Adventures of a Wocket

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Anxiety, life and ramblings

I have been absent from here for far too long. Here is an adventure of the mental kind.

Living with anxiety probably conjures up a few images in your head right? Panic attacks, curled up on the floor, breathing into a paper bag hyperventilating, being unable to interact, shakes, sweats. Different responses for different people depending on the strength of their fight and flight reaction. Anxiety is, in a word, insidious. It creeps up on you when you don’t expect or frankly need it. It doesn’t care about social engagements, plans, deadlines, adult responsibilities. If I am talking about it as a sentient entity that’s because that is what it feels like.

For me, when I am in the throes of anxiety episode, I appear and seem like everything is normal, as though nothing is wrong. At least to the untrained observer or those who don’t know me well and there are a lot of those.

It comes without warning and can cripple you, make you feel like you’re losing your mind. That’s what these last couple of weeks have been for me.

Throughout my whole life I have dealt with shit. Domestic violent household, alcoholics, resentment and that’s all before I was 14. I was thrown out by my dad at 14 for reasons that were never explained to me, I am sure there were reasons, everyone has their own battles, my dad was no different, there’s no anger just memories now. I had a little break down at the time, I was a teenager but I got up and carried on. Four years later he died after a battle with liver cancer due to alcohol. I got up and I carried on. You know bad things happen, that’s life. Through my twenties I mostly drank as a crutch to cope. I got depressed quite a lot, went through a string of boyfriends, all of whose hearts I broke. My last one and the only one to dump me, told me at the height of my depression that I should not rely on other people to make me happy. So you know what? I didn’t. I stopped relying on anybody. Little did I know that was probably the first step to my lifelong dance with anxiety.

A year or two later I got diagnosed as potentially bi-polar I tried to get help through the NHS but I fell through the cracks. I sought private CBT therapy and it helped somewhat. Then I decided to move abroad.

Still, in the midst of the biggest upheaval of my life, there were only mild to normal levels of anxiety. About a year or two in Singapore I realised I was no longer depressed. It was like somebody had opened a curtain to let in the sun. I remember the moment quite distinctly. Since then through family fall outs and changing jobs three times and moving home 4 times in 4 years, I was okay. Until I started getting stomach issues. They got worse one Christmas about 3 years ago, when they basically caused a panic attack on the plane back to Singapore from the UK. I thought I was dying.

The Dr I saw when I landed also took it seriously. I had all the tests. Endoscopy, colonoscopy and two ultra sounds only to be told my stomach pain and subsequent issues are caused by slow digestion and slow emptying stomach. Not too bad right? Now a symptom of this is too much acid in the stomach which causes nausea. I basically don’t get hungry anymore, I get more nauseous. My stomach hurts if I have anything that is too spicy or sugary or just not plain old beige food. I could live with that. It was something I could control. My anxiety faded until changes started happening. People coming and going as is the nature of what I do for a living and where I live. I started studying my masters degree while working two jobs and my anxiety manifested mostly in social situations. Especially now that I can’t really drink alcohol. It was manageable though, amusing to some even. I would have bouts of cleaning when I needed to regain control. It didn’t go beyond that much.

Until one day, it did.

I got stomach flu two weeks ago. Working with kids will do that to you. It’s the second time in two months. It knocked me flat. I couldn’t study, I fell behind, only by a week but it was all my body needed with assignment deadlines looming. Now unfortunately when my anxiety manifests the physiological symptoms are so similar to stomach flu I spent a week feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I lost my appetite, I felt sick, I had to run to the toilet a lot and my stomach hurt seemingly constantly. Then the day after, the panic hit. This all consuming feeling of dread that made it hard to get out of bed, get dressed and leave my bedroom never mind my house. Bouts of uncontrollable crying, more stomach upset. The worst parts were the tightness in my chest, the lump in my throat and the tension headache that ran from my shoulder blades to my eyes for over a week.

It crippled me. I have never felt anything quite like it. It got to the point where thinking about going outside would make me feel sick and tense and cry. I was becoming borderline agoraphobic, all in the space of a week. For someone who has prided themselves on being independent and self sufficient, it was terrifying. One illness and I felt like I was losing control of my mind, that I was going insane and nothing would ever be simple or normal again. Functioning would become a thing of the past. I almost quit my job and gave up studying and went back to the UK forever.

I felt so isolated and a failure. I still do feel the latter.

The fear of not meeting deadlines broke my brain in two and took my body with it. I’m slowly coming out of it. My appetite isn’t really there, my stomach hurts intermittently and the tension headache creeps back some days but that feeling of absolute dread has eased somewhat. I’m not back to where I was but baby steps?

What I found the most surprising was the overwhelming comfort and understanding of others. I’ve always bottled up my feelings, I haven’t wanted to be a burden, it’s something I have felt I was to those I cared about all my life. Despite not wanting to be an annoyance or be that person everybody laments seeing or speaking to, I needed to talk, I needed people around me to understand I wasn’t faking that I wasn’t just being completely pathetic, I needed understanding, patience. That’s when I learnt I wasn’t alone. The offered hug from a housemate, the words of those friends who also fought their own battles with anxiety, the persuasion of my housemate to take time for me, to just stop and think of myself. Hand made stress balls from a close friend, understanding colleagues who didn’t make me feel like a burden, my friends across the world who checked in and asked if I was eating, how was I doing. Friends checking my assignments for me and just being there. Nobody told me to get over it, relax it’ll get better. I was listened to, I was comforted and they made me laugh.

I was fortunate.

If this had happened to me a year or two ago. I would have told nobody, I would have suffered in silence and probably lost the fight. Today I still feel guilty and a burden for talking about it, for reaching out. For the first time in my life, genuinely admitting I can’t do it all by myself and it’s okay to take my time with my life goals, is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Ironic that I am studying Psychology really. I guess this is why I am driven to want to help people like me and others.

For me, I think this battle is over, there’ll be another and I fear the day. I wake up and wait to see if this will be another day I will struggle. I’m taking steps, though, hoping they’ll be enough.

I still feel broken, I still feel like a burden. I see friends and family enjoying life on social media and I have cried at all that I perceive I do not have or cannot achieve. I know you should never compare but I wish sometimes that I had happier things to share, that’s normal right? You never know what someone is hiding behind a smile though and I have to keep reminding myself of that. As a result of this ‘break’ I’ve had to let go of long term plans and focus on the short term ones, I have had to let people I care about down. I have to learn to focus on enjoying the learning instead of getting above 60% for everything, while working. I thought I could do it but it was too much pressure. I failed myself. I cry out of frustration sometimes when my stomach plays up a lot and I long for a normal functioning. It’s horrible constantly feeling nauseous. Yet, if I was normal I would never have met all those people in my life who helped me through this prolonged anxiety attack and those always happy to see or speak to me, no matter what I am going through (or how difficult I know I can be).

Most of this is just rambling, it helps to get it out. I think. I’m taking steps to deal with the next potential attack. Going to see a psychiatrist see what he says, it’ll eat what little savings I have but hopefully it’ll help me cope better next time.

To those out there who might read this and who might be going through something similar. Be it depression or anxiety or anything at all that makes a normal day seem like an insurmountable mountain. You are not alone. I know the pain of trying to just get through the day one agonising minute at a time. Reach out. To anyone. To someone. To me. Even if I don’t know you.

You exist. You are unique. You are worth the fight.


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