Anxiety & Dating

So anxiety sucks, obviously. But I haven’t really talked about how it effects the people around me, for example my boyfriend. God that boy needs a medal for putting up with me! I mean my family does too but they don’t really have a choice they’re stuck to me like a barnacle. 

Have you seen that meme? The ‘are you dating me cause you like me or as a friend?’ That’s me in a nutshell. Everything is amazing, and then I might notice a small twitch in my boyfriend’s mouth which will send my mind off in a whirl ‘was that a frown? I think it was, well if he’s frowning he’s unhappy. He must want to dump me, oh God I’m going to die alone’ and so on and so forth. It sounds absolutely mental right? Yep it is and I’ll be the first to admit it. I used to hear friends talk about the same thing before I was partnered up and I would think dead set get a grip how stupid, why don’t they worry about something worthwhile like dying? And here I am, spoke too soon! 

Most men don’t stay with women they’re not interested in, and logically I know mine wouldn’t, but there’s just something in my brain that can detect the slightest change of tone in his voice and imagine it’s all about to be over red rover. Ironically though, the thing that would be likely to end a perfectly normal functioning relationship would be the annoyance of your significant other constantly questioning if you still love them! 

Unfortunately for me (and my boyfriend) anxiety doesn’t entertain logic, but I have heard many people say ‘if she isn’t crazy she doesn’t love you.’

9-5

Now I’m not depressed in any way, in fact I love life so much that I never want to die, ever – hence the anxiety. There’s a thousand things I want to do, places I want to see and millions of dogs throughout the world that I feel compelled to save so I don’t want to go anytime soon! 

However, the thing that does get me down is work. Most people hate their jobs right? Or do they? I was raised that you get a job and then you keep it and then that’s it. Not that I wasn’t taught to chase my dreams but they definitely weren’t the number one priority; stability and practicality were.

 The solution for being unhappy in your job is easy right? Quit and get a new one that makes you happy, sounds easier said then done. 

Now I’m not going to sit here and say what I do, nor what company I work for – I’d be out of a job by tomorrow! But I definitely work for the man and I hate it! I’m a dreamer, I have so many ideas for my own businesses and hate the idea of working in a job as a robot doing mind numbing work that is only making someone else A LOT of money. Why can’t that be me? Like I said I’ve got some great ideas, I’m a dreamer, I’m definitely not the kind of person who’s cut out to work 9-5 in an office. So is it my upbringing that tells me to stay in my sensible and secure job where I may in a few years get a promotion and afford to live comfortably until retirement or is it anxiety? 

Is it just human nature when it comes to these things to listen to the ‘what if’ inside our heads and drag ourselves to the Monday – Friday grind or am I just using my anxiety as the perfect excuse to stay safe? I do it in other aspects of my life, food that’s hit the ground, water sports and rollercoasters are examples where I use my mental health to avoid those situations. But is it really my anxiety or am I just being a wuss? 

For example a few years ago it was my hearts desire to be a jilaroo. Ridiculous right? For someone as materialistic as I am moving to the middle of no where for a very poorly paid job seems mad but it was what I was convinced was my calling. I’d search for jobs online but never apply. Eventually I told myself to ‘be realistic’ and ended my searched for farm hand jobs for good. After a 5 year stint at a very secure job was coming to an end I started to consider backpacking or even Au Pair work overseas. People leave their jobs and do that every day so why couldn’t I? Nope, I convinced myself that I was getting older and I should really get a plan up and running for my future. 

Spoiler alert, I still don’t have a plan. I may as well have done my gap year and mustered a few cattle to get it out of my system because 5 years later here I am morbidly unsatisfied with my current job and nothing to show for it. I live paycheck to paycheck because I convince myself that as a result of working in a job that makes me miserable I deserve to ‘treat myself.’ Turns out it’s not a treat if you do it every day. It’s actually called spending beyond your means. 

So what’s the deal? If what going off my collegues comments at work seem to be the norm then no one really loves their job – well apart from those handfull of social medial stars who seem to get paid for just being attractive. Do you suck it up and spend as much of your spare time on hobbies, travel and surrounding yourself with those you’re close to? Or do you take a gamble, risk your savings (or lack thereof) and secure job you have already in the hopes of becoming a successful entrepreneur and making it on your own without contributing to any evil corporations on the way? 

