Send In The Clowns

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I was an anxious child and constantly imagined I was dying of something horrible. One day I noticed lumps on my wrists so I worried myself sick thinking of all the terrible things it could be when in reality they were my perfectly normal wrist bones. I wasn’t dying but I was suffering from anxiety and unfortunately the anxious child grew up to be an anxious adult.

You see, I’m a worrier. Glass half-full? How about glass smashed to smithereens all over the floor and shards sticking out of my size fours?

Anxiety in some degree is a constant but every now and then Blind Fear shows up doing a Slim Shady singing, “Guess who’s back, back again Fear is back, tell a friend”. At this point my body is screaming, ‘ENOUGH WITH THE WORRYING ABOUT STUFF YOU CAN’T CHANGE, YOU TIT!’

So Fear showed up about six weeks ago..

The signs had been there for a while. I was unable to complete the simplest task, struggled to read a sentence (let alone a book) and I’d lie in bed for hours with irrational thoughts zipping around in my mind. Not to mention that EVERYTHING (and everybody) irritated me.

I ignored it all.

In the last 7 years I have had to cope with a divorce, moving house (3 times) The Boy’s abrupt entry into the world and my mother’s abrupt departure from it, The Boy’s autism diagnosis and getting married. Oh, and the menopause. Stressful, no?

Things came to a head when I woke up one morning at 5am with a racing heart that refused to calm down. I’d been having occasional panic attacks for two years and I’d always been able to calm myself down but not this time.

This time it was different.

This time there was something wrong and I was terrified.

I woke OH up and begged him to phone an ambulance. At first he refused because he was used to me having panic attacks but quickly relented after I bellowed, ‘PHONE AN EFFING AMBULANCE!!!’ in his face.

Within twenty minutes the paramedics came and stuck things all over my chest.

‘Am I having a heart attack?’ I asked, my eyeballs bulging with fear..

“Doesn’t look like it. It’s just that your heart’s beating very fast and it’s jumping a bit so we’ll take you in to get checked out”

‘Jumping a bit’? It felt like I’d got sodding Diversity in there!

So I lay in the ambulance hoping for some comforting banter from the paramedic but he kept yawning and looking at his watch (you don’t get that in Casualty, folks) so I tortured myself with a bit of hardcore hypochondria instead which worked an absolute treat in keeping my heart rate through the roof.

To keep the story within an acceptable word count, my ECG’s and bloods were fine so after four hours of hyperventilating while listening to some poor sod making noises akin to a distressed Yak, I was given a beta blocker and told it was psychological.

“Not dying then?”

“Not today”.

At this point I’d calmed down. Death wasn’t pointing his bony finger at me so I was able to relax and then came the realisation that I was wearing my skanky dressing gown and reindeer slippers. Oops!

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Slippers of shame.

My dressing gown hadn’t seen the inside of the washer for about three weeks and it had various stains on the front.. mostly tea but one was curry. The Boy had attached a ‘Good Work’ sticker to me at some point so I covered the yellow stain with that TOTALLY forgetting that the doctor had already seen it along with my cactus-legs and scary no-make-up face.

THE SHAME!

You don’t care what you look like when you’re convinced you’re about to shuffle off your mortal coil, at least that is my excuse. *cringe*

The next two weeks were a blur of particularly nasty side-effects from the beta-blockers and then anti-depressants of which I managed ONE before telling my GP where to shove the rest. The drugs don’t work, they just make everything worse – some bloke from Wigan once wrote.

The drugs made me feel as sick as a dog and one day the sight of one of Mary Berry’s recipes actually triggered a panic attack. So I chose to come off medication and address my stress levels. That’s not to say that medication doesn’t work at all because it does work for many people. Alas, not me.

In those first weeks I existed from one hour to the next. The nervously knackered tend to think in minutes and hours as opposed to days and weeks. I became obsessed with my symptoms. My heart raced and there were moments where I genuinely felt I was losing my remaining marbles and would be carted off in a snug fitting jacket but I kept telling myself that they were just sensations caused by adrenalin. There were rare moments where I felt ‘normal’ and that in itself would trigger a panic attack!

In my lowest moments, I miserably thought I was broken and would never know normality again, or at least normality as I know it. Fear really messed me up this time!

