One of my main anxious fears is being around people, and talking to people. When I first had my breakdown I struggled to leave home and could not walk up the local high road without feeling anxious; my body would be tense, I would look down at the pavement, and move quickly, just to try and avoid people.
Things are slightly better now; I can go out and not have the same level of fear that I did. This is probably down to the fact that I am living in a different area. In Chiswick I was in a block of flats, so the chances of bumping into a neighbour were greater, plus there was always the chance of seeing someone I knew when on the High Road or out walking Leo. Where I am now, no one knows me, and so the chances of having to stop and talk to someone are a lot less.
It is not that I did not like the people in Chiswick, I made some great friends there, and it was the first place I lived where I really felt part of the local community. So what was the problem?
Anxiety and depression work in strange ways, and the triggers can be very different for each person depending on the experiences they have had. Struggling to talk to people is not about being grumpy and making a conscious decision to avoid people, I am actually gripped by fear.
I can only imagine this came from work, which was where I had my breakdown. My last job was as a property manager in lettings; the workload put so much pressure on, and I constantly seemed to be sorting out problems and dealing with complaints; if there was a portfolio of properties that needed cleaning up I was usually the one to sort it out. I guess there are just so many angry people that you can deal with before you snap.
I was afraid every time the phone rang because I thought it would be for me, and it would be a complaint; I was also scared of e-mails, another platform for angry people to vent their frustrations. I told my manager and even gave ideas on how to make things better, but I was pretty much ignored, until it was too late….. “Things are so much better now” was the phrase frequently used during my internal grievance…. Bravo!
It is these fears that have made me become more isolated.
I guess I have always found it hard to talk to people. At school I was always the quiet one, afraid of saying the wrong thing and being laughed at or thought of as stupid. As I got older and left home I found that alcohol helped me to feel more relaxed around people, however there is a double edged sword to this, because there are times when you wake up the next morning and worry if you made a fool of yourself, or said the wrong thing; even when drinking I would try to keep control of myself and my emotions.
Recently I have found that the anxiety and depression have made me feel more isolated which has its good points and it’s not so good points.
Isolation makes me feel safe; I like the quiet, and sometimes crave it. Noise and bustle can really stress me out and make me feel anxious. I have a fear that I am a burden to Kim and am always causing problems, when I feel like this I head to bed because it feels safe and I can’t cause any trouble from there; the quiet and the darkness help to calm me.
Being alone helps with mindfulness, which is great for being present and calming the mind. I love it when I go walking with Leo, once we are on the open fields we rarely meet other people, and if we do it is a quick hello while Leo has a little play with another dog. The best moment for me is being alone in the woods, everything feels at peace and my attention is drawn into a smaller space.
On the negative side, the feeling of isolation can make me feel very alone. It is a catch 22, I am afraid to see or speak to people but then I can feel lonely….
I feel as though the world is going on around me, and I am just a spectator; it’s like I am alone in a cinema, and the world is playing on the big screen in front of me; I feel comfortable in my seat, but there is a longing to be part of the world; everything feels alien and the screen is a barrier, stopping me from being part of the story.
The more isolated you get the more depression can take over, and it is a constant fight to keep going. It feels like there are a million hands, each one gripping on to me, trying to pull me down to hell; there are hands trying to pull me to the light, but they seem fewer, and I have to hold on to them for dear life.
Struggling to communicate with friends is probably the biggest frustration, even sending a simple text can feel like a massive task, so it’s safer not to do it, no matter how much I want to. I really don’t know why this is; do I feel embarrassed, ashamed? I don’t think so; I definitely want to understand this more because it really doesn’t make sense.
Being in the world is exhausting at the best of times, but I find it really difficult to stay on the path I want to be on. I know people who are pessimistic, everything is a downer, the world is a miserable place to be, and you have to stick to the cards you have been dealt. I refuse to believe this is the case, I believe you do have some say in your destiny, it is just that sometimes it feels so bloody hard to keep going.
Every day I try to take positive actions to make my life better, but some days I just have to stop and admit defeat until I have the energy to start again.
I started sending article pitches to magazines in an effort to become a freelance writer, but I have had to stop for now because I am getting nowhere.
Freelance writing is hard at the best of times, I know this, and so I have no delusions of grandeur, it just takes so much of my energy to send one pitch, that there is only so much I can do, especially when no one gets back to you. I know editors are busy, and while my brain understands this logically, not hearing from people sends the brain into irrational fear mode “they didn’t like the idea”, “I have no experience, so why would they publish my writing?”, “I’m useless”, “I’m no good at anything, “I always fail.”
Part of the problem is that I get excited about an idea and as soon as I hit the uphill section the demons come out, I stall, and roll back down the hill I have to wallow in depression for a bit until I can pick myself up and try again.
I don’t want to give up, so I keep going, change direction a bit and attack the challenge from another angle or another path. It feels like being the sports team that always turns up and looses, they play because they love the game, and one day they will get that big win.
There is s great interview with the writer Cecelia Ahern in the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, she said something that I am going to hold on to:
“When I wrote P.S. I Love You, I was really low. I suffered badly with panic attacks in my 20s. They shut my life down for quite a while. It was a blessing, in a way, because even though it was horrible, it made me very quiet. I stopped talking and started listening, observing others and understanding them.” – Cecelia Ahern
Maybe there is a blessing in the situations we find ourselves in? It might not seem like it right now, but just maybe……
Thank you, thank you, thank you