There’s no shortage of people talking about mental health at the moment, especially with the mental strain the pandemic has put on everyone. We’re at a point where Mental Health Awareness isn’t important anymore – everyone’s aware – mental health support is what people need right now.
But one of the scariest things about mental illness, is that even for people who’ve suffered with it for years and years, anxiety, depression and other disorders can always take on new forms, presenting symptoms in different ways.
How my anxiety presented itself when I was a teenager and how it presents itself now are totally different – when I was younger, I had anxiety attacks when I tried to fall asleep, now that’s not so much of a problem.
What I wanted to talk about today are feeling symptoms of anxiety without feeling anxious in your mind – or not recognising your anxious feelings at surface level. But let’s take it back a few steps.
At the beginning of the month, my partner flew to Italy for work, where he will be staying for just short of five weeks. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart, it’s the first time he’s ever been on a plane and he’s working on a global sporting event so we were both nervous! I spent weeks, if not months, in advance of his flight planning my time to break up how long I was alone; seeing friends, seeing family, staying different places to get out of my house etc, etc.
When I left him at the airport, obviously there were a few tears because it’s a big change, but I hopped back in my car, listened to my ‘At Home With Anna and Lily’ podcast and jumped straight back into work. Since then, I’ve felt okay at the surface level – I’m getting lots of updates from Italy, I’m using the time on my own to focus on myself and spending my time catching up on hobbies and my YouTube Watch Later playlist and work is really busy so I’m actually really well preoccupied.
But everything I eat doesn’t seem to be reacting very well, I’m getting a lot of stomach aches and I’m finding it more difficult to get to sleep.
I’m feeling the physical symptoms of anxiety whilst mentally I actually feel okay. Or at least, I thought I did.
So I’m taking even more of a step back – trying to get in touch with my body to understand the subconscious feelings that are causing physical symptoms that my surface level brain either can’t or won’t recognise.
Am I doing this by meditating? Exercising and going on a diet? Absolutely not. But I’m trying to be more intuitive – listening when I need to take a minute away from my computer at work and stretch my legs, leaving more time between finishing my dinner and reaching for dessert to figure out if I actually want it; making more time for reading even if I go past the time I should go to sleep!
It’s not perfect – I still experience anxiety symptoms, but I don’t struggle to get out of bed as much anymore. I can have a shower without having to spend half an hour psyching myself up. I can look after myself and keep everything clean and tidy. It may sound trivial and easy but these are things I’ve struggled with and even though I’m still figuring out my mental illness and move towards overcoming it, I am making progress and taking those little steps.
Eight months ago, I was so anxious and depressed I couldn’t stand the thought of being home alone while my partner went to work for the weekend – I went to stay with my mum and had some of the most intense panic attacks I’ve ever had in my life. From there, working with my doctor, I altered my medication and started taking steps to get control of my life back, because it may sound melodramatic but I was terrified. I felt like my capability to be independent had been taken away from me and at 24, that’s not something I ever thought I’d be feeling.
But all those months, two lockdowns and finding a therapist later and I’m back on the right track. I’m not at the destination yet – I don’t know if there is a destination to reach – but I’m on the track and I’m putting one foot in front of the other.
That’s all I can do.
Thank you for reading,