Mental Health

Anxiety – The Devil on My Shoulder

You don’t have to suffer from anxiety, you can grab hold of it and live with anxiety.

Picture this…

It’s X-Mas Eve. The table is set for thirty people, the first official coming together of your family and you in-laws. Everyone is there. Parents, step parents, cousins, grandparents, everyone.

The table is meticulously set. The bright red table cloth provides the perfect base for the white plates and silver cutlery (that you’ve had to hire so each setting matches). Couple the table cloth with the gold and silver decorations and the beautiful place cards that you have hand written that have been placed according to a seating chart that you have obsessed over for weeks.

Everyone is happy, the food looks amazing and you announce that dinner is ready and for everyone to help themselves to the buffet and take their seats. Everyone happily helps themselves to the food and starts to take their assigned seats except one. One person. This person sits in your seat. Not only does she sit in your seat but she moves your place card to the middle of the table and there you sit, alone.

Your average person would laugh it off, grab the place card and sit in the empty seat. I am not an average person.

I stood there watching the scene unfold before me. Everyone was pilling up their plates, eating, laughing. No one noticed me standing there in the doorway. I stood there and I could feel it; the crushing tightness around me chest, the dizzy disconnected feeling in my head. It was all I could do to move my feet and remove myself from the party. I made it as far as my bedroom before my knees gave out from underneath me and the metaphorical band around my chest snapped.

If you also suffer from anxiety then you know the feeling that I’m talking about. That feeling when the anxiety grabs hold of you and knocks the wind right out of you. For me, I simultaneously start to cry and hyperventilate. It’s like no matter how hard I try I can’t get a full breath. My chest won’t expand, so I feel like I’m drowning, the tears stream down my face and the negative thought spin around and around my head, “your seating chart is stupid”, “no one cares about you and how much work you did”, “you’re being ridiculous”, it goes on and on.

The Ongoing Battle

Once I’m this head space it’s so hard to get out of. Deep breathing exercises can stop me from becoming this irrational blubbering mess if I start practicing them early enough. Sometimes, like on Christmas Eve, the anxiety just hits you and there’s no stopping it. I remained on the floor in a mess until my mum found me and then my partner, they were able to distract me a break the cycle, but it wasn’t easy. I was grateful that the dinner portion of the night had ended by this time so that I could return to the party. A glass of wine or five helped me return to the party and pretend that everything was normal. Nobody noticed my absence.

I live with anxiety everyday. This is just a small example of what I can experience, what I have experienced. What I haven’t mentioned was the weeks of background anxiety that I felt for weeks prior to our dinner party. I didn’t mention the low level of fear and dread that I feel whenever I have an event coming up or I know I’m going to interact with someone or something that triggers me. The constant feeling that there is a fully grown man sitting on my chest. God! Why can’t I just breath?

I recently found this post written by a woman to her husband thanking him for sticking by her through her good days and her bad. This is a pretty accurate description of what it’s like for me and my partner. I am grateful every day that I have people in my life that know that about my anxiety and that are ok with it. I can be hard to deal with sometimes, I get obsessive, I am awkward, I say the wrong things, I cancel at the last minute and I leave the party way too early. This all because I suffer from anxiety.

Anxiety takes many forms and coupled with my other mental health issues effects me in many different ways, which I will delve into in future posts. But for now, let me leave you with this; if you are suffering from anxiety or a mental illness, you are not alone, reach out and open up. It’s the first step in learning to manage and live with anxiety.

Can you relate to my adventures with anxiety? Leave me a comment and share your insights!

If you need help or someone to talk to here are some useful links for you!

Beyond Blue (Australia)

NHS (UK)

Mental Health America (USA)

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1 thought on “Anxiety – The Devil on My Shoulder

  1. I relate to this extremely. I was with my family for a Christmas lunch many years ago, during my teenage years. My family are very academic – me, not so much. Their idea of Christmas fun was to read my school grades for the year to everyone seated at the table. Comments were made about certain subject grades and how I should be aiming higher and doing better, but it wasn’t that easy. I quietly left, humiliated, and wandered into a dark room and just cried. When I returned a while later, a significant number of guests had left and didn’t even notice I was gone even though the topic at the time was me. I’ve found this blog to be really helpful, keep writing as you do, it’s amazing.

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