Up, Down, Up, Down, …

I guess that’s the way of this messed-up world. What goes up, must come crashing down; this seems to apply to my mental health too.

I feel overwhelmed. Someone came over to check the fusebox; just a standard check. I didn’t know, because I never went out to check my post in order to see the letter telling me about it! Oh, and by the way, missing an appointment, even one made without my knowledge, now constitutes a fine. Yay.

When the doorbell rang, I froze; panicked. I was going to ignore it like I’ve done before, but I could hear what sounded like a van outside the block of flats. The van was running and its radio could be heard. I thought maybe I best at least see who it was.

When I got to the living room window to peek through the curtains, that’s when I saw, as expected, a van, with the branding of what is essentially my landlord. I panicked further, now realising I actually might have to do the unthinkable.

Go outside and interact with a stranger.

I didn’t exactly leap at the chance to stumble through impersonal, weather chats, all while trying to muffle the screams of panic within. If I were going to leap anywhere, it would be far away! Unfortunately, I’m not on the ground floor, so I’d have to leap out of the window; not my thing.

I finally, somewhat frantically, got dressed into something halfway decent, “bottoms”, as they call them, and some random clean t-shirt. I feel almost naked without jeans on. I don’t go out without wearing jeans. Shorts, for example, are absolutely out of the question. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was the prudish, eccentric nature of my oh-so-wonderful mother who screwed with my brain as a kid.

I hesitated some more, wondering if I could just — not — go see whether it was for me, which was highly likely to be the case. Decided I had to “man up”, as they say.

I opened the front door then quickly went down the stairs, hoping nobody would see me. I opened the main door to the relentless, unforgiving world outside, then walked towards the van, the size of which I felt grew exponentially. The stress of the impending doom interaction and expectation bubbling away under the surface of social protocol.

After all that stress, the friendly chap was in for 5 minutes checking the fusebox; that’s it. Now I’m trying to unwind, because I’m all stressed. Printing these words out on the screen somehow helps. Maybe I can just pretend it’s a stupid story I’m writing and not actually the stupid stupidity of my stupidly stupid morning.

Funnily enough, I then get a text from my dad right after this happened, asking if I’d like to go to the town he’s in, to visit him. What do you suppose I thought to that?

‘Hell no!’

Social Anxiety Rant

I’m so fed up of the anxiety and especially the pressure. I’m not a regular person. As I often say, just going to the shops around the corner is a challenge for me. This is me.

There are people who seem to have little to no idea. So many times I say that I can’t do X, Y, or Z, yet they bug me about it anyway. I really hate to say this, but if I were in a wheelchair, people would take one look at me and simply accept when I say I can’t do something.

Higher levels of anxiety can—and for me often do—affect my sleep, my ability to make sensible decisions, areas of my OCD, my depression, my diet, and even toilet time. Particularly high levels can be so overwhelming that the only thing left to do is cry.

After a while, the anxiety causes muscular tension, for which I’ve seen doctors. Hell, sometimes even just communication is difficult at times, because I’m so anxious that I can’t concentrate on what I’m saying or what is being said to me!

There’s a reason I was in supported housing, took medication for years, had therapy, went to OCD support groups, am registered as disabled, don’t work, and have ongoing financial support from the government. It wasn’t for funsies.

I guess they see me moving forward in life as “Oh, he must be OK now!” It’s always an ongoing battle. Every single time I need to step out that front door, I have to push and will myself to do it, even to take out the rubbish.

Before I even go out, I obsess over what I’m wearing, how people will see me, what I’m going to do, who I might speak to, and much more, which sometimes takes a while to get past, but during that time the anxiety rises even more.

I wish those that think they know me best could just go through what I go through on a good day and a bad day, just so they could know exactly why I’m so difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just these people throughout my life. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I have to, because people want things of me, and I have to find a way, otherwise how in the hell am I going to have any sort of social life?

Maybe it’s my fault for trying to look so normal.

Thank you Mental Health and Invisible Illness Resources for sharing this.

Thank you Anxiety & Panic Disorders for sharing this.

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Independent Living #1

This post was typed up a few days ago, when I had no Internet connection:

In the first 3 days I blew what was for me a sizeable chunk of dosh in getting sorted for the new place, buying carpets, household necessities, including some other handy bits and bobs. I have the money, thanks to liberal saving, so it could of course be worse.

I’ve had an issue getting to the bank to sort out some finance issues, because I haven’t the foggiest how to GET there within this new town. I believe I’m quite a bit away from the town center.

Each and every time I go to get things sorted, I get distracted by other things or I just end up getting there too late, like today! So frustrating. Dubstep, however, is mending my wounds.