OCD

Before I actually had OCD I always thought it was just something that really clean people had and that maybe my sister had it because she always spends a lot of time cleaning – turns out she just has poor time management and it takes her forever to finish a task haha.

It first started when I moved out of home for the first time and lived on my own, I had a gas stove top which we didn’t have at home and of course all it took was one quick thought of ‘what if I accidentally left the gas on and gassed myself to sleep?’ to make me get out of bed and check it was turned off. I checked it was off and back to sleep I went, obviously I woke up the next day healthy and well which reinforced the idea that if I checked it last night and I’m fine, I better do it tonight too to make sure that I’ll be fine. Thus the routine began.

I started to build on from just the gas and moved onto electrical appliances and power points too. Before I’d go to bed or leave the house I’d have to check all appliances were turned off and unplugged from the electrical socket. I don’t know what I expect will to happen, maybe if I leave my phone charger plugged in the wall it will spontaneously combust and burn my apartment down? What’s even more illogical is that I would ensure everything in the house unplugged apart from the TV and fridge. Apparently my mind figured that was okay, but everything else has to be turned off.

From there I graduated onto before I left my car ensuring the car was in park, the hand break is up and the lights (both interior and exterior) were off. I could never get one of those fancy new cars where you walk away from it and the lights turn off automatically! I then after locking the car, near pull the door handle off making sure that the door is actually locked by trying to open it. A bit of a strange experience for first time riders in my car I must say.

All of this slowly came together to all be incorporated into my routine. It probably took the space of a few months for all these things to become a regular part of my life. It doesn’t sound that bad in writing, and I guess there’s no real harm in doing a quick once over to make sure things are turned off and secure but it’s actually quite time consuming. After a while one check didn’t satisfy me, I’d get in bed and think ‘did I really check the gas though?’ I knew I did but there was constantly this niggling feeling in my mind that wouldn’t go away until I checked again. And again, and again. It would take me half an hour just to leave the house. Who cares if the appliances did combust and the house burned down? There’s no one else at home so no one would get hurt… but I just have to check!

A few years later I moved from an apartment to a house. I was all by myself in a three bedroom home, 4 hours from any family and not living in the best area. My checking really took a turn for the worst when my house was broken into while I was away for Christmas. They took; my sheesha which I used solely for the purpose of sitting my TV arial on to get better reception, my backpack (who steals a backpack?!!!) and my hair straightener. Apart from the sheesha for my tv reception I wasn’t worried about my stolen goods but I felt so exposed. A bad person had come into my home and violated my safe place. I began checking things like a mad person before bed. All the doors, the windows, the garage, even under the beds and inside the cupboards for hidden perpetrators waiting to strike when I was sleeping. That was an exhausting time of my life, constantly checking over and over again to believe that I was safe in my own home.

I’ve since moved back home and have the pressure lifted of checking things like power points. There’s no gas cooking appliances, and as for the perimeter check to keep out criminals I have the trust that my mum would have already followed out those tasks for me. Logically I know my mum isn’t checking under beds for the boogie man, but just having other people in the house is such a load off my chest! When I’m home alone it’s a different story, I’ve even added to my routine to make sure the gate is definitely closed so the dog doesn’t get out. I’ve even thought about getting a padlock for the gate so I know the dog will 100% be safe but I know the family would call me mad and insist I put a stop to that sort of nonsense. Leaving the house takes me a good 15 minutes when I’m home alone and has even resulted in me missing the bus for work.

Honestly I don’t really know how to combat my OCD, my meds don’t seem to make much difference to it and I feel like the things that help anxiety like exercise etc don’t really help combat it either. My hands are so dry from washing them all the time and it drives me insane that I make myself check my alarm 3 times in a particular order. Thankfully though the OCD is not (in my case) as bad as the anxiety, it’s annoying and time consuming but it’s not terrifying like the anxious thoughts. Sometimes I man up and force myself to leave the house without checking the candles are blown out (I’ve not lit one in weeks but I’ve still gotta check) and while from the walk from the front door to my car I feel sick with worry by the time I leave my driveway I feel exhilarated and think oh well I’ve left now it’ll be right, but that’s an absolute rarity.

My main aim is to be able to leave the house without a second thought but perhaps the old keys, phone, wallet check. I imagine the luxury of going to bed without even entertaining the idea of being gassed in my sleep would be amazing. I’m chasing that boring feeling of normality, so if you too suffer from OCD, comment below how you cope, or what you’ve done to combat those pesky compulsive behaviours.