I know about anxiety (am bit of an expert) and I understand that the worse thing you can do is lie on the sofa every day. Daytime TV is shit for one and I knew I was heading for trouble when I caught myself watching Jeremy Kyle’s (non) Emergency Room. So I pushed myself to work with the panic attacks by doing housework or walking the dog in order to burn off some of the adrenalin. I felt abysmal but knew that I would feel slightly better afterwards and slightly was better than nothing. At night I’d wake up with my heart racing but I’d breathe it out. If sleep still eluded me, I’d get up and clean something.

I’ve also removed all the news apps from my devices. It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in the world, it’s just that my mind can’t take anymore grim faced drama. Recovery lies in understanding how a tired mind can affect the body. My body is working as it should. It’s reacting normally to me bombarding it with adrenaline with my negative thinking.

My recovery also lies in humour.

Gone are the police dramas and murder mysteries, for now at least. Happy Valley (a misnomer if ever there was one) remains unconcluded in my Skybox and I’ve turned to comedy to give my body the endorphins that come from having a good old belly laugh.

It’s therapy.

Optreden Rolling Stones in het Feijenoordstadion, Rotterdam; Mick Jagger , kop *2 juni 1982

Fear doesn’t like humour because laughter chases it away, if only briefly.

I imagine my fear to be Mick Jagger and when my heart starts racing I visualise him doing his ‘rooster strut’ and can’t help but smile. The effect is instantaneous and it takes the edge off my fear. Similarly in Harry Potter where the children take what terrifies them with scary bastard Bogart and make it funny. I think there’s a lot to be said for sending in the clowns when it comes to mental health. However, it’s not lost on me that many of the clowns themselves suffer from anxiety and depression.

It’s taken years to bring me to this point and there isn’t a quick fix, especially without medication but hopefully CBT will succeed where drugs have failed. I realise that my negative thinking has got me into this state so changing how I think should help to get me out of it.

Or maybe a lobotomy.

Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrows troubles, it takes away today’s peace.

Image Via Creative Commons

Image Via Creative Commons

mumturnedmom

 

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22 thoughts on “Send In The Clowns

  1. I don’t want to like this post as its really nothing to like. But yet again you’ve taken a subject with huge consequences and made it informative and even fun! I’m so sorry that you felt like you did. I have only ever had one panic attack and I never want to experience another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Stella..panic attacks are horrible and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve experienced one but I’ve had so many now that I’m used to them, except that one that saw me in A & E. I never want another like that! You know me, if I can find humour in crap situations, then I’ll use it because it helps me to do so. πŸ™‚

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  2. Oh Tracy, thus is a hard one and don’t think there’s any funny spin I can place to go with this. You haved lived with this condition and are living with it, I suppose that a bonus, if not, it might mean you’d snuffed it! I feel perhaps you might feel the way you do with your problem like I do with my chronic back problem
    A, people wasn’t to better it and tell you about theirs
    AND
    B, people constantly asking if you are better yet. You won’t get better in a day or a week but it’s there and it’s crippling you just like a depression. However, as it can’t be seen and hey you might just be laughing, well hell, that must mean you are *meanded* Do these kind, helpful people go around asking diabetics if they are better, no but because it isn’t always visibly broken, it doesn’t mean it’s meanded.
    Fed up to the back teeth of explaining that there’s nothing more Drs can do to help my back, apart from pain killing medication. Maybe I’ve taken my pills an hour previously and I’m seen on a good day, what they don’t see is the next day when I can’t hardly move out of bed.
    I’m sure people care and want to say the right thing but sometimes just to listen is the most helpfull. Those out there who think my pain or your pain and suffering is a state of mind, WELL to those people I say I would happily swap my life and for you to walk round in my shoes for 24 hours trying to cope as best I can do and the same goes for them living your life on night after night of broken sleep, not knowing when your next attack is going to tap you on the shoulder and grip you so tightly round the chest.
    I take my hat off to you Tracy, unlike me you have to keep going for your little man. I can tell you the honest truth though, I do weigh up the pros and cons of being here, I’m going down into a hibernation mood.
    Thank you for your very honest piece of writing Tracy, big big kisses xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • The thing about anxiety is that it is in the mind. The symptoms are real enough but it’s thoughts that create a cycle of fear which means the fight or flight response is triggered over the slightest thing because the brain can’t recognise the difference between the tiger coming to rip your head off or something trivial – it responds to your fear. You have a chronic illness and it’s not surprising that you have bouts of depression. I know how bewildering it feels to have a good day only to have the anxiety come back with a vengeance the next and I imagine it’s similar for you to have a day where the pain is relatively under control and your mood lifts only to feel it plummet when the pain worsens. Yours is a physical problem creating a mental one, mine’s the other way around although I still maintain that the menopause has played a part in it. All we can do is cope as best we can as that’s all any of us can do. Take the good days as they come and ride out the bad ones knowing that another good one will come along eventually. I think you do incredibly well considering the amount of pain you are in. I’m sending you massive hugs and thank you for taking the time to comment. Lufs you. xxxxx