Another issue is getting the Internet sorted so I can manage the address change and my bank accounts from that angle, which is very, very preferable regarding my social anxiety. I struggle going to the bank, most likely because I have to actually interact with other human beings—gosh!

I looked online and found EE are still doing their £18 or so Internet via phone line deal (up to 18Mb, I believe) so I went into my old town with my dad today and got a confirmation on this deal, plus I was told I likely wouldn’t have to pay any installation fee since this place already has a phone line. If they decide to charge for the router, I just so happen to have my old EE router as well! Bonus.

Now that the old place is sorted, cleared out and cleaned up for the next person, I have slightly more things over in this place. I have all my exercise equipment except what’s still sitting in my old bedroom at my dad’s house, but that will come in due time.

I’m still awaiting a charity organisation to freely find and deliver a black, leather, 3-seater sofa. I’m looking forward to having somewhere comfortable to sit aside from this damn computer chair, fine and dandy as it may be. I intend in getting a “throw” for the sofa so it’ll be a little more inviting than just the leather itself.

This flat is on the first floor (just above ground level) so I have to be mindful of downstairs should I workout, or whenever I do just about anything, for that matter. Unfortunately, I do hear the odd stomp from upstairs, but it’s mostly pretty quiet here. The only real issue I have, is that the stomping tends to get my anxiety up; I’m just trying to ignore it, but it’s very distracting.

Overwhelmed by everything, I decided to just walk towards my old town, remembering from looking at Google Maps that the journey is between 1 and 2 hours on foot. I was relying on road signs to get me about, otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue!

It was actually nice to go on a walk again, even if I was only out for an hour, I was pleased to have done it once I got back home. The sun was out and I was walking past a lot of nice fields, which warranted a good few pictures. England isn’t overly spectacular for its countryside, but I’ll take what I can get!

I think, all things considered, I’ve taken the move relatively well and I’m starting to feel like I’m once again getting a grip on things, but it is still quite overwhelming.

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Every successful real-life interaction is an achievement for me…

Why? Because social anxiety, that’s why!

I reached this point a long time ago, the point at which I congratulate myself for speaking to someone, for appearing confident, for having a laugh with strangers, and so on. I probably seem strange when I tell someone, like my dad, a number of times that I spoke to someone and said or did this and that. I may share these mundane tidbits because it matters to me.

Normal people—whatever normal is—probably won’t get this whole thing about being proud of stupidly-simple things that many take for granted. There are people out there that do the unthinkable and come back home in one piece, whereas I, a lowly nobody trying to be a somebody, feel fantastic if I do as I just did.

I’ve just come back from the chip shop. Two portions of onion rings and a chili burger with vegetables in it, just in-case you were wondering, and it was bloody fantastic. I behaved confidently, I was friendly, and I believe I was well-received. The guys there, and indeed the woman who also works there, probably see me as just a ‘normal’ person, albeit a quirky person. Such limited social success I owe to my dad, the very same guy who seems to know every person, in every place.

The thing is, despite how I acted, inside I was anxious. I was anxious about the other guys in the shop. I was worried about what I was going to say and whether I would say it right. I was worried about how I looked, whether I stood properly. I was worried that I didn’t have enough money on me because that would result in an incredibly awkward situation whereby I wouldn’t be able to pay for the food. How did I deal with my anxiety? Well, I paced, … I paced a lot. I didn’t pace like I was mulling over the idea of world domination, I just, you know, paced! I also distracted myself with the posters on the wall, because after all, for what else are they there? You’re meant to look at the bloody things. The pacing was for two reasons, really: 1) I burned some of the energy that was building up as a result of the anxiety, and 2) I would have possibly looked a bit strange just stood in one spot the entire time, stiff like a brick.

I have a flatmate, or roommate if you’re American, and he’s a jolly splendid old fellow—I don’t know, I typed American and suddenly felt the need to flex my British muscles, old boy. The thing is, this guy has his own issues as well, but I still feel a success when I have a good conversation with him, especially even a laugh!

Laughter is important to me. I’ve always been a jokey sort of guy, thanks largely to my dad’s crazy sense of humor. I’m one of those people who makes jokes at inappropriate times, and when I don’t, I’m crunching on my tongue and laughing in my mind as I try to stop myself from sharing my crazy mind with the world. If only I had all the crazy thoughts written down somewhere!

It matters to me if I talk to you. If we have a laugh, I take that home and I’ll smile about it, because you know what? I earned that social interaction.

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What Is It like to Be Disabled by Anxiety?

A pain in the arse! Fine, I’ll be more specific: anxiety is a pain in my arse.

