Most days I can almost pass as a ‘normal’ human being. I can carry out all my roles and responsibilities as a parent, partner, adult etc without having a meltdown or needing a
glass bottle of wine. I get up, get the kids up, make breakfast, put the dishwasher on and get some washing sorted out. I may even find the energy to straighten my hair or put on some make up (Haha who am I kidding?!). To almost everyone I see that day I will just appear as another person going about their business, with the same worries and hopes as everyone else. Except I’m not the same. Even on my best days, my head is buzzing, from the moment that I am awake I am inundated with anxious thoughts and feelings. The depression I experience is always there waiting to strike but it is dormant. My anxiety is not. Every look, every word anyone says is scrutinised in my mind, the tone of voice, the body language used and turn of phrase is all analysed within an inch of its life.
Are they saying what they really mean? Do they even like me? They keep looking at my chin, do I have a spot? Or have i got food or toothpaste on my face? Should I try and wipe it away or will they notice and then feel guilty for staring? I don’t want them to feel guilty, even if they don’t like me. I’ll wrap the conversation up and leave, keep smiling, whatever you do don’t. stop. smiling!!
It doesn’t end when the conversation ends either, that will stay with me for the rest of the day at least, I will continuously be checking the mirror for any abnormalities on my face, I will avoid talking to others and I will look at the floor when I’m walking around a busy place. Occassionally this may even stop me from leaving the house/car (my safe places) for a day or two, I will let my phone die and then not bother charging it so i don’t have to talk to people, my partner will do the shopping and school runs. The slightest interaction can zap my energy for hours. After a day at university surrounded by 300+ people I am mentally exhausted. I can barely hold a conversation together some evenings. After 17 years of this, it now impacts on me physically as well in the form of fibromyalgia. The pain is constant and has several dimensions.
The point I’m trying to make is that clinically diagnosed anxiety isn’t just severe panic attacks. It is a constant. Happy or sad. It’s a pattern of thinking that is exhausting and at times, destructive. It is not like depression that comes and goes in differing severities dependant on circumstances, it is as much a part of me as my morals and values. Over time I have stopped it from controlling me and my actions, but it is still influencing my feelings every day and will do I expect for the rest of my life.
But I won’t stop smiling.