It’s been a hard few weeks. Yesterday I think I suffered a mild panic attack. After initially wondering what’s wrong with me, I realised the symptoms seem to fit, even though it’s something that’s never really happened before. And so I’m writing this partly as catharsis, and partly because I know that if I’m feeling this way to that extent, then there are likely swathes of you feeling exactly the same.
When I think about what’s been going on in my life over the last month, it’s probably almost inevitable. But I still can’t believe I’m here. And it still sucks. I’ve worked hard to gain control of my anxiety over the last few years, and usually when I have a down day that’s all it is – a day or so and then my mood lifts again.
But I’ve struggled this past week.
Anxiety and Panic
I always struggle with too much noise, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed. When my anxiety is high I crave quiet and calm, and of course having two small children is really not conducive. Yesterday I found myself feeling particularly affected. I was clock watching, waiting for my husband to return so I could step away for a break.
And I became short of breath. I was struggling to get enough air, and I felt tense and lightheaded with a dry mouth that lasted for hours.
It wasn’t how I’ve always believed panic attacks to be – I wasn’t on the floor crying uncontrollably, and I wasn’t gasping for air. But I was not in a good place, and I’m worried about it happening again, but possibly worse.
With hindsight, this is something that’s happened before, but perhaps to a lesser extent. I was triggered by being already agitated, a lack of sleep, feeling generally anxious, and the girls being a bit too loud and boisterous.
And that’s the scary thing – it’s all typical, everyday stuff – stuff I can’t get away from. Stuff that affects us all.
Sharing, vs Oversharing
Here’s the thing, I’ve had quite a lot going on since the start of lockdown – some of which I’ve shared, and some which I’ve not. I suspect that given what I do, it likely appears that there’s very little I hold back; and yet that’s not the case at all. I’m very careful about what and how much I share.
I have to be mindful of how the things I share affect other people. I have to be mindful of over-sharing – and sometimes that means holding back to protect myself or others. There are so many reasons I may choose to keep something private. Often I actually wish I could be more open, but it’s simply not an option.
Why do I mention this? Because it’s true for us all – we all project the image we want others to have of us. My point is that nobody every really knows what’s going on behind closed doors, and that’s worth bearing in mind.
Overwhelmed By Anxiety
I read a post by The Thud this morning, and it really, really resonated.
Lauren talks about how she so desperately wants to be present for her children, yet finds herself frequently telling them ‘in a minute’ – and then when she is fully with them, her mind is racing with what else needs to be done.
Essentially, she feels unable to simply be in the moment with her kids, to give them what they need from her and enjoy doing so. Even though it’s her priority and the thing she most wants in the world.
I could have cried with relief, and clearly a lot of you felt the same. That overwhelm is there for so many of us right now.
So maybe it’s not weird, or wrong, or abnormal at all.
What’s Wrong With Me?
I have a theory… I’ve often wondered if I’m ‘different’, if I’m on the spectrum, or suffer with some personality disorder or other which causes me to behave in the ways I do, which so often equate to self-sabotage.
It’s taken a while for me to get here, and it now actually seems obvious, but I suspect there are very few of us who don’t fall into one of those categories. Being entirely ‘normal’ may actually be the exception to the rule.
I did a quick Google for the percentage of people with personality disorders, depression, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, and autism. Then there’s grief, divorce, financial worries. The numbers add up fast: the vast majority of us have something going on. And if it’s not something we’re navigating personally, then we’re likely in close contact with others who are.
We are all touched and affected by poor mental health, for a myriad of very normal reasons.
We may choose to keep it private, but it’s there, even if it only exists as a low level hum. For others it may manifest in ways that cannot be ignored, that take over and colour every social interaction, every choice and decision we make.
This realisation gave me a new perspective. It stopped me feeling so insular about my own mental health ‘failings’, and instead start to view it as something more fragile and transient. We’re all susceptible to mental health issues; if we avoid traumas which bring problems then it’s by chance alone.
I’m going to stop judging myself so harshly on the days that I don’t cope well. We have a finite capacity for what we can take on, and that’s normal. It’s to be expected.
I shouldn’t be expecting the same of myself after a run of difficult weeks as I would when life is dreamy. And neither should you.
