How do you know your anxiety's bad? It takes the focus off your OCD! Not only is this a hilarious joke made at the expense of myself and millions of others, it's legitimately a line I used in real life just recently.
Although high-functioning anxiety plus OCD sounds like a delightful combination to carry anyone into a nervous breakdown it's actually a far cry from my earlier days of depression, PND and frequent panic attacks. I'm definitely not saying my current mental health statistics are pleasing to me but as any one who suffers from any of the most common of mental health concerns will know; it's manageable.
Last week I sat at dinner with friends and not long into the conversation death came up, naturally. Now, I'm actually fine with death (the subject of, I'm never fine with death itself) between 7am and 5pm and even now as I type this I'm detaching my brain from my fingers and typing with reckless abandon, carefully ensuring I don't think about the subject for more than 3 seconds as the sun has begun it's decent. I assure you, once the sun has set and my head is on the pillow, any mention of the thing that happens to you at the end of your life will send me into a full-blown panic attack that has sometimes, but not exclusively, resulted in me yelling "BUT THEN WHAT BUT THEN WHAT!??" at whoever is in the room around me.
Yes, my anxiety is like a dormant predator that only attacks once I have exhausted every possible option that allows me to remain awake. I have read books, watched Frasier and listened to music: it finds me. I can be alone in my apartment or surrounded by people: it finds me. At home in Sydney or in freaking Italy and it finds me. It has no preference. My anxiety particularly enjoys a jaunty trip abroad. Unstable lodgings, unknown languages and unsure of topography? AMAZING. IMAGINE all the things that could go WRONG! Imagine the awkwardness of not understanding the street signs! What a paradise for anxiety. Pack your bags, guys: then stress the entire 24-hour-flight about them. Let's go!
The first time I can remember having a panic attack in bed I was eleven years old. I distinctly remember thinking "This is fine. I'm young. This won't happen when I'm older." Guys; I don't mean to spoil the story early on but I think you see what's happened here?
You know what the problem is? My brain thinks it's better than me. I live my best life all day long, working and mumming and keeping busy and then bam - I stop.
The conversation between my anxiety and me goes something like this;
"Make sure you don't think about something bad happening...."
"I bet you will."
"Shut up, no I won't."
"LOL. You always do."
"Yeah but I won't this time. I have a good feeling."
"No tell me! I hate it when you and Dave do this!"
"Well, it's just.... remember that thing that happened fifteen years ago and you forgot about it until exactly this moment?"
"F*ck, yes. Fine. What about it?"
"No! Piss off. I'm asleep"
"No you're not... let's think about it a bit. C'mon...Just for the next three to four hours..."
Now, that's such a basket of fun every day of my life for the last twenty years that you know what my sneaky brain added? OCD. Because sleep is for the emotionally secure, amirite?
"Hey guys.. what cha talking about?"
"Nothing // Bad memories!"
"Oh, bad memories! Amazing."
"We were actually just done here so you can just..."
"Let's hold on that bad memory a bit..."
"Yeah - cmon.... Yup there you go. Now you have to work through your compulsionsssssss yaaaaaayyyy congratulations you still have OCD."
And etc etc.
The first time I tell people I have social anxiety they always say "but Marni, you're so charming and funny. I find that hard to believe". And whilst I find this imaginary story quite accurate I stress, going outside my house to human interaction makes me quite panicked.
Who will be there? Do I know them? What will we talk about? What if there's silence? What if Dave goes to the bathroom and I'm left alone? How long will it go? When can I leave and where are the emergency exits please?
My fiancé will delight in telling you my actual worst fear about any social occasion is ordering food from a menu only to be told THEY HAVE RUN OUT OF THAT FOOD. How absolutely ridiculous is this? Just choose a secondary thing you idiot. But no, this makes me so anxious in advance that I will request to know every single thing they have run out of ahead of time. Even then - I do not believe them. I have NO idea why this sends me into an anxiety melt down but the awkwardness of my smug, ordering face being embarrassed in front of EVERYONE when I find they no longer have the item I was SO SURE I was going to be eating is akin to naked public speaking for me. Actual stuff of nightmare.
Luckily, my anxiety and OCD have become quite manageable to where they mainly affect me at night now and my PND and depression gone. I'm gonna sound like "one of those people" - as I already do with my weird diet (for another blog) and "no coffee" (also for another time) - as I lord over you with my story of things that make my anxiety less shitty so sorry in advance BUT I know -
Things that makes it worse:
- Lack of sleep
- No fitness
- Too much sugar or processed foods
- Device overload
Things that make it better:
- Body is a temple, etc with clichés
- Staying on top of my work
- Time with Archie OUTSIDE
Unfortunately, life isn't all yoga classes and no stress. It be real.
Now I'm not here to tell you how to cure your anxiety. God knows I wish I could but think of all the businesses that would go under (little Big Pharma joke..too much?) I'm more here to tell you that it's okay to talk about it without feeling like you're the ODD-ONE-OUT of the mental-health spectrum. Let me hit you up with the fact sheet baby; we're all doin it.
One in five women experience a mental health issue in any given year. But WAIT -
- what's more, almost 1 in 2 of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime. ONE IN TWO. Now I know it's me so lucky to be the woman after me I guess? Sorry - old dad jokes die hard.
One in two looks like this:
SO if so many of us are dealing with the everyday bullsh*t of trying to leave the house without spiralling into a panic attack about not knowing what time the shopping is being delivered or making sure they touched the left tap as many times as they touched the right tap why are we not talking about it? Why did I have to Google, alone in my bedroom at 11pm, to find out why I'm so scared of probabilities or unknowns?
Do you know how many women reach out to me when I post about mental health? Do you know how many of my friends or associates are like "Yess! Me too!" When I tell them I have anxiety? It's definitely too many to keep something like this shrouded in stigma.
2018 will see the launch of Liptember’s social media campaign, #GETLIPPY. Liptember is a charity dedicated to driving awareness and supporting initiatives that champion positive female mental health. Liptember has made it their mission to raise awareness for women’s mental health issues and to support the development of national research, programs and prevention strategies. Unfortunately mental health carries a negative stigma amongst society, so women and girls may not feel comfortable talking openly about their struggles. - Liptember campaign 2018
You may be one of these 1 in 2 and you may not feel comfortable discussing your battle with mental health just now. You may not ever. And that is so fine. So I'll speak for you. I'll tell my stories and I encourage anyone else that is in a place where they feel confident to do the same.
As I said, I can't tell you how to fix it because jeeeeez do I wish I knew. But I can help break down the ickiness and negativity and judgement associated with it so we can all be free to live our best lives. Yes? Let's do it!
Now who mentioned yoga? www.plantstoday.com.au