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  3. Anxiety really is a bitch, isn’t it? Bloody exhausting. You’re right, you need to find what works for you because we are all different of course – duh! I love how you always make me laugh mirthfully. Hope therapy works for you my lovely xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness! It sounds like you’ve had an awful few weeks. I really hope the CBT works for you and I think staying away from the news and gritty dramas sounds very sensible indeed. Keep on laughing! And cleaning… Your house must be spotless. My bathroom could do with a quick scrub, if you’re free? πŸ˜‰

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  5. Tracy, it sounds like you’ve been having an awful time of it, I’m so sorry. As always though, you have managed to write this with such wit and humour. I really hope the CBT works for you, I think you are very brave, and wise, for seeking out what works for you. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

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  6. I can identify though meds helped me and saved me from deep dark waters of depression. I would of killed myself as that is all I thought about in 2010. It started off with things bulit up around anxiety and too many strssors. It is good that you have identified triggers particularly the news app. When I am really anxious I don’t go any where near the news. I love comedy and find humour tiv be a great therypy. I also enjoy mindfulness onky recently! You have done well to best through so much stress and sometimes you have to go rock bottom to rebuild yourself up again. P.s. you rock them slippers girlfriend πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks lovely. I took anti-depressants for depression about 10 years ago and they worked fine with minimal side-effects. I can only imagine the sensitivity now is to do with being menopausal as I’ve become sensitive to certain food and drink as well *weeps* I’m glad to hear that the pills helped you and you’re in a better place mentally. I’m never going to live those slippers down lol πŸ˜‰ X

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  7. Nothing remotely funny about either panic attacks or health anxiety (I know!!!)
    But the way you write about it is do engaging and personal which is really bloody appealing to people (like me) who need to feel we aren’t the only lunatics! So thank you xxx

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  8. Hello.

    Thank you for writing about anxiety. I know it can’t be easy.

    My Dad suffers from debilitating anxiety which makes him unable to visit us or for us to see him much. My children completely stress him out and I am sorry to admit it because I love my dad and know he can’t help feeling this way but I am really chuffing angry with him for not doing better. I am really sad that my kids barely know him. I am also scared when I show signs of anxiety and I completely lack patience with my daughter who worries herself to sleep most nights.

    I’m really glad you’re doing your best to look after yourself. I wish you love and light.

    This is something that’s so rarely talked about and so poorly understood. I once entered am article into a writing competition. It was about my dad’s anxiety. I didn’t do well. The comments said that I had neglected to say what he was anxious about. Perhaps I misunderstood that, but I thought that anxiety itself would cover it… To me the thing that it’s currently about often seems irrelevant.

    Anyway, thanks again. I really appreciated this post, and your bravery.

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    • Thanks lovely. I think one of the reasons why I think the way I do about anxiety is because I was very close to someone who’s anxiety got so bad, they had a total mental breakdown. They didn’t eat or sleep or go out. I knew about anxiety at that point but not blind panic so I know how debilitating anxiety can be. As a carer, I also know how devastating it can be on the family. Mental illness affects families, not just the person and it’s incredibly hard to see someone you love in this state not to mention having to take on all the practical stuff so you have my sympathy because I’ve been on both sides of anxiety. Writing about stuff helps as it can be therapeutic. Anxiety has a cause, whether mental or physical (certain health conditions can present like anxiety) but it’s a hard circle to get out of and sometimes it takes time to get to the bottom of where the anxiety has come from. I hope your dad can find some peace from his suffering and you can be a family again. Kind thoughts to you all. X

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