I’ve mentioned my anxiety a few times on this blog, but to be honest it’s not something I talk about or acknowledge that much. I only acknowledged that the reason I panic in crowds, find making friends so difficult and occasionally can’t get out of bed or want to leave the house was due to anxiety a year ago. And having either have it swept off when I try to talk about it or, in worse cases, be accused of lying about it, I don’t really bring it up much.
But the importance of mental health awareness isn’t something I like to ignore. With 1 in 3 people now estimated to suffer from a mental health disorder, it’s not the taboo it used to be to stand up and say “I have anxiety”. Opening up about this, especially online, has seen me receive support I never imagined I could get. I’ve traded stories, listened to others and made a little group of friends who really understand. I know people that support others no matter the circumstance. And that’s important, because making social media a marketable part of your life can be extremely mentally damaging.
Disclaimer right now, I’m not fishing for sympathy. Anxiety has not crippled me, nor will it. I’ve still achieved everything in my life I aimed to achieve, despite being terrified at every step. But I’m sharing my recent experience, mostly to remind myself as well as others, that anxiety does not have to stop you, even it builds a very high, very thick wall at times that seems impossible to overcome!
It’s currently the summer break at university in Scotland, so I’ve been off from mid May to now, and still have three more weeks to kill. I’ve been volunteering, but otherwise I’ve had some free weeks. I’m not sure what the cause/effect relationship was here, but my recent anxiety flare up came about when my sleeping pattern became well and truly (excuse my language, mum) fucked. I’m not sure whether the anxiety flared up and caused me to start suffering from hypersomnia again (intense need to sleep for much longer than is healthy), or if the hypersomnia kicked in and led to me becoming more anxious than normal. Either way, a fine mix of sleeping for 11 hours a night and not being fully awake until midday and not climbing out of bed until 2pm, and finding myself thinking too much about and over-analyzing negative situations that happened a month ago saw me shrink right in on myself. Achieving simple tasks, like getting dressed or making a coffee became distressing to the point of ridiculousness, and my boyfriend was coming home from work at 5pm to find me a little down that I’d achieved virtually nothing that day. After a week of ignoring everything and my boiler breaking down (so adult), I snapped, and knew something had to give; I decided it was time to unplug and get myself together.
Unplugging meant getting away from my blogging activities for a bit. Those of you that follow me on Twitter will notice that I hadn’t completely stepped away from it – I was still updating that, albeit far less frequently than I usually do. I like Twitter because I can post little thoughts, often with no consequences and relieve a little bit of the minefield that is my own brain. So although I stopped actively interacting with others and promoting my blog, I did like to slip a few updates in over time just to keep myself sane. I completely signed out of Instagram, alerting one pod with some of my closest blogging friends in that I was dropping off the grid, and only went on Facebook if my family posted updates. I sidelined my blog and didn’t think about it for a while. And although notifications crept up, it felt nice to ignore them. No more having to write 10 comments on Instagram as soon as I wake up because they’ve crept up overnight. No more having to spend an hour a day scheduling tweets on the off chance my blog posts get seen. No more having to think about something that’s purely a hobby in such a negative way. I shelved it all.
I realised pretty quickly that the first thing that had to give was the sleeping pattern. On day one of my uplugging, I woke up at 10am which for me was a huge achievement. I managed to get dressed, put makeup on and leave the house, things I hadn’t done for nearly 2 weeks. I went to Paperchase, and brought myself an adult colouring book (again, so adult) t give myself something to do when it all became a bit too much, and a bullet journal. My boyfriend helped my set up an alarm app which requires me to take a picture of a set object to switch it off, meaning I have to get up and walk to the kitchen to switch it off no matter how much I want to snooze it and go back to sleep. And so began the transformation of waking up at 8.30, forcing myself out of bed and then making a little to-do list for the day to set myself some productive tasks. Everything, from making the bed, to showering, to getting a little bit of research for my dissertation, to remembering to eat goes onto the to-do list, and I finally feel a little more organised. Sure sometimes my to-do just is just to watch Netflix all day, or I have to migrate all of my tasks, but it means I’m somewhat on track.
So today, after three weeks of anxiety making me overthink everything, I finally signed back into Instagram, started commenting again, and scheduled my blog tweets. And here I am, writing my first blog post in two weeks. This might only be a short amount of down time compared to other people, and that’s because I’m quite good at acknowledging when I’m having problems and quite proactive in getting myself back on my feet because I actively hate being down and unproductive. But I still think sharing the experience is helpful – I know reading about other people’s experience with anxiety helps me because it can be relatable and make you feel less alone.
If you’re struggling, take time out, take a breather, and get back on your feet! And my inbox is always open to anyone who just wants to talk about it! You are fabulous, never forget that!