A bit of a personal post today- whether this blog will make its way out of the drafts folder is, of yet, undecided. I hope it does as I really do want to write about this topic. But at the same time: a) I don’t want to be seen as jumping on the bandwagon as every blogger and their dog is writing about anxiety at the moment. Do we need another one? b) I find it a bit embarrassing talking about it and I know there’s going to be people saying that I shouldn’t label it as embarrassing at all and perhaps even be offended by that. But what can I do? I can’t pretend I am super confident in talking about it.
So, assuming I do indeed decide to publish this blog, let’s think about what triggered me to write this now- on a miserable Wednesday evening? Well, last night I read Amelia’s blog post about anxiety- if you haven’t already read it, then do have a read! I absolutely love Amelia’s vlog and the fact she talks about her counselling and anxiety (as someone who always looks so flawless and together on camera) so openly is fantastic. Today I had also scheduled a counselling session- and the 2 together made me think about being more open. This is something I have done one and off over the past few years; ever since my Crohn’s diagnosis (I have blogged about anxiety with IBD here). Sometimes every month, sometimes having months and months without any sessions at all. But since I moved house and started blogging a lot more (more on that here), I felt like a lot of my anxiety has come up to the surface: partly because of change and partly I guess because I’m worried I’m ‘too much on to a good thing’
So, what exactly, do I worry about? My anxiety naturally started off with my IBD diagnosis (although I’ve always been a ‘worrier’- which feels much better to say than having anxiety doesn’t it?) I was diagnosed abroad and quickly put on medication (Infliximab) This quickly set me into a cycle of anxiety about my body. Namely…
- If there was one thing wrong with my body, what if there was another that doctors weren’t spotting?
- What if the side effects of the medication gave me a horrendous disease?
- Why was my body a failure?
If you have crohn’s or any chronic illness, then these will sound familiar (I hope so anyway- surely I am not alone with this?) I am ashamed to say that I let this get out of control and soon became totally at odds with my body. I would either obsessively check or zoom on things that were there all along, looking for new illnesses or the opposite: avoid looking at my body altogether. That sounds absolutely ridiculous to type but as someone who likes to be in control; anticipating what may lie ahead makes sense I suppose. This is something I still might do sometimes if I’m going through an anxious period. Although I recently blogged about how I am almost happy I have Crohn’s in that it has brought my so many opportunities, I know that those irrational thoughts are lying dormant somewhere.
However, once I started going to counselling and trying various other strategies, I realised this wasn’t really about my body and it wasn’t really about my crohn’s (poor bloody thing, it gets blamed for everything!) I was trapped in a cycle of not feeling good enough and this was just one part of it. Another aspect was my blog- I would check my traffic or social comments all the time and wonder am I good enough? Maybe people weren’t reading my blog or just clicking on by mistake? Why were so many of my readers new readers; where had the old ones gone? Being online is amazing but it is also difficult if you need validation like I sometimes do- when a post does well I am over the moon but when traffic is slow for a day then I’m convinced I’ve lost it and that I’m out of the game! I completely respect those bloggers who say they genuinely don’t care about the traffic because I do care (although to be fair, the less people that read this rambling the better). Perhaps it seems incredibly narcissistic but I have always loved to write but never 100% believed in my abilities to do so (despite, you know, having a small thing called a book out next week) . Monitoring analytics or checking for comments is one way of reinforcing that I am good enough. However- it’s only fleeting as I promised myself I’d stop when I’d get to 5000 monthly page views, 10,000 page views and now I’m almost averaging 20,000 monthly page views (god, that’s mad!) and I still get that feeling that this blog is crap. I realised that no number was ever going to be enough if I couldn’t just have the confidence in my writing.
It spills out into other things too. Weirdly, I am remarkably chilled about the everyday things- like being stuck in traffic or a meeting. It’s the unthinkable, intangible things that cause me the most worry: what if my blog breaks and I lose it completely? What if my husband leaves me? What if something happens to my lovely, dream house which I just moved into? Is my dog sick or did she just eat too much? The counsellor says this is because I prefer to worry about things I can’t resolve, so I can keep worrying about them on and on (After all, a traffic jam or a failed meeting are essentially fleeting and therefore easily resolved. Why worry about that when you can create an imaginary scenario where you’re unloved, poverty stricken and completely alone? That’ll keep you going for months!) She also suggests it may because I just don’t feel I’m worth it and I think she might be right. In reality, my life just ticks along but I know I am lucky to have my family, my dogs and my husband. I can’t help but feel that something bad could be right around the corner? Because of this, I’ll sometimes even ‘self-sabotage’; whether it’s not putting my best into a blog pitch as I don’t really feel I’m capable of it or not committing to a new exercise regime- just because I feel that’s easier than actually trying and failing.
Don’t get my wrong, lots of the time I am completely fine. When I’m working or writing, I’m often so engaged and in the zone that the anxiety just melts away. I can have a good few months ticking along nicely and then bam: it’s back again.
So, the moral of this blog post is that I do not have this anxiety game figured out just yet. I try yoga, meditation, no phone time, writing everything down and a lot of talking. But sometimes it feels like it’s just ticking in the back of my brain waiting to come along again. It is exhausting at times but what can I do? I don’t expect to be ‘anxiety free’ any time soon but hope that this post might help you in small way. Because when it comes to anxiety, and indeed any mental health issue, all we really want to hear is that we’re not alone.