I still have anxiety.



Life Looking across the infrequent posts here, it seems as though this has become some kind of weird health blog. But I have been trying to take care of myself despite the world falling to pieces around us for all the reasons I've been melting down about via RTs on Twitter. But, hey, Doctor Who's back next week and so Sunday nights (such a brilliant choice) at least will be about trying to work out if this new epoch is any good over eight to ten paragraphs.

For now though, let's talk about anxiety again because it is a weird thing to talk about, to describe.  As I sit writing this, there's a pecular stiffness in my stomach which rarely goes away and the constant beat of my drumming heart.  Walking to work this morning, this stomach ache became almost overwhelming, even worse than it does when I wake up each morning, my ears leaning in to the new series of Serial as I plod along seeking something to distract me from the pain.

Every now and then, though, I'll see someone in the public eye talk themselves about this toxic intermix between the mental and physical effects.  Kristen Bell was one of the first whose symptoms I recognised and now Claire Foy's given an interview to The Guardian which also encapsulated the sheer illogic of it and the associated lack of control.
“When you have anxiety, you have anxiety about – I don’t know – crossing the road,” she says. “The thing about it is, it’s not related to anything that would seem logical. It’s purely about that feeling in the pit of your stomach, and the feeling that you can’t, because you’re ‘this’ or you’re ‘that’. It’s my mind working at a thousand beats a second, and running away with a thought.”
The original causes of this anxiety for which I have my suspicions but can't specifically say were the reason, more like a cocktail of events, are rarely the spark for the panic attacks, or at least the mild form of such you get on medication.  As Foy says, its the constant worry about everything, your future, how you'll cope if there isn't an end to this.

Not being able to have caffeine, visiting the beverage isle in a supermarket can be super difficult because it reminds me of what I can't have, the variety of flavours.  I had a meltdown in the local Tesco one afternoon in front of the coffee I used to love because of the anxiety like a perpetual motion machine of the mind, the existence of the anxiety becoming a cause of the anxiety.
What thoughts? Foy answers briskly, brushing her hand in the air: “It’s lots of thoughts about how shit I am.”

Looking back, she’s come to think it started as a form of self-protection. “It was a tool to survive, definitely. To try to hold on to everything. To try to feel safe.” She describes an endless series of anticipations and second-guesses. If this happens, what then? And what then? And what then? “If I knew a day was going to be ruined by anxiety, that was good in a way, because it meant I knew what was going to happen.”

I ask whether a career in acting has made this worse or better. “Oh, God.” She laughs. “It definitely magnified when I started doing this. Exploded. Yeah.”
One of my problems is I can't stop. If anxiety is hitting me on a day, I try to still have the day as normal however shit it's going to be, rather than just stepping back and letting it take its course. Clearly sometimes that makes it worse, but frankly I don't know what else to do. I want to act normal, as though none of this is happening, but I really should just relax sometimes. I'm trying my best. I just feel like I don't want to have too many lost days.

Foy continues:
"Before she leaves, I ask her how the anxiety is today. “It’s plateaued,” she says. “All your shit – and everybody has shit – it doesn’t go away. It’s still there, but I guess I don’t believe it so much any more. I used to think that this was my lot in life, to be anxious. And that I would struggle and struggle and struggle with it, and that it would make me quite miserable, and that I’d always be restricted.

“But now I’m able to disassociate myself from it more. I know that it’s just something I have – and that I can take care of myself.”
I have days like that. When it is just something in the background, either because I'm managing to distract myself with work or a tourist attraction in a different city and I think I can deal with it. But then there are days or moments when the gloom descends and I just ask, as she says, if this is me now and then I become nostalgic for the version of me which existed before 2014 who was sort of depressed sometimes but didn't have this constant physical reaction.

She's seeing a therapist and I know, I know, that's what I need to do.  Have known all along.  But it's just getting there not least because of the choice between an NHS waiting list or bankrupting myself by going privately.  As you can imagine the sense of that decision is a real source of anxiety.  Huh.

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