You know those thoughts you have when your partner goes on a trip? “hope all goes well” “ hope they arrive safe” That are normal thoughts. It is ok to worry about your loved ones.
Being nervous before a test, worrying how to pay the next bill, hoping your pet is ok when you find a lump, wondering if your new acquaintance likes you… that are all worries and thoughts one might have from time to time.
You might even have internal dialogs. Playing situation through your mind from the past and figuring out how that could have gone better or future encounters to prepare things to say or do. It might not be the healthiest thing to do to yourself, but still rather normal.
“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it— just as we have learned to live with storms.”Paulo Coelho
Some might remember, I wrote about being burgled just a few months before Covid. Well, ever since that incident I started having night terrors. Waking up drenched in sweat, being convinced someone is in the apartment. I heard the footsteps, I heard the doors being shut. It was real to me and I couldn’t sleep until I got up and looked. I drove Hass crazy. I also started being reluctant to leave the house. I still went out back then though, but it cost me a lot of effort to step through the door and to not find a reason to stay home. Then Covid hit and I didn’t need to find reasons to stay home. The global pandemic gave me enough to worry about. And yet I started finding more things to frighten me from day to day.
I am sure Covid changed us all. It changed me from a person with wanderlust, who is always on the road to a hermit. 2.5 years further and with all restrictions lifted, I do not manage to go out of the house without an appointment or Hass by my side. I can’t even tell you what I am afraid of. I have nothing sentimental that is worth stealing anymore. The cats will manage a few hours without me guarding them and I am not afraid of people in general. I just can’t use that door handle and step over the threshold. I get hot flushes, can’t breath and I guess you could say a full blown panic-cry-attack for nothing more than me still having the desire to go out. It’s like an invisible forcefield that fills me with dread when i try to cross it.
Slowly I noticed I am now afraid of other things. I started being afraid of storms – which I used to love! A little thunder and lightning and I am shivering instead of outside enjoying the energy. Fireworks and I am looking around with shifty wide eyes like similar to my cats. Heavy downpour and I am patrolling doors and windows, every 2 hours, also at night and frequently I go to bed with the thoughts: “Oh please, let me wake up tomorrow morning. Please let my partner and cats be healthy when I do” and I have no idea who I am appealing to since I do not believe in god as such. And then I lay awake or drown the doomsday thoughts with audio books to fall asleep to. Knowing what I know now about my situation, I am lucky to be actually sleeping reasonably well at all.
Since we moved to Malta, I had to agree with myself, that this is not normal and that I have lost control over my situation. When I look into the mirror I don’t recognise myself anymore.
I was never courageous in the sense that I don’t have fear. I always was afraid of nearly everything, but I faced those fears.
Afraid of heights? – Learn flying. Afraid of natural water sources and rocks in water? – Learn Diving. Terrified of spiders? – Get a tarantula named Rosi to cuddle up in your palm. I always been afraid of exams and so nervous that I puked on the shoes of my driving examiner. Still I got the diplomas and licenses I set out to get. Fear was just something I had to live with and I made the best of it – always and now I am not able to open a door and go out to buy myself food in the super market or even go out explore with my camera. I refused to accept that this is me now. But I also see how crazy that all sounds and my mind berates me, yells at me: “You are an idiot, you have walked out of that door and others a million times” “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” ” you are a burden to your partner” ” how can you be an artist when the art is out there and you in here” “Just get the fuck over yourself”
I did – but not by forcing myself. I instead made an appointment with a therapist who tried to help me through this. Unfortunately after 6 months she came to the conclusion that therapy is not enough. As she suggested I take medication to make the therapy more effective, all I heard was “You are too weak to handle this” and I felt that I failed somehow yet again. Who or what I failed at, I’m still not sure. Life in generally? I didn’t want this. I don’t need this. I will tough it out! And I started crying….again. Like I had for the past few months so frequently.
With this realisation I was able to take a step back and tentatively ask myself why. Why struggle more than I have to? She said it’s not for ever. Why does accepting help mean I failed? I always believed asking for help and accepting it is a sign of strength, so why not this?
Because it means I have to get a diagnosis? A label with all the pros and cons a label comes with. I would have to tell my friends and family that I need medication for a mental illness. At Home I asked Hass not to tell anyone, because I was afraid it could change the perception people have of me.
But wasn’t it me that just the other day told someone else she doesn’t need to feel ashamed. A mental illness is just that? An illness that needs to be treated and medication is ONE form of that. Hass and my friend Olli both pointed out that I wouldn’t refuse headache pills or diabetics pills. So why would i feel so vulnerable about this.
So I made an appointment at a psychiatrist and my label is Severe Generalised Anxiety Disorder or in short GAD. Hearing him say I have a severe form was terrifying to me – which in itself is probably part of the problem in the first place. So once I had my diagnoses I started researching and during my research I found that lots of my ticks and peculiarities that distress me might be from GAD. Now that I started this journey it does feel a bit better to see my pattern less as ‘I am just broken’ and more as ‘I am ill and treatable’ and my struggle might lighten and cease altogether if I keep at it.
In my research I also found a lot of other people feel like me and are afraid to go down the road of medication and are afraid of telling their friends and family about their anxieties out of similar reasons then me. Because they are afraid to be perceived as broken, weak or in a different way as they have so far. So maybe describing my path, how I experienced it, combined with an update every few months, I can help people make their own decision about medications without the bad reputation off being stuck on something that alters what is you. At least I hope that is the outcome.
If you have anxiety disorder, depression or any other mental illness and you want to talk to someone going through the same, just leave a comment or write me an email. Im no doctor but sometimes its enough to know you are not alone.