When my anxiety becomes so chronic and debilitating that I can’t hold it together for a couple of hours, let alone a full shift, as happened last week, I retreat.
For ten days I’ve hardly left the house. I did a supermarket shop, but used the ‘scan as you shop’ so I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone. I did make it to Dancercise on Saturday, but drove there and back to minimise the potential social contact. I was glad I got there, it does me good mentally as well as physically. Other than that I’ve only spoken to my family and left the house to walk the dogs. Where I’ve had to communicate with people I’ve done it in writing.
The last few days I’ve felt slightly less anxious. Its come and gone, rather than the constant barrage of catastrophising thoughts they’ve ebbed and flowed. In the gaps between the anxiety there’s been nothing. Numbness, inertia, nothingness.
Despite a million things to do I’ve struggled to move off the sofa. Getting dressed has seemed a monumental challenge that requires several hours of sofa-sitting before I can attempt it. While on the sofa its been hard to concentrate on anything. I’ve played repetitive games on my phone or spent time colouring (another of my many u-turns, I was convinced it was just a fad, then tried it and found it helpful.) I’ve thought about how thirsty I am but not managed to summon the energy to get to the kitchen to make a drink.
I think this is my brain resetting itself. As if my subconscious has noticed the state I was in and decided the only way forward is a reboot.
Yesterday, after a morning of inertia and numbness, I suddenly felt alive. Like I needed to do something. I baked, I tidied, my daughter and I sorted out some clutter. I made a new meal and wrote a blog post. I didn’t feel anxious.
Of course it’s not as simple as that. No magic fixes. If the secret to mental wellness was to reset your brain by taking a few days feeling numb, well, Britain wouldn’t have the epidemic of mental ill health we seem to at present.
This morning I was numb and unable to motivate myself again.
This afternoon I had to go out, and I had to speak to people. I was slightly afraid that I was only feeling a bit better (numb does feel a bit better than anxious) because of my voluntary isolation. What if I fell apart again the moment I got near people?
I did OK.
The anxiety tried to make an appearance while I was shopping with my daughter (I refused to ask a sales assistant for help finding things) but I was able to overcome it (I did ask about a discount we’d heard we might be entitled to).
It tried to appear again when on the way to my son’s youth club (we were running very early) but again I overcame it (better early than late, right?)
Anxiety tried to appear a third time when I got to the gym (everything had been moved around) and for a third time I overcame it (I want and asked when I couldn’t find one of the machines I wanted to use.)
So for today I’m beating anxiety, 3 – 0.
Managing a few hours active a day is not the same as being recovered, but its a step in the right direction and I’m celebrating the achievement. Hopefully I can keep building on it.