If you wrangle and tussle with anxiety, you’ll have likely had to explain it to somebody at least once, be it to a friend, a family member, a stranger, or even a medical professional. I hate explaining anxiety! I do not like going through the details, because just doing that gets me anxious.

In which ways does anxiety affect me?

Anxiety comes in many different forms, but for me, it’s through social anxiety and health anxiety, the latter of which is also known as hypochondria. Various things trigger my anxiety, such as being around people or my obsessive compulsive disorder—an entirely different yet commonly-linked subject.

I experience a number of physical symptoms, such as:

  • Trembling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Rapid or slurred speech
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Agitation, frustration, and discomfort
  • Unable to remain still
  • Muscle tightness and spasms

Then there are the mental symptoms, those of which often exasperate the anxiety, such as negative and critical thinking. You also have to take into account that anxiety itself triggers other issues.

Being all in a tizzy allows for more susceptibility to compulsions and obsessions, which is likely why so many people with OCD also have issues with anxiety. Tension often interferes with one’s ability to have a decent night’s sleep—I’ve always struggled with sleeping, and I suspect it’s largely a result of my issues with anxiety. Being stressed out also naturally makes it very difficult to physically, as well as mentally calm down, and therefore sleep.

Can I give you an example?

It’s amazing what we take for granted. I feel that so many people don’t realise how lucky they are to be able to do simple things like go into a Chinese takeaway establishment, despite there already being three people sat there in the waiting section for their meal(s) to arrive, which this just so happens to be what transpired mere moments ago.

I went out with the explicit intention to go and buy some delicious hot chips for a nice evening meal. First, I headed to one of the entrances into the small Co-Op, in order to grab a tenner from the ATM. Cash now in my wallet, and the anxiety rising from simply being outside; the ever-rising risk of a possible human interaction.

I got close to the old, paned door of the nearby Chinese takeout shop, excited but also preparing myself for brief interaction, and the painful sit-down on the sofa as I await the food to be ready, fiddling with my phone is I always do. Then, through the window, I noticed three dimly lit people sat down on the nice red and black sofas.

‘Screw that!’ I thought to myself, as I somewhat-subtly walked off towards the nearby Co-Op, grabbing a basket as I entered the shop. I proceeded to nervously wander around, now rather anxious from the awkwardness of before. Chances are, nobody gave a flying faeces, but in my head, it felt almost like they were looking at me, judging and ridiculing me—I became overly conscious of my every action, as I often am, when dealing with people.

That’s on a good day, but stands as just one of the great many sort of things that happen to someone like me, and they honestly can really clog up your day, dragging you down, sucking away at your energy, and ultimately leave you feeling rather useless. Perhaps one day I’ll blog about the harsher experiences I’ve had in the past as a result of anxiety going through the roof.

But I can still lead an ordinary life, right?

You done goofed! Unless your idea of ‘ordinary’ is biding in supported housing, being unable to work properly, often having physically and mentally draining symptoms, living off and relying on government financial support, having a constrained social life, and finding friendships and relationships particularly challenging to cultivate and sustain.

In all fairness, it is possible to reach some sort of level at which you do insignificantly manage, but, in my experience, this is with years of hard work and turbulence. It took me several years just to have the doctors really take notice. It’s just so much easier to ignore the severity of a situation if you can’t see it, eh? I once went through a very dark time that spanned a number of years, during which I was fairly self-destructive; despite this being bloody apparent to my GP, little effort was made to see that I would get the support I sorely needed.

News flash, those of you in the psych field: a smiley, jokey person does not always mean they are a happy person! You’d think they would grasp this rather simple concept, one that even I can figure out with absolutely zero qualifications in psychology. Looky here and let me edumucate y’all doctors who overlooked so many of us: it’s called a defense mechanism; a damn guise with which we learned to suppress and shroud the trials and tribulations we go through within, from ourselves and from you!

So, how do I cope?

Barely.

I tend to preach two things: distraction and relaxation—I’ll do things such as light incense sticks, listen to happy or relaxing music, take a soothing shower, get physically active, do something educational, or work on something like this here weblog for a few hours!

I underwent cognitive behavioral therapy some time ago, and that gave me some of the tools with which I could battle anxiety, but it was by far no cure. I had arrived at the conclusion long, long before I ever sought help, that I wouldn’t be cured, so I was prepared and did not go into therapy with any grand expectations.

Alright, what’s the bottom line?

Anxiety is tough and sometimes lonely, but it’s not the end of the world, despite the great many times I’ve felt as though it were! I was once told by a GP and was then further reminded by my therapist that I “will never be cured,” but that I can still “live a better quality of life.” So I suppose this is my better quality of life?

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