Smol anxious stress bundle

It’s me, your anxious little bundle of stress. The anxiety has been so real recently. Yesterday, I freaked out because the new tattoo I have (it’s so pretty!) is healing kind of weird and I thought I’d ruined it because I had exposed it to the sun a little bit, and what if it was a little bit too much, like just a tad too much UV and the ink was already fading and I’d accidentally savaged my beauty before the ink had even set properly? The day before it was planning the route to a new place – I couldn’t get the times out of my mind. Over and over and over again I had to check the map, check the bus, check the schedule, check the time, then the map, then the bus, then the schedule, then the real time data, and then leave an extra ten minutes early despite the bus running seven minutes late and the stop being a short few minutes from my house. But it was a new route so all of this was necessary and the pounding in my chest didn’t stop until I could finally unclench my fists as I stepped off the bus at my destination. The day before that, it was the new housemate I need to find for next year as my current one will be moving out and I don’t want to lose my apartment but absolutely could not afford this place on my own. The day before, there was the new moles I noticed, and the weird way a scar has healed, and the blemishes on my face that just won’t go away. Now it’s the mountain of a cystic pimple between my eyebrows that refuses both to pop and to go down and so it’s just sitting there and I keep poking and poking and poking and I’m only making it worse because of the germs of my fingers and the phone I just touched and the dirt in the air.

And now, right now, I’m anxious because I just wrote a massive paragraph about all the things that are currently making me anxious without spacing it properly and the English major in me can’t stand it, but that’s one small way I’m facing my anxiety today.

Today, I will resist the urge to research the appearance of moles that indicate melanoma. Today, I will check my bus route once before leaving the house, and once when I’m at the stop, and then I’ll trust the bus will come. Today, I’ll stop prodding at my face knowing that it’s only making all the blemishes worse (especially that one between my eyebrows) and I’ll use a face mask instead.

Today, I’m taking small steps to deal with anxiety and all of the intrusive thoughts that arise.

Sniffing lavender balm. Giving myself a massage. Lighting a candle. Drinking good quality tea I save for days like today because I’m cheap and want to feel luxurious only sometimes, and only when I need it most.

I take a breath, and remind myself that this too shall pass, and reach for my bible if I can sit with Him today, and the stress releases, just a little, just a smidge.

And the bundle of anxiety that I felt physically throughout my entire body becomes a stiff ball isolated to just my chest and shoulders.

I’m officially scared of chairs

For a little while know, I’ve known that conventional seating isn’t my thing. In a bit of a weird way. I just don’t like chairs. I much prefer sitting on the floor. I don’t know if it’s because they symbolise waiting rooms and classrooms and doctor’s rooms and rooms of other people I’ve somehow irritated with my existence. Whatever it is, chairs make me uncomfortable, especially when I have to choose between two seats and consider all the possible scenarios of what might happen sitting in each different spot and how it might affect my life going forward.

But today in group this was taken to a whole other level.

We were asked to move seats. As in, Hi, Welcome guys, we’d like you to sit somewhere new today.

Nope,

Nu-uh,

No thank you.

When did a chair of all things become an anxiety / panic trigger? And also why? 

It’s just a chair.

But I couldn’t do it. I could not sit in another chair. I could not choose a different seat. I was (as I was reminded none too gently by the group therapists) that I was not thinking particularly dialectically.

No shit. You think I know why I’ve suddenly developed an irrational fear of chairs? All of a sudden, something in me changed. That panic system that I’ve so carefully constructed for times of ‘threat’ and ‘danger’ erupted. It bubbled out in breathlessness and uncomfortable sensations and racing thoughts and a racing heart and hidden hurts.

What if they write on the board this seat has the best view of the whiteboard and what if I sit somewhere else then I might make the others uncomfortable because they sit far away from me for a reason and what if I need to escape the room because I’m wildly dissociating and this seat places me uncomfortably far away from the door and what if I forget where my seat is after an activity and we return to sit down and I sit in my usual seat now-someone-else’s seat and I break down all over again and what if what if what if what if.

