Welcome to the Anxiety Anonymous
Hi everyone, I’m Josie and according to many articles I have high functioning anxiety.
Kinda feels a bit weird calling or referring to myself as high functioning, sounds like I should be a weird kind of superhero with magical mind reading powers or be super intelligent – however I am not. What I am though is someone who looks like I’ve got it together; I have my beautiful family,
I have my job and my business, I have my home and I take pride in myself, physically (hence all the fitness updates) but also in a vain self indulgent capacity (rarely do I venture out with out my eyes on). From the outside, from a Facebook or Instagram point of view, my life is good….happy…..carefree. To some degree it is, but then beneath the surface I’m a raging torment of self doubt and self belief.
I have to say I am managing my anxiety and the subsequent depressive moments A LOT better than I used to compared to when I was younger – man I was a bundle of volcanic like anxious nerves ready to break down at any moment back in the day. The internal torment was overwhelming – the voices chipping at any self worth that tried to flourish was sometimes so debilitating.
At some points my anxiety transpired into OCD like tendencies, mainly of fear of the house burning down – why the house burning down I don’t know – did it signify the instability of finding ‘home’ and therefore wherever I laid roots were at risk of being destroyed and that’s all I had going for me???? Anyway, I would spend literally hours before going to bed checking plug sockets, unplugging everything…..except the fridge – for some reason I trusted the fridge – you can always trust the fridge right? I would check the oven, toaster and hob so many times in sets of 7 – why 7 I have no idea, it’s an odd number, why would I choose an odd number? I could be found stroking the empty sockets trying to convince myself they were empty….and off…..but as soon as I walked away the doubt would build in my mind. Hair straighteners – my god don’t get me started on hair straighteners, sometimes I would have to leave the house with my hair straighteners with me so I KNEW they were definitely unplugged. Some times it got so ridiculous I would get so incredibly annoyed at myself – what the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just function?!?!
My nail biting and skin picking got so out of hand, my fingers would be so swollen and sore, scabbed over from the over picking – have you seen Black Swan where she goes to pick the skin – jaysus even the thought makes my stomach turn. Yet I would do that to myself – not to the same extreme of course but you know I would just pick, pick, pick. How I had any fingers left was beyond me. Even now my first signs that I’m anxious is the state of my hands.
I’ve mentioned now and again the internal monologue of self depreciation that happens all to often in my life – I manage to silence the self abuse more easily these days but it has sent me to some dark places. In moments of calm and silence that’s when it rears its ugly head once again taunting me with hurtful lies.
Now I’m not sure exactly what has triggered my anxiety, am I some one who just has predisposition to mental health disorders or was this due to events in my life? Nature Vs Nurture. I am probably going to go with a 50:50 approach to this. I mean I had plenty in my earlier life which would explain why I have soooooooo much self doubt and self loathing, some of the things told to me by the people who should be the ones who love you unconditionally and always support you were horrific, once is hurtful, persistently….well that changes you.
But despite all that has happened and that I have experienced, I also think that maybe some of us are just wired differently in the way we handle things in life. Some people can externalise their emotions and talk about things, others retreat and internalise everything – opening up is one of the biggest achievements someone who internalises can do – I know I don’t do it that easily at all.
An article by The Mighty summarises high functioning as:
“You’re not good enough. You’re a bad friend. You’re not good at your job. You’re wasting time. You’re a waste of time. Your boyfriend doesn’t love you. You’re so needy. What are you doing with yourself? Why would you say that? What if they hate it? Why can’t you have your shit together? You’re going to get anxious and because you’re going to get anxious, you’re going to mess everything up. You’re a fraud. Just good at faking it. You’re letting everybody down. No one here likes you.”
And my god does that sound about right. Like I said in my earlier anxious years I was a wreck, from the outside I could just about keep it together, fake my way through the day or a social encounter but behind closed doors I just couldn’t keep my shit together, anxiety and its best buddy depression put me in some horrible situations where I doubted my own purpose and existence – am I important to anyone else? Would it just be easier for everyone if my shit and I just wasn’t there anymore? It’s a scary place to be and I don’t wish this on anyone.
Recently I’ve watched ’13 Reasons why’ and holy crap some of that series was such a punch in the stomach – obviously I didn’t completely experience the ‘Hannah Baker’ debacle but I experienced enough of it and endured different versions of events, listening and seeing this character and how she coped or didn’t jumped out at me and I think ‘thank goodness I didn’t actually do it’.
Nowadays I try to keep my demons in check, there have been one or two key moments in the past few years that have been particularly tough and really rocked me, one was after the homecoming of my eldest son – I denied postnatal depression but I needed help, I spent the best part of four months almost confined to my house crying violently at my failings – but I would put on my make up, paint on a smile and look like I had my shit together – but I didn’t, I was falling apart and I felt like I had no one to turn to…but then I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t want to be a burden and I looked like I had it nailed.
Nowadays I keep myself busy – as I have always done but I’m more aware of why I keep myself busy – I’m forever on a project of some sorts, I ensure I have a focus, I ensure that my loneliness is filled – but I have to make sure it doesn’t fall into another OCD like trap so I plan, I coordinate. The double edged sword of all that is I have so much going on sometimes, I have no time for it all and then I panic as I am not being as productive as I could be. Sometimes I just have to shut down for a little while and do nothing to almost reset myself, find an inner calm…..and then the voices start again so back to spinning as many plates to make myself feel like I am achieving and accomplishing things with my life rather than flitting about manically doing nothing.
