Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise … Any Star Trek fans out there? I was a big fan, but that was many moons ago.
Actually, this blog isn’t about space, although I did love Felix Baumgartner’s freefall last week.
The final frontier I’m talking about is anxiety. I got a diagnosis last week. I was told, by a clinical psychologist, that I’m suffering from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
On the one hand, it was a relief. It was a relief to put a name to the years of worry and stress, the sleepless nights, the bags under the eyes and the panic attacks. It seems that anxiety was always there, lurking underneath. But I used food and all manner of other unhealthy behaviours over the years to mask it and keep it at bay. Now, though, I’ve got nothing left to numb it with so it’s left to run riot in my body and my head.
Anxiety is going to be the last thing to go – it’s not surprising it’s holding on for dear life.
After doing my research, I’ve been left wondering how far this condition goes back.
When I cried all the way home from an ‘A’ level at school after thinking I’d misread the question, getting my poor Mum in a right tizz, I wonder whether that was the natural reaction of a highly-sensitive, perfectionist schoolgirl or whether that was GAD? My worst fears did not come to pass. I didn’t fail or come bottom of the class. I got an ‘A’, as I did in every other test.
When I stressed about my hair or my weight in my teens, was that the normal response of an adolescent who just wanted to be liked, or was that GAD?
I could go on … from the panic attack I suffered driving along an incredibly busy highway in Brazil, to the stress I used to put myself under in my journalism job (and still do, despite being my own boss), to the debilitating indecision over buying shoes, choosing a coat or dating a guy. The constant questioning. The brown or the black? The red or the purple? The ‘Is he or isn’t he’? The catastrophising and always expecting the worst – in my work, when booking holidays, when making a choice.
I guess it’s hard to say. These things aren’t cut and dried and nor is that kind of diagnosis. We are all anxious, to different degrees, and my anxiety hasn’t particularly stopped me from doing stuff, it’s just caused me a lot of pain and grief and taken away the joy. I guess that’s bad enough.
But the diagnosis helps because it gives me options. A course of cognitive behavioural therapy on the NHS – once I get to the top of the waiting list. The option of taking the anti-depressants if I decide that will help – in the short-term – knowing more accurately what I’m dealing with.
And it gives me the awareness, the absolute certainty, that things like meditation, yoga, positive affirmations, relaxation, time out, friends and fun are really going to help. In fact, they’re essential to my wellbeing.
So I’m going to wrap this up – sooner than I normally would – because tomorrow I’m off to Turkey on my yoga break. And I’m expecting the best. Even though the weather has cooled off over there and I have a long day of travel ahead, I am expecting the best. And when I start to slip into worst-case-scenario thinking, I can tell myself that that’s just my standard response. I can tell those thoughts to get lost.
I’ve done all my work – despite thinking I wouldn’t get everything done – and I’ve nearly packed. I’ve got time for a bath before or after Downton Abbey and even found time for this quick blog. On Friday, of course, I thought I’d never get everything done.
I even managed to appear on BBC London 94.9 last night on Kath Melandri’s (@kath_melandri) show, and without feeling much anxiety at all. I was in the Ladies Lounge, chatting about the week’s news, current affairs and a few topics close to my heart with the wonderful Kath and journalist and fellow northerner Louise Hulland (@MsHepburnley). It was great fun. I even got credited on their site as an ‘author’ although that’s not quite the case – not yet.
Before I sign off, and in case you’re looking for more to read, I wanted to link to a beautiful blog by friend and founder of Gateway Women, Jody Day. It’s called Elegy in an English country churchyard and I found it very moving. Jody has some workshops coming up soon (Brighton this coming weekend, London Nov 4th) for women who are still hoping to have children and need some support around that, or for those who’ve moved beyond their fertile years and want to get their mojo back. Check out Gateway Women for details.
Right. Off to finish packing, run my bath and settle down in front of the TV.
All will be well.