This, just in case you missed it, was because of a chair. 

Something is happening to my brain, and I don’t like it. Never before have I described myself as an anxious person. I normally leap straight for depressed or suicidal. But not anxious, not until recently.

Something to ponder.

Anxious Human Here (3.0)

It’s me again, your regular anxious Rosie. Here are the things that are making me anxious:

Do people even like me, or are they just pretending? My colleagues laugh, but is it with me, or at me? I sing aloud as I slice bread; do they think that it’s weird? Are they pretending to like me to get close to me, because they need my help with something, or to pass off the bad jobs to me, and once they’re done with me, they’ll toss me aside for another person to play with? Is my housemate pretending to like me, when she nods at my sarcasm with a smirk plastered on her lips mirroring mine? Is she pretending when I ask her what she’s been up to, and seems genuinely happy when she answers? I wonder, does she notice. Does she take note of the scars. The odd eating habits. The isolation in my room. The declining of invitations to go out, to eat together, to ‘bond’. I worry, yes she does.

I have exams starting next week. I have taken on too much tutoring, and there’s very little time for myself. On the other hand, it’s nice to finally have money. I can’t spend it though, because what if something bad happens? If it’s not a necessity I don’t need it. I don’t deserve it. I don’t want it anymore, even though the cute cable knit sweater caught my eye, or the boho backpack, or the fresh bundles of flowers with exotic scents calling my name, or the smell of incense drifting from fair trade hippy grocers, and bath salts from the candle stores. What if I spend my money on nice things, and then something bad happens? I don’t deserve nice things. I don’t deserve self care. And besides, shopping is just another thing to be anxious over. I worry about my finances, even when they’re fine. I worry about my grades, even when they are so beyond fine I don’t need to study at all.

My final grades for second year semester one will be good, but not good enough, because nothing is good enough for a perfectionist. A perfectionist with depression must force people to believe that the sadness is strong. An intelligent perfectionist with depression must force people to see past the grades that act as a mask and ask what the purpose of studying is. My grades are inversely proportional to my mental health, but why doesn’t anyone believe that? Why can’t I be smart, and suffering? Why can’t people see beyond the facade of non-failure and see the anxiety hidden beneath high distinctions? I worry nobody will care to ask until I crumble inward into another mental breakdown.

My nose won’t stop trickling. I want it to stop. People must hate the way I sniff. It’s so loud. I can’t touch the poles on the bus because then I might get sicker. I can’t touch the buttons on the pedestrian crossing because then I might die. I can’t touch the sponges on the kitchen sink unless the water is hot and they’re soaked in soap because that sponge could kill me too. I worry that I have OCD, because I think everything could contaminate me.

The smell of soup is comforting, but I want to have a bath as it boils, and what if it boils over and catches fire and I burn down our apartment building. I want to have a bath to take my mind off the study and the sadness brewing behind my eyes like a nasty headache, but seeing the fresh scars – even though I put them there, even though I needed them at the time – will be triggering. I’m not ready to explore anything. It will make me think of sinking beneath the hot water, the scalding water, because I need my skin to blister and crinkle and buckle, and letting go of my breath as I gulp in the scented water. If I light candles while I soak, what if something catches fire? I’ve always been a cutter, but maybe I should try burning. Just a little. Just a touch. Do I really need more scars? I worry about being judged.

Do I want my next tattoo on my left arm, as I had planned, or my right, where the skin is un-puckered? Am I ready to bare my scarred arm to a stranger, as they decorate my messy flesh with permanent art? Having art on my left arm might draw attention to my scars; having it on my right might detract from them – good. If I get it on my left, I can’t show my parents. Or anybody. I worry about the efficacy of a tattoo to keep me safe.

