Sunday, 6 November 2016

Anxiety & Me : Making Progress But How Far To Push?



I've been in weekly therapy sessions for generalised anxiety disorder for about 7 months now.

When I'm asked how much progress I've made during this time, I find it hard to figure out what the answer to that is...

The thing with something like generalised anxiety disorder is that it tends to come into play in lots of different aspects of life...it's not just one symptom that you can look out for and notice when it goes away...my anxiety disorder affects me in so many different ways that I find it almost impossible to figure out if any of them have eased since starting therapy.

Do I still suffer with panic attacks and unwanted, intrusive thoughts at random moments every day? Yes, I do.

Do I still feel anxious and unsure of myself in social situations? Yes, I do.

Do I still feel petrified about travelling & doing things alone? Yes, I do.

Do I still feel down about myself and as though I can't do anything right? Yes, I do.

So it would be easy to assume that the therapy isn't working...none of these big problems have been resolved yet, who knows if they ever will be...

But then certain things happen that make me realise that things HAVE improved in some ways...

One of these things has been my eagerness to take part in social events that I previously would never have considered.

For example, last month I went along to a local bloggers meet up.

It was nothing huge, just a casual gathering for coffee at a local farm - most people were taking their kids along so I took Tyne, my 3 year old,  with me.

I still felt nervous about it...I still ummed and ahhed over what to wear, worried whether they'd all be secretly shocked at how fat and hideous I looked in person, worried whether they'd all judge me.

I still panicked about whether or not to take Tyne with me ...worried that if I did he might throw a tantrum and that I wouldn't be able to deal with the embarrassment. Worried that taking him would mean I run the risk of having to take him to the bathroom - which may seem like nothing to most people but to me it means I would have to stand up in front of everybody to take him, which fills me with so much dread (I don't know why...something about it drawing attention to me I guess...). 

And when the morning of the meet up came, I still considered backing out...saying that something had come up and I couldn't make it anymore.

I panicked about whether I'd have nothing interesting to say, or whether I'd stumble over my words, or whether they would all simply dislike me instantly.

But the difference was...I didn't back out this time...I actually went.


And when I was there.... I didn't just sit quietly observing the conversation like I so often have done in the past.

I joined in.

And I didn't feel so nervous anymore.

 Infact, dare I say it, I really enjoyed the morning...the ladies there were lovely, I enjoyed chatting to them all, and I came away feeling happy to have had a nice morning chatting to people who were in the same world as me (there's nothing like chatting with other bloggers, it's so rare to get the chance to do it and other people just don't get it!)...and pleased as punch that I'd forced myself to go along.

And so now I can see that sometimes, forcing myself into situations that make me uncomfortable can be a good thing.

I've also found myself far more open to the idea of travelling and doing things that my anxious self usually considers a "risk" - like many people, the recent terrorist attacks have left me feeling extremely anxious about travelling ...but whereas most people will be able to put those fears aside, I find it too difficult to do that and so I have been avoiding trips to London and holidays outside of the UK for a while now...even our cruise to Norway this year wasn't booked without a lot of panicking and google searching "Norway Security Threat Level" on a daily basis for about a month beforehand!

It sounds silly to most people I'm sure...I know most people have "You can't let them beat us" attitude but to me, travelling brings about anxiety in many ways - fear of attacks, worry about getting lost in unfamiliar surroundings, nervousness about what to expect and so on...and the anxiety it brought me simply wasn't worth going through, it was THAT bad. It was easier and better for everybody just to avoid.

But lately I've found myself taking trips that I previously never would have...Disneyland Paris is somewhere I have thought about visiting for so many years now, but I always considered it too risky , ...I always told myself it wasn't worth the risk.

But last month...we finally visited.

And it was MY idea to go...it was me who decided we should take the trip, it was me who organised it all last minute...a month before we travelled.

And to my surprise, my travel anxiety didn't hit me like I thought it would. In Fact those 3 days spent in Disneyland where probably the most anxiety-free I have ever had (if only I could live there!).

And so again, I showed myself that sometimes...stepping out of my comfort zone can be rewarding and so very worth doing.

But that leaves me in a bit of a predicament...exactly how far do I push things?

This month, I decided that I would book tickets to Blogfest  - a blogging conference held in London in a few weeks time, which features speakers I would LOVE to see, and is attended by so many bloggers who I would love to finally meet face to face...but the thought of travelling to London alone sets off that travel anxiety so badly and I wonder if it's something I can manage...or if it's maybe a push too far, too soon.

And then, last week, an email landed in my inbox that I just was not expecting...an invitation to spend 3 days in Paris, on an all expenses paid trip to represent the UK mummy blogger community at a conference there...

These are the emails that fill people with excitement and gratitude, and of course I am grateful for the chance...but I worry if it's just too much for me.

7 months ago I was having panic attacks at the very thought of leaving the house....and now I'm considering whether or not I'm capable of travelling alone to Paris, for 3 days....

I just don't know if it's a step too far.

Or how I'm supposed to know what I'm capable of these days...

I know you could say "Well you won't know until you try!"...but where does that leave me if I can't do it?

Having a panic attack in the middle of Paris with nobody to help me?

Screaming with fear mid-flight and being carted off  by the men in white coats?!

It's so easy to say things like "You have to push yourself" but I do believe that you can push yourself too far, too soon.

On the other hand...do I want to opt out, and then look on with envy at the others who are attending? Seeing all the fun I'm missing out on? Wishing I had just bitten the bullet and gone?

Should I be taking the easy way out and assuming I won't be handle it, without even trying?

I don't think there are really any right answers to this, I'm just thinking out loud....

It's just another bump in the road of the journey to anxiety recovery...if there even is such a thing...knowing how far to push things and how soon.

If you suffer with anxiety too, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how far to push yourself and any of your own experiences.

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