Even writing that title makes me feel anxious. The word itself sucks and pulls at my brain like an annoying child demanding attention with a whine that becomes a foot drumming tantrum if unchecked. I am anxious about being anxious and anxious about being anxious about being anxious. I started to get anxious when I was seven and I ‘got saved’ because the alternative, according to my Mum, who I’d only asked about the meaning of the word ‘Christianity’, was to go to hell when I died. I was told regularly that even little children can die and that God wants them to go to Heaven but that they have to trust in Jesus. So of course I decided to ‘be converted’ but then agonised for the next two and a half decades about whether I’d done it right. When I learned that Jesus would come again in the ‘twinkling of an eye’ and transport all the Christians straight up to Heaven while the rest of the earth awaited the terrifying reign of the antichrist, without whose mark on the forehead or the hand one would be beheaded or otherwise ended, I became fearful of being left behind at the Rapture. I’d wake up in the night for the loo and traipse through to my parents’ room to see if they were still there.
So that’s where the anxiety began. All well and good. Counselling helped with that later on. So I stopped being afraid of hell and the Rapture and got on with my life. But a marital breakup and a daughter’s illness brought it back again with a vengeance. From what I understand, neural pathways are hard to change. I imagine a billion possible negative scenarios to every situation I’m in and then I obsess about how I will manage them if they happen. So when I fell in love again aged 45 to the man I’m going to marry shortly, and realised that a house move was the only way to make us both happy in our settings (a house in between both our current locations), the anxiety flared up again. And it went like this:
What if I never get another job? What if I’m too old? What if, because I’m on UPS3, I’m too expensive? What if they think I’m pathetic because I’m only going for a teaching job and not a job with a TLR, which is where I’m at now? What if I get a temporary contract and it isn’t renewed?
Then I went for an interview and got the job. So the questions changed to:
What if I don’t get a permanent contract after a year? What if I hate it? What if I can’t manage the kids because they’re more challenging? What if they’re all sexist and racist and I hate them (the kids)? What if I don’t make friends?
I applied to port my fixed rate mortgage to a new house, which I’ll be buying for the time being as my partner’s house is proving difficult to sell. It’s in Lincolnshire. In a tiny village. With a 1000 square foot workhouse. It’s a period property. It’s beautiful. But nobody wants it. My mortgage telephone conversation included so many questions that I was baffled – already have a mortgage with them and am porting it. But it’s a brand new application, apparently. So the questions changed to:
What if they turn me down? What if they refuse me because I have a temporary contract? What if I don’t get a mortgage? What if I am stuck forever with this house? What if I can’t move?
Now, knowing that I have a new job starting, my youngest is leaving home, I am perimenopausal and often a bit hormonally unbalanced, I am moving house and moving in full time with Tim, that’s a lot of change. Changes trigger anxiety. So I’m wondering whether or not to take an anti-anxiety med again. I took Sertraline for a year after my marital break up and it worked a treat. I can’t have beta-blockers because of asthma. But Sertraline, whilst primarily an antidepressant, can also treat anxiety and it certainly did before for that year. But I’m doing the Calm app, daily yoga, running regularly and have learned to ask for help, not try to brave life alone, not be all super duper Miss Can Do Everything Thank You Very Much. I’m open now about my anxiety where before I didn’t even know I had a Thing. I thought I was just a stupid idiot for having panic attacks and found it all very embarrassing.
If I move away and the anxiety spirals out of control, I’m likely to have panic attacks, eat badly, sleep badly and be utterly miserable. If I take the meds, however, I’ll never know whether I’ve made good progress with managing it with self-care strategies. I also don’t really know how the meds work and don’t want to put on a load of weight like I did the last time. They do make me pretty sluggish and about as keen on running as a large lump of pizza dough. I don’t know – it’s a dilemma. I don’t particularly want to start the second half of my life by getting so panicky I start punching myself in the head (that can happen), but I also don’t relish being on the zombie drugs for three weeks before I can even function without feeling like a space cadet.
So I’m thinking and wondering and trying to pre-empt problems. But I don’t know whether being anxious about being anxious is just another symptom of anxiety or whether I can manage this year with my newly forming healthier neural pathways and with self-love and self-care and talking and now blogging.
I already feel less anxious having written all that! Any other anxious people out there? Do share ideas, tips, experiences. I’ve love to know I’m not alone.