It’s going to rain. It’s trickling down the windows where the black, possibly poisonous dust collects. I like to dry my washing in the sunshine, but there is no sunshine today. I worry about doing my washing so frequently and other people in my building seeing me go up and down the stairs.

My body hurts. My meds are being increased. My moods aren’t stabilising. My eating disorder is taking control while I’m unwell. If I lose weight while unwell that might be the spark I need to ignite a relapse which is scary but not unprecedented – and maybe even welcomed. My brain hurts from studying and suppressing emotions. My heart hurts. I feel heavy. I worry about the adjective “atypical”.

I’m going to have a bath while I boil soup and light candles and continue to be an anxious human despite it all, and my brain will continue to hurt as the same thoughts circulate through my cerebral cortex, and my sympathetic system will respond to the absent stimulus and cause fear and the familiar sensations of panic will consume me. I worry that I make things up. That it’s all in my head – but where else would you expect to find it? It’s a mental illness.

But it’s all okay. Because I have anxiety. And I’m an anxious human. And everything will be okay in the end, because if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.

Everything will be okay in the end.

It’s not okay.

So it can’t be the end.

Anxious human is done now.

The Thing About the Future

The future can be likened to many things, some of them literal and some metaphorical. Sometimes it seems that the future is a butterfly fluttering away in the distance, always visible but never reachable. Maybe it’s more of a stone, rolling down a hill and gaining more and more momentum until it’s an unstoppable force. Maybe your future is a little like mine and is best likened to depression – which obscures the future, until depression is all I see and all I can ever expect to see. It seems like the future is an epic weight on my shoulders, the weight of not only my own small world, but the world, the weight of expectation and anxiety. It’s the dark fog that surrounds me, narrows my shoulders, and hunches my back. The rain-cloud that hovers seemingly only above me, dulling everything else.

I’m sceptical that anybody can see the future, even those that charge money for it.

There are some things that help, I suppose (not many, but there are some). They seem to make the future not any more reachable, but at least a little more possible.

I make plans on the good days. Enough said.

Scheduling social time. Somebody once said that depression is more than an illness of the mind, it is an illness of loneliness. Depression makes me isolate, my borderline personality makes me constantly in need of comfort and validation from others (normally in the form of instant text message replies) but anxiety swamps me in social situations. It’s a tricky tightrope to wander, and yes, I do fall off, and very often, but there are definitely times when seeing a friend, and feeling a little more ‘normal’ lifts the depression just a little, so I can gain a glimpse of the future. Future coffee dates, future catch-up strolls, future movie nights. Just a glimpse, but a glimpse nonetheless.

Committing. Not only do I make plans, but I commit to them. It gives me things to look forward to. Also, I hate to let people down, so it’s a bit inevitable that I will commit to plans regardless of how I feel. Unless that feeling is suicidal, in which case I usually end up at the psychiatric emergency care centre, crying into a friend’s shoulder there.

Going outside. Getting to a sensory place soothes and comforts me, and distracts from the depression too. I love to lie in the grass, eyes closed, listening to the birds or the wind, or maybe even doing a guided meditation. If I can drag myself to the bus or have enough energy to cycle, I might head to the beach and wriggle the sand between my toes, or walk into the ocean fully clothed – again, this is not something I would ever do if I was actively suicidal. The outdoors is such a grounding place, and once I find a spot I like, I will return there in the future. This is the only part I miss about my childhood home in Western Australia – walking to the end of the street, over the sand dunes, and down to the beach. Sydney beaches don’t have quite the same amount of seclusion…

Finding a really, really good book. And pledging to finish it. Some of my all-time favourites are:

  • The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
  • The Boat (Nam Le)
  • More Than This and The Rest Of Us Just Live Here (Patrick Ness)
  • The Vegetarian (Han Kang)
  • And the absolutely hilarious The One Hundred Year Old Man That Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson).

