Anxiety is hard, isn’t it! It can be mild or utterly crippling, and everywhere in between.
One of the ways my anxiety shows up is with overthinking. This post is a prime example. I find social media frustrating and like most people, I fear judgement. So I have been overthinking and procrastinating over this post for days. I have written and rewritten it I don’t know how many times over the last 4 days. Oh, the thoughts!! Is it too much? Too long? Too personal? Not personal enough? What if no-one reads it? What if? What if? What if? Ugh! Esther! Get out of your primitive brain!! I have had to give myself a serious talking to, and use the methods I use with my clients on myself.
I have suffered with anxiety for a long time. I didn’t know that’s what it was until I learned more about anxiety in recent years. I previously believed those feelings were just a normal though unpleasant fact of life. I believed I just had to suck it up, after all, what had I got to be anxious about?! My life was great!
We’ve all heard people say things like – “Oh, you’re alright”, “don’t worry about it”, “there’s always someone worse off than you”, “just don’t think about it”, “it’s not nerves it’s excitement”, “it could be worse”, “what have you got to worry about?” While ‘technically’ they may be correct, those words of advice are not helpful at all. Yes, someone else may have more on their plate, but their plate might be a big stoneware platter and yours might be a thin paper plate. We all cope differently with things, and our capacity to cope varies, hence the plate analogy.
3.5 years ago when I left the USA to come home to the UK, my capacity to cope was tested to its limits. In the space of a couple of months I went through divorce proceedings, selling our home, planning the move back to the UK for my daughter, myself, 2 boxer dogs, and all our personal belongings; packing & shipping our belongings, multiple vets visits to make sure the dogs were okay to travel and shipping them ahead of us. All of this while still working full time and still sharing the house with my ex (it was a bit acrimonious, so very awkward as you can imagine). To say I was stressed would be an understatement.
Prior to this, what I now know as anxiety had me constantly questioning my own mind, second-guessing myself all the time and I was overthinking everything. I was always getting headaches, my IBS was a fairly regular visitor and I always woke up with that weird knot in my stomach. Waking up feeling anxious just became ‘normal’. I worried about my daughter all the time, always ready to do battle to defend her against the bullying she was receiving while she was battling with her own anxiety and depression. Talk about full stress buckets! I honestly don’t even know how we did it. Most days my heart rate was over 100 BPM consistently; I was in a permanent state of fight or flight. I fully expected to land back in the UK and have a complete meltdown. I didn’t thankfully. However, a short while after I did have a very upset, emotional, and angry outburst at my poor Mum (sorry Mum). A sure sign of an overflowing stress bucket!
Now, I know I am not alone in what I have experienced with my anxiety. So many of us suffer in similar ways, but anxiety can show up in different ways for different people.
Just because I am a therapist does not mean I don’t have struggles with my mental health. It means I am more aware of it, I recognise early on when my stress bucket is filling, and I have the tools to combat it, to nip it in the bud quickly and effectively. I work hard to keep my anxiety in check by using my SFH methods on myself.
But, if my anxiety levels start to creep up here’s some of the things that I start to notice… I find that I am overthinking things, I lose confidence & I question my abilities (hello imposter syndrome!), I find myself biting my nails or biting the skin around my nails, biting the skin on my lip, fiddling with things, increased heart rate, IBS, difficulty concentrating or focusing, and interrupted sleep. Oh, and of course these days (now I’m of a certain age) my hot flashes are worsened when my anxiety levels are higher, what fun!
So, if you’re reading this then I must have stopped with the overthinking and posted it! Yay! About blooming time! Hopefully, the next social media post or blog post will flow out of me a little more quickly. Til’ then let’s keep the conversation flowing about anxiety and mental health. Talk with your friends, tell them how your anxiety affects you. Find out how their anxieties affect them. Let’s help and suport each other.