholemeal pittas. The great thing with the bean burgers is that they sort of mush nicely with a fork when they are cooked and squeeze into a pitta with lots of sald to make a yummy spicy fresh mouthful
This is a lesson in why planning what you are eating before you are starving is important! I’m pretty sure ive made too much and will get stuffed half way through. but I can talk to myself about it and I know I’ll make sense.
PS: In case you wondered, I had one and a half burgers and the same of pitta, but I ate all the salad and got another nice purple blob on my T-shirt form the beetroot.
I took a half hour break at lunch-time today and walked round the lake at one of the city parks. I noticed this morning I had some anxiety, which I think was a left-over feeling from a work related situation yesterday. No biggie, but the feelings of anxiety have ben uncomfortable and scary enough in the past for me to want to be pro-active when I can to try to help myself. I know both from experience and from learning from others that some physical exercise is a great way of settling anxiety.
When we get anxious our bodies flood with adrenaline and the response to that is for the brain to release cortisol. As I understand it with my knowledge of Hormones etc 101, this means that our bodies are in the fight or flight response mode. So the come-down from that can be feeling flat, low, shaky and something I noticed yesterday hungry! Of course our bodies think we must eat to fuel the flight! This is another reason why stress can make you fat. And having an adrenaline/ cortisol response over and over when we are in situations of repeated stress over a long period of time means that our bodies also retain fat ( in case we starve whilst in flight mode). See our bodies are amazingly clever!
So the long and the short of it is that today’s anxiety made me sit up and take notice. The ducks and geese, moorhens and swans were out in force. Goslings and ducklings wandered across the paths then followed mum and dad into the water. The sun was shining, there was a good breeze. Fishermen had set up camp along the edge of the lake and pondered the state of the world. Yellow spears of iris shone and a scramble of wild dog roses fluttered pink and white.
I left refreshed and with the anxiety left behind in the wind.