A difficult ten days or so here. Ten days of intermittent anxiety attacks, feelings of absolute hopelessness and all the jolly symptoms that go hand in hand with an anxiety disorder. I’m on the other side (more of that later) and can trace back to the triggers, but I’d forgotten how frightening it is to be in the midst of it all.
What is an anxiety attack?
I think they’re different for everyone. For me the symptoms build up over several days. I know it’s coming when I start becoming fixated on the possibility of loved ones dying, as well as becoming obsessed by detail of any task. I lose the ability to cope with change, and can crack without obvious warning. The attacks peak with symptoms that are similar to a panic attack – rapid uncontrollable breathing, rapid heartbeat. It’s scary.
As well as these peaks, I experience an intense malaise, feelings of worthlessness, and feel profoundly ashamed that I can’t control my mind. I finished a year of EMDR therapy just 12 months ago, and genuinely thought I was “over it”.
What are the triggers?
A combination of exhaustion from taking on too much as well as a couple of things on TV that tapped some past incidents are what I trace back to. I think being over-stretched meant my brain hadn’t got the resources to rationalise and reason. I couldn’t remember any of the techniques I’d been taught, and couldn’t seem to talk myself down. It’s like being on a train that you know is going the wrong way but you can’t stop it. Being busy meant I let much of my good habits (I keep a gratitude diary and practice tapping therapy) lapse. Like forgetting to exercise I suppose.
What happened to stop the anxiety?
Things peaked a few days ago. It wasn’t great. On Thursday I happened on this tweet from Matt Haig
It resonated, and somehow landed, and I think started the path back.
Thursday also saw the start of NaPoWriMo – a month of writing poems. I’m part of an online group, Wendy Pratt’s April Write-a-thon, writing, reading and feeding back. Thursday’s challenge was to write a sestina, using six set words – nothing specifically to do with anxiety – and out it all came. The discipline of the sestina seemed to calm me. It was a poem that came from the dark place where I was living – and yes, “getting it out” genuinely helped. It created clarity, and perhaps distance. It’s not a bad poem either.
I’m not out of the woods, and a bunch of physical M.E. symptoms has clustered (dealing with the huge amounts of adrenaline created by anxiety takes its toll) but I am less trapped by it. I feel like myself for the first time in what feels like an age.
I rarely post about this these days, but today this feels right . I feel like celebrating feeling better, and feel chastened that I stopped taking the care I should.
Have a happy day, take care, wash your hands, wear a mask and pick up your litter.