These past few weeks things haven't been so good. Having spent most of my life having periods of anxiety and depression it's been a surprise that after feeling very well that I had to take a rest from things. All of the things ...everything.
It's been over six weeks since I've even looked at all of my letters. Five weeks of feeling bad that some of my letters are from August. Four weeks of terrible anxiety and panic attacks feeling like I can't cope with things and worrying about all of the work I have missed. Three weeks of feeling restless and wanting to run off and hide. Two weeks of deciding what to do and this past week having some sort of epiphany and feeling a bit clearer after a long time of working it all out.
Suffering from anxiety is a funny thing. I've had it come and go for years. Some days I don't feel like leaving the house, some days I go out all day with no bother, some days I feel well and don't have any funny moments and some days it will be one big giant moment after the next. These feelings and moments have become a part of my life and sometimes they go, sometimes they come back, sometimes they disappear and sometimes it invites itself and stays at the party far too long.
Things like writing, taking pictures, sorting out my post, making things, Instagram, Twitter and the internet in general are all things I enjoy. They are part of me and what I like doing. Before this recent episode and where I had been feeling well, I would read about people saying that they had, had enough of stuff and that they 'just had to step away' from things. I would think 'Pah, I love the Internet me, why would you not want to look at stuff, there's loads of stuff to see, do, be a part of'
But... I started to feel like that as well. I would be having a nice day, the sun would be out, I would have a piece of cake and would be reading about things, checking Twitter, checking Instagram, checking emails, checking eBay, checking Etsy, checking Bloglovin, playing Two Dots and Disco Zoo and then continuing this all day long as well as everything else. As my lovely posts came in, the pile got higher, as I checked all of my many datas, the data got higher, the more data the less I wanted to take part in things.
I started to feel a dullness, like somebody had put a big coat on me that was very heavy and sad and gave me a foggy head and made me tearful and upset. I've mentioned it in letters and on my old blog last year but in recent months I've felt a bit strange having to start wearing this big coat again and by catching it this time I hope that I can explain things a bit better.
Around January of this year I found I was getting very low with this coat on and even though I had recognised the signs from previous times I just thought it was because it was January, doesn't everybody get sad in January? It's cold, it's grey but.. your alive so stop moaning Emma. The days passed quietly but always with a a bit of apprehension. I would wake up during the night in a panic, grinding my teeth, sweating and sometimes with a terrible headache. My sleep was bad, which meant the days would be bad. I found I would be nervous, have a headache, chat too much to people either very fast or go the other way and not chat at all.
Shops were too loud, I couldn't listen to music, any music made me sad. I didn't laugh I didn't see the point. I couldn't visit friends as I would fear the worst once there and would feel stupid if I had a moment and would have to leave.
Everything started to be affected, my letters changed, I couldn't write or find the words to write, my photography style changed or I just didn't bother taking pictures at all. I turned down work and invitations to places as I would convince myself I would do a bad job or embarrass myself. So many things started to happen that I knew were not right but I just put my face on and ignored it and all the while wearing the coat.
I would get silly ideas in my head about stupid stuff. I wouldn't eat then I would over-eat. I feared the worst all the time about money, debts, shop stuff, my family, my relationship, my future and my life in general.
I couldn't read, I got bored. I couldn't make simple decisions, felt bad for letting stuff get on top of me. I just wasn't myself from what I remembered myself to be. I found that I had to have certain things in place on my person if I went anywhere. For instance I had to have a bobble around my wrist at all times, have tissues in my pocket, two lip balms and some hand cream. If I didn't have them or not the right amount the world would end. I would go to places and suddenly feel sad and have to leave. It could just be a simple thing that would make me nervous and trigger an attack, like a certain smell, the time of day, parts of the house, a certain road to drive down. I started to avoid places and people and as I got caught up trying to avoid these places I ended up getting more anxious thinking about the people I wasn't seeing or the places I wasn't visiting in case I had a panic attack. I would get over some of it for a while and then spend all of my time wondering whether people knew I was having a panic attack. I would stand there thinking, Is my face red? Do I look really hot? Am I clicking my fingers in that annoying way? Do I look unsettled? Am I humming?
In March after having a very bad few weeks, I finally visited the Dr. Having to sit there and try and work out what your brain is doing and the thoughts and feelings your experiencing is very odd. I felt like a fraud and that there wasn't anything the matter, I was imagining it and there are some people who are seriously ill, and I am just a whinge so stop moaning. Everyone gets upset in the supermarket when there's no mixed pickles left don't they?
I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress after the death of my sister the year before and I was given a big list of anxiety informations and was sent for a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and.... given a prescription for some tablets.
I stared at the prescription for two weeks. 'I'm not taking pills, flipping heck how rude. I just got a bit upset, everything got too much after what went on and I will get better by myself. I don't have to go out of the house ever again if I don't want to. I can sit in the garden with Daniel forever and ever and eat crisps.... ' I then started to take them.
The CBT treatment was peculiar at first. The room was filled with computers, headphones and papers. I thought on my first session that it would be stupid, it won't work and I will go to the garden centre if I feel nervous in future and buy some pansies.
As the weeks went on my grumpiness started to stop. I started to go out more, the moments I was having became less and less. I didn't flounce up the stairs and I actually found the CBT to work. Some sessions I did think 'yeah, whatever this is stupid and I'm going to pack it in' but I found with my tablets included it started to help. I felt better, a bit lighter like the coat had started to lose its sleeves. I started to concentrate better and write things down and also started to see what it was that triggered my attacks and how to deal with them.
I found that I could speak about my data brain a bit more, I felt I could ask my family and friends if they had ever felt this way, in person and in letters. It was surprising and upsetting at how many people also suffer with data brain problems. I found it was more common than I thought, that other people felt the same way as me, that people where willing to tell you their story and how they had dealt with it.
I suppose from past experience I would rather just get on with things by myself. I don't like forced participation and I felt the CBT was like that at first and also going to tell the doctor about how I felt but...after a few weeks it wasn't, I started to notice things more and write things down even drawing a chart which I was very proud of which led to me making pie charts in Microsoft office all afternoon about how much in percentages Daniel eats, sleeps and time spent on his chair. He sleeps a lot.
It has taken a while to put all of this data into some sort of order. I still have very bad days and some very good days but I have found that I don't feel upset if I were to choose to spend the day in the house, ironing or eating cheese and pickle on crackers for breakfast. Even if some days I only make it as far as the park across the road for a 99 ice cream and a sit. I've done something.
I have wanted to write all this down on here as I started to feel like I was drifting away from the things I love to do, friends, family, all letterloves things, I even started to not like my stationery or my shell animal collection which is not acceptable. I felt I had to take a break from the Internet and everything really and just get myself straight.
It is strange saying it out loud and I really haven't felt that comfortable saying I suffer from anxiety and depression as I never thought I did. I always try to keep occupied and have lots of things to do, places to visit, lots of hobbies- recently archery which is very good for the mind as you have to concentrate. I love each and everyone of my penpals and their letters, I love replying and its a very big part of my life and always will be. I never realised that the coat was creeping onto my shoulders so much but that's how it sometimes arrives.
The thing I had been missing was to know when to stop, know when to tell people and know how to look after myself when I started to feel bad. That your not odd, your not mad, it's all just stuff and it will come right in the end.
So I wanted to just say that sometimes it's good to step away and have a minute. Don't feel your by yourself and if you feel a bit funny or you find one day you have a new unexpected coat then talk to somebody, your doctor even me and Daniel. My coat is a bit like a waistcoat now but still with pockets. I need my pockets for trinkets.