Taking Care of Our Own Mental Health
It’s my work day, and I’d been planning to leave the girls with the babysitter (TV) while I went outside and had a session on the punchbag, so that I’d be ready to sit in front of my laptop when my mum collected Pixie and Elfin. But after reading Lauren’s post I switched off the television and built a train track instead. Best decision of my day, and possibly my week.
And then I went for a (badass) run in the rain once the girls had left.
And now, instead of applying for the government loan or any number of other more productive tasks I could be doing, I’m writing this. Because I am on my arse and I keep seeing comments from parents on social media that tell me a lot of you are too.
And while I can’t do anything to fix your woes (sorry), I can be honest about some of mine, and give you a space to air yours too, if you feel like it.
The Reasons I’m Feeling Overwhelmed
So what’s been going on in my life? I have anxiety, therefore I’m susceptible to things getting on top of me. Sometimes a lack of sleep or feeling a bit hormonal can be all it takes to push me over the edge, and both of those things probably apply right now. But aside from that, I’ve had other stuff going on. Some I can’t speak about, but to give you a little insight…
At the start of lockdown I had a health scare. It turned out to be fine, but it’s one of those things that can cause underlying stress and worry – overwhelming emotions which require an outlet. I know other people are dealing with this or similar and won’t be as fortunate as me, so it seemed a bit pathetic to mention at the time – but this is the sort of thing people have going on which we know nothing about.
I’m reluctant to say the words following recent events, but you know, be mindful…
A couple of weeks ago I received terrible news about a suicide on the periphery of my family. It was somebody I’ve not seen since I was a child, and the circumstances were hideous. It’s one of those strange situations where you feel no right to be personally devastated, yet the mere knowledge of what has taken place stays with you. It also, naturally, brought up associated memories.
My little girl had surgery which was traumatic for her, and for me too. I did share a little about this, but talking about it once has not stopped it haunting me. It affected us both, and it has been one of the last straws for my state of mind.
The knock-on effects from the surgery have been two clingy and emotional little girls, for different reasons. They’re not sleeping, which means I’m not sleeping.
I’m so drained.
I could go on, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to give any more time or space to the negativity that has been consuming me. I don’t want to allow it to take on life and grow bigger; I’d prefer to acknowledge it, and then let it quietly diminish because I’m choosing to focus on the good…
We’ve been shown such kindness in the most unexpected places since Pixie’s accident. And she is, actually, doing well. Things are slowly returning to normal. Ish. Let’s face it, our summer is not remotely what I’d planned! We were already limited in what we were able/felt comfortable doing, and now there will also be no pool in the garden, no paddling in the river, no cycling despite giving her a bike as an early birthday present specifically for the summer holidays.
But, things are vastly improved on a few months ago, and I’m enormously grateful for that.
Lack of Sleep is the Devil!
Of course inadequate sleep – I lost count of the times I was up last night – can absolutely be the difference between coping or not. I know this, and I also know that one decent night will probably make this all seem a bit melodramatic.
I don’t like to be miserable in this space as a rule. But sometimes honesty and authenticity trump being positive. Sometimes it’s appropriate to say life is a bit crap, and it’s okay to acknowledge that, and we’ll try again tomorrow.
Sometimes, the answer to ‘what’s wrong with me?’ is nothing – nothing is wrong with you. The world is a shit storm right now, and we’re all just doing our best to make it out the other side.
Okay, enough. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, you need to practice self-care. It’s non-negotiable, because you can’t pour from an empty cup. My husband has booked to take us to a spa this weekend, because he knows I’m feeling a bit desperate. I’m vey fortunate and that won’t be possible for everyone, but there are always things you can do, no matter how small.
Here is a list of positive posts which may help you if you can relate to how I’m feeling this week:
- What’s Special About Positive People – Plus How You Can Adopt Their Habits
- How Toxic Positivity Can Be Harmful to Mental Health – and What to Do Instead
- Defeating Despair With Positivity and Community Spirit
- Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti – It’s Better For the Planet
- Journaling For Mindfulness: Improve Your Mental Health + Tips to Get Started!
- Eight Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing in 2020
- Self-Care Inspiration For Mothering Sunday and Beyond
- Social Isolation and Mental Health: How to Cope Alone or With Children
- The Power Of a Wellbeing and Positivity Journal
- This is How to Deal With Being Snubbed – Positively
- What I Do to Stay Positive – and How It’s Helping My Daughter Too
- Positive Changes I’ve Made During Lockdown – and You Can Too!
Sending my sincere love and strength to those who need it.