A conversation was started on my Open University degree Facebook page yesterday about Anxiety. Someone was asking for advice on how to “fight it”. It struck a chord with me because although it’s taken a long time, one of the advantages of being in my 40’s is that I’ve had a lot of time to think about what makes me tick, and I know for a fact I suffer with anxiety and it’s impossible to “fight”.
I have no idea when I started being anxious. I know I was anxious around my mother especially if she was cleaning (which she hated doing it and would have a go at us for) and to this day, if my sister or I hear a vacuum cleaner we immediately tense up. Thankfully hubby is in charge of vacuuming.
I get anxious about being on time, which means I’ve never been fashionably late. Any attempt to BE late, still results in me arriving either on time or earlier than everyone else.
I need to play every conceivable scenario of a new situation in my head (often days in advance) so I can mitigate any concerns or risks I foresee. If the plan is to go one place and the plans change on the same day, I get a little panicked. I have to think everything through in great detail. I’m not a “fly by the seat of your pants” kinda girl.
I worry about my impact on other people. Not so much saying the wrong thing because like everybody, that happens a lot and I then get anxious thinking about what I had said for days later. I worry that my children will wake someone up, annoy a neighbour with noise. I don’t have parties at my house because I don’t want my guests to keep anyone awake (although my neighbours don’t seem to have the same concerns!) I even worry if we have anyone staying who smokes who might go out the back door after 11pm to have a ciggy and talk on their mobile phone.
I worry I can’t sleep, which then becomes an issue for getting to sleep.
I worry for my children’s safety, whilst being very aware I have to give them scope to make some mistakes themselves.
My biggest worry of all — that I will look back on my life and wish I’d done something differently. That I should have moved to Australia or followed a different route with my career. Or that I shouldn’t be living where I am in London and should move out and live in a village. Of course, the minute I do that then the anxiety arrives again and I worry that could be the wrong decision too. How do people up sticks and move and know it’s the right decision??
I used to have panic attacks. They happened in my 20’s completely unexpectedly in situations that shouldn’t have been anxious. It took quite a long time to realise that’s what I was having, but once I did, I took back control and talked myself down from them. I had a few last year, not long after my son was born. Just saying out loud “Oh dear, I’m having a panic attack” makes the symptoms start to recede. I don’t give myself a hard time. I take time to let it pass and then have a think about what might have triggered it so I can address it. Easier said than done, but I can only do my best.
I sound like a nightmare, but to be honest, as I mentioned when I replied to the lady on the Facebook page, half the battle is recognising that you are anxious. I can’t change 40 years of conditioning easily (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help a bit apparently) and I am the product of my genes, my upbringing and my environment. What I can do is acknowledge my short comings, do my best to understand myself and put in place things that can help me be prepared for situations. For example: I have very social neighbours with 2 teenage daughter and all 4 of them like to have friends over for bbq’s and parties. My bedroom is at the back of the house, so even 2 people in their garden talking and I have a big problem falling asleep, so a full on party is a nightmare. I’ve talked to them (several times) about giving us notice. They have told us about 1 party and I’ve been able to stay with family elsewhere or make arrangements. They don’t always tell us, because presumably they don’t always know that a gathering will roll on pass 11pm. So as a result, I dread Summer. Whilst everyone else is wishing for sunny days and clear nights, I’m praying for rain so I don’t have to deal with a party next door. That’s pretty sad right? This year I took the bull by the horns. I ordered a single mattress that will fit under my daughter’s bed (she sleeps at the front of the house), new pillows, a single duvet (thick enough that I will be happy using it) and new sheets and covers. I’ve made it all up, duvet is covered and rolled in her wardrobe. I think I can get it all out and be lying on it in about 2 minutes. This has meant I am less worried. I have a safety net and that has gone a long way to making me less anxious.
Whether we get more anxious with age I think is more complicated. I get more anxious flying and worrying about my children as I get older which I do think is related to age. However, other things that used to cause me a great deal of anxiety like driving has lessened as I have gained experience and confidence.
Am I alone with my anxiety? I have no idea. The thread on my Facebook page suggests I’m not but I’d love to hear from you if you suffer from anxiety and what you do to keep yourself in check. It’d be nice to know I’m not completely bonkers.