Being so engrossed in a book that I simply cannot end anywhere else but the end is a surprisingly powerful motive to hold out for the future.

And if you still can’t see the future, that’s okay. I’m sceptical that anybody can, even those that charge money for it.

Sometimes, because of my depression, it seems like my future is all doom and gloom. That’s the thing about mental illness. But the thing about the future? I can’t predict it. The present is the present and the past is the past, but the future hasn’t happened yet. And maybe, just maybe, the future will be a place where my assortment of abbreviated illnesses and I can live symbiotically, rather than fighting for existence.

Anxious Human Here (Again)

Here are some things that are making me anxious:

University enrolment for semester two. My enrolment didn’t open until 4pm which is unusual, because normally it’s 9am, and this is bad because I had work 2-8.30, and my break ended at 4, so I took a sneaky 10 minutes to enrol using my phone at 5, but by this time the classes I needed were full, so now I’ve had to pick different classes at different times which means rearranging my whole life and work schedule to fit in these other lab times, which is stressful. Also, two of my classes clash so I’m waiting for that to get approved, and if it doesn’t then I can’t start taking philosophy to earn my minor, and I don’t know if I am able to fit in enough units to get that sorted.

That was the least literary paragraph I have ever written, which worries me because of how it will be perceived, as I ordinarily consider myself an excellent writer, except when I’m so anxious, all I can do to cope is rant. Sorry.

People are still sitting too close to me on the bus.

People are still questioning my life choices and future career path, and will I ever become a doctor? Will I even want to study medicine once I’m done with my first degree? What if I never find a job anywhere and become just another intelligent person and former school dux who ended up going nowhere at all because she lacked motivation? Why can’t I drop out and read a medical book and gain a qualification immediately? Are my standards dropping? If I’m not earning the marks I need (cough, 90%, cough) that makes me a failure and I’ll never be loved and then I’ll have failed at thinness and at life and be abandoned and alone forever.

The windows on my house are hard to clean. The dust is black. Is it poisonous? I can feel it entering my lungs, my bloodstream, it tastes like poison, but if I clean it, that means touching it and if it is a disease then it’s probably one which is easier to transmit via skin contact. So my windows continue to collect dust, and that black dust continues to concern me, and I stare and stare, hoping it will disappear, or at least long enough for my vision to get blurry and speckly and weird so that the dust fades into static and I’m more worried about my eyesight than contracting some rare and non-existent spore-transmitted pathogen that resides in dust from the highway.

Dirty cloths from cleaning dirty windows and sponges that collect bacteria and coffee-stained mugs and second-hand mugs and a dishwasher that uses too much power. Also taking the rubbish out when I’m running late and can’t run upstairs to wash my hands because then my hands are contaminated and I can’t clean them and if I touch my face I might die. Or drop into convulsions or something, I don’t know.

A loud heart. Why is my heart so loud? My heart beats more evenly when I’m running than it does when I’m trying to relax. What if it’s an arrhythmia? What if I have a heart condition? What if it is just anxiety, in which case, why can’t I calm down? And why is my heart so loud?

Loud noise (that isn’t my heart). Fire drills. Sirens, especially ambulance sirens.

Judgement. Constant judgement. Internal, external, all-consuming. Stares and whispers and murmurs and short sleeves and clothes that don’t fit properly and no money to spend on nicer clothes and nicer things.

The amount of stuff I own. I own a lot of stuff, mostly books, mostly university work. Mostly dusty and cherished and used for tutoring and essays and not much else. But no-one else has this much stuff. I should try to sell some. I could make extra money and buy new clothes and feel better about myself. But that means interacting with strangers and I don’t know if I’m ready for that when I could just take it to the op shop or give it away to struggling first-years who would appreciate obsessively taken notes by an over-achiever.

There’s more. There’s a lot to be anxious about. That’s just what I am able to get out in the twelve minutes before I need to head to class.

In case you missed it, here are some other things that make me anxious.