I actually thought that being anxious was NORMAL until realised the other day that I didn’t feel anxious anymore. I had never experienced my life in a different way. Now I realise that I was probably a little anxious the whole way through my life. It started when I was ten. Riddled with on and off stomach pains (which would come and go), I was admitted in and out of hospital probably six times over a two-year period. I thought my parents thought I was faking it. The pain would come and go, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. It wasn’t appendicitis, they were not sure what it was. I was prodded and poked for a few days and sent home again over and over. Eventually I had an operation and they removed an adhesion growing in my stomach.
The pain was gone, but my anxiety stayed, resulting in an eyelash pulling frenzy that lasted for almost two years. I lied to people and said that the medication for my stomach made them fall out, but it really was a compulsion. I ask mum and dad about it now, and ask why they didn’t take me to see someone? I suppose they thought I was a bit weird, but no one really talked about anxiety back then.
Filling up my life with travel, endurance events and always chasing that next ‘thing’ on my to do list, I noticed heading into my thirties that little things would send me into a panic.
A sudden change of plan. A towel left on the floor. The dishes not done.
An unplanned invitation to dinner from a friend.
These were all things that I would LOSE MY SHIT over.
Now I ask my husband all the time questions like – am I normal like this, is it NORMAL to be this happy? What was I like before? What is the difference you see in me?
Because sometimes I find the difference is hard to see. Being inside yourself, looking at yourself is a challenging thing to do.
I thought I was fine. SO FINE. I was BUSY. I WAS FINE. I filled my life up to the brim, ticking things off. I was coping JUST FINE. But I wasn’t. Deep inside I was cracking and I could not hold onto the busy me anymore. It is only looking back now on the things that I DON’T do anymore, and the things that I now have space for in my life that I can finally notice the changes.
These changes did not happen overnight. Dealing with my anxiety was a long slog of being active, meditation, medication, eating right and looking deep into the depths of my life (with the help of loved ones and professionals) to see what made ME happy, instead of trying to fit into a life that wasn’t for me.
These are the changes that I am noticing (and they listed in no particular order.)
No more daily weigh ins. For YEARS I would stand on the scales, and GASP ALOUD LIKE I HAD SEEN A GHOST if the scales moved 100 grams in the wrong direction, as if the number was a direct link to my worth. These days the scales gather dust under the bathroom cabinet, I drag them out once every two months just for a check to see how I am going.
No more cracking it about the cleaning. I can remember a tantrum I had once. (Yes, I did throw a grown up tantrum.) I came home and emptied the entire contents of my gym bag and handbag all over the floor because the house was not clean. I vowed to never clean again, saying that we were now living in a cesspool of our own filth from this day forward. Now I am like ‘meh‘. Sometimes we are clean, sometimes we are not, and that is okay.
No more cracking it about money. The husbands freelance status used to give me EXTREME anxiety. I would have spreadsheets and budgets and calculations and what ifs being worked out every which way. Light BULB. Nothing I can do will affect when The Ginger Hunk will or will not get paid. I have learnt to chill and realise that money will come and go but we will always be okay.
Saying YES more instead of no. Can my mate stay on Sat night? Yes. Want to have a drink out tonight? Yes. Want to go camping with me on a paragliding weekend? Yes. These would have all been MAJOR decisions and things that would have been an automatic NO when the anxious me was speaking.
Being okay with being on my own. The Ginger Hunk goes away quite often for work. I used to hate it (and resent him for it) now I am more appreciative of having space on my own, time to chill and starfish alone in the bed.
No more doing my head in about having/not having children. I am finally okay with the way I feel, instead of feeling like something is wrong with me for not being hit by the breeding urge like a freight train. So it is a no for now but who knows, I can change my mind later and THAT is okay as well. At the moment I am enjoying each day and my life is not plagued by this decision, or indecision (as it may be).
No more war face. I used to pull this face that my friend describes as ‘the war face’ when I was waiting for a bus, the waiter… anything where I had to display some patience. The anxiety of waiting would rise in my throat and the war face would begin as I tried to deal with the uncomfortable feeling that rose inside me… thankfully this is me no more (which is also lessening my need for Botox in the future).
Have you ever had anxiety or depression?
Have you made changes?
What did you notice?