I hide everything with ‘I’m fine’ I’m not quick to admit I’m struggling, those who know me will know I’m not fine but then I don’t keep that many people too close to me 1) Because I’ve been burnt by friends and family in the past and that really hurts, especially if I’ve let these people into my ‘circle of trust’ and I’ve finally let my guard down and shown them the real me and 2) Because I feel like I can’t be a proper friend to hundreds of people so no way I can let everyone see who I am.
For me loneliness is a huge issue, as much as internalise myself I have so much to give. I actually love being sociable, I love being around people. To me friendship means so much – it’s not something that is flippantly disregarded or abused, it is also something I don’t enter into lightly – that’s not to say I am rude or dismissive – the opposite, it just means that if I feel I have sussed you out I will give you my time unconditionally, if I am your friend, I’m there for you, no matter what.
I observe a lot of what goes on around me, I see when something is not right and if I feel something is wrong I will try to make someone feel better – I like my friends to know they are thought about and considered – because I struggle with the feeling of not being thought about or I’m no ones first port of call, I’m not the person that people want to ring and tell something to first or need to confide in and because of the sadness it brings me, I would hate for anyone else to feel like that. But then the problem with that is I can be so caught up in thinking about everyone else – I’ve exhausted myself. (It is important to clarify that these are my thoughts and this doesn’t always transpire into what happens 100% of the time as I know I have been extremely lucky to have some wonderfully thoughtful people in my life – the problem with being a mass over thinker is its easy to generalise.)
Other coping mechanisms as well as keeping busy is I like a plan – there you go surprise surprise I am a planner – I plan so I know what I’m doing, I plan so I can figure out all the possible angles, I plan so I can keep myself in check, I plan….so I have something to look forward to and I hate letting people down….and hate being let down (cue over thinking and analysing). Sometimes it feels like I can go weeks without any worthwhile interaction, it also feels like if I didn’t plan would I actually get the invites or get to do the things I would like to do with the people I would like to be with?? – refer back to earlier bit where I feel like I’m not the person people turn to first for anything. This could quite possibly be all in my head however an annoying part of what I do is I catalogue most things that happen to almost justify my own insecurities. Incredibly annoying when you are trying to talk yourself out of self doubt and self loathing yet the ‘evidence’ speaks volumes. Although pretty useful when trying to present a case against the other half in a ‘discussion’ and you’re like ‘boom….here’s the evidence to support my ranting tirade’ as you sashay off into the distance with a feeling of ‘you got this one!!’
However despite trying to keep myself in check some days even the simplest of things can escape me, sometimes I actually have to pep talk myself into making a telephone call – I know there is nothing wrong with phoning people, I know once the phone call has started I can chit chat away until the cows come home but making that initial leap to actually pick up the phone can put me in a right tizzy. I will sometimes avoid making a phone call for days until I’ve finally worked up the nerve to do it. I have to leave things to the last minute so I can’t procrastinate too much – although the act of leaving things til the last minute is procrastination in itself. How I stand in front of a classroom all day sometimes baffles me.
I baffle myself…..not in a ‘omg you are like so amazing it’s just so baffling’ but more like ‘how can you do x but completely fall apart at y?’
I sometimes think that having anxiety can be a crippling disorder that negatively impacts life and relationships but I’ve slowly learnt that it’s not always so negative.
We, the anxious ones, may be constantly thinking of the worst case scenario or the ‘what if’ moments, but that can transpire into having someone who has thought ahead of the possible consequences and may have planned the best possible route/alternative etc – may not leave much room for spontaneity but that doesn’t mean ‘we’ can’t be spontaneous, ‘we’ may not indulge ourselves in it all the time – but it can be damn good fun when we do……until ‘we’ then spend hours upon hours overthinking and over analysing the situation – then it’s a bummer.
‘We’ like a plan, so expect to have someone who has done their research, read around the topic, looked at the best options and will be organised and prepared.
‘We’ are sensitive, works both ways in that we are sensitive to what others may say and do to us, but we are also sensitive to other people. Not blowing my own trumpet, but I like to think that I can pick up on those around me and will try to bring comfort or whatever I feel is needed to change something for someone to make them happier or more content. The empathy is something ‘we’ live with, we will notice and appreciate the little things, we take note of the small gestures and are grateful for them and will give them in return. This can sometimes mean that the good nature we may possess can be taken advantage of and yes that will hurt us but it doesn’t stop us trying to bring something positive to someone else so that they don’t feel or think what we have to go through on a daily basis.
‘We’ want to form deep bonds, we want an inner circle, a group of people we can trust and who trust us. We are loyal, supportive and when you have made your way through the walls of self defence we will be honest rather than hide away – but you will also unearth the freer side of us as well, the side that is not guarded and reserved, but more carefree and fun. If you discover this side of a person with anxiety – feel honoured that it’s you that ‘we’ have opened ourselves up to.
Anxiety is a tough thing to live with but it’s not all negative, it can be shifted into something positive and meaningful. Some days are a battle, some days are really hard to switch off and detract from that inner voice – but with the support of those understanding around us we will get through each day.
Shifting a state of mind permanently is never going to be something achieved quickly or easily but state of mind can be shifted. First anxiety and all it’s demons needs to be accepted, then it needs to be tamed and transformed. Sometimes it will rear it’s ugly former head but with time and perseverance you can shape yourself into someone who uses anxiety and all its evils to an advantage.
And one day it will unearth the Super power that we have.