The Worst Days

I was 19 when my anxiety was in full spin, it was when I was first diagnosed and I thought I was going crazy. I didn’t know anyone else with anxiety and it seemed as though others around me saw it just something that was just in my head. At the time my Nan had lung cancer and here I was imitating the boy who cried wolf constantly telling people I couldn’t breathe and asking to be taken to the emergency room.

Every day I would wake up and thank God that I’d made it through the night and was still alive. I’m not an overly religious person but during this stage of my life I would find myself laying in bed in the midst of panic saying in my head ‘please God let me live’ and promising things like ‘I swear I’ll be a better person, I’ll give to charities I’ll help others if I can just not die.’ I don’t know if it was the help of God, or the fact that I was 19 and relatively fit and healthy but I survived.

When I first started having panic attacks I would seek reassurance from my Mum and Sister whom I lived with. They would basically both tell me the same thing ‘you’re not dying, if you couldn’t breathe you’d be dead by now.’ It was frustrating for them because I was clearly physically ok and equally as frustrating for me because I legitimately felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. When I’d exhausted my family I moved onto seeking reassurance from my best friend. Her husband is a nurse in the emergency department so I would pester her until they would come and pick me up, take me for a drive and he would put my mind at ease by checking my obs and giving me a medical explanation about why I wasn’t dying. I became addicted to this, the feeling of relief that someone who is medically trained told me I was going to be ok was just enough to get me through the night and have a decent sleep. My friend eventually put her foot down when it came to the late night drives to calm me down (my anxiety is always worse right before bed) so I had to find another way to get that dose of relief. In come my doctors appointments.

I would visit the doctor 1-2 times a week. Mostly always to report that I couldn’t breathe and I had chest pains which my doctor would reassure me these were just symptoms of anxiety. It would annoy me that she was so quick to brush it off as anxiety, I had actual pains in my chest why wasn’t she taking me seriously? But the logical part of my brain was usually satisfied that a medical professional had deemed me ok and I was going to live to see another day, thus I could sleep that night.

After the chest pains came dizziness, shaking/trembling hands, headaches, sweating and random pains in random parts of my body. My mind was so convinced that the doctors were missing something and there just HAD to be something wrong with me. When the high of visiting the doctor wore off I moved onto going to the emergency department. I figured the emergency department is in a hospital with surgeons and specialists and they can definitely save me if there’s something wrong with me. The first time I went was because I couldn’t breathe properly. I was rushed in straight away and had an ECG done and tests ran. I was fine, there was nothing wrong with me. I felt so betrayed by my body that it could make me feel these things and cause me so much stress and discomfort all for nothing.

When things were at their worst I feared everything. Mainly sleeping and showering. Crazy right? Literally two of the most satisfying things. Sleeping obviously because it’s a timeframe of 8 unsupervised hours where anything could happen to me and it would be hours before anyone would notice and come to save me, and showering for basically the same reason. It was 15-20 minutes where I would be completely alone without anyone to notice if I spontaneously combusted.

The second time I visited the emergency department I’d convinced myself my throat was closing in on itself and I was going to suffocate to death. It was during a weekend away with my sister’s, we were to attend a music festival and I’d been anxious the whole time consumed by the thought that I was moments away from dying. My sister’s got really cranky that time, of course there was nothing wrong with me as confirmed by a doctor and I decided that the thrill of attending the emergency room wasn’t worth the scalding from my older siblings.

I was prescribed Zoloft shortly after by my regular GP. The poor woman probably needed some herself after entertaining me for the past few months. My anxiety was so bad that I was reluctant to take the Zoloft not because I have an anti meds stance but because I stupidly read the information booklet from front to back including the side effects section. For someone easily convinced they’re about to die this wasn’t my best idea. Eventually I ballsed up and started them, and boy what a difference. Between that and seeing a psych once a week I was able to take control of my life again. However I was only on the meds for a few months because I didn’t want to have to depend on them to live a normal life.

Honestly I don’t know how long all of this went on for. When I think of my anxiety I think of it in bouts and this bout was certainly the worst. Obviously seeing the psych helped a little (I’m lazy and probably didn’t commit to the exercises as much as I could have) and the Zoloft definitely played its role, however in the end of this bout I feel like my mind was just so mentally exhausted it couldn’t be bothered to make up scenarios anymore to convince me I was dying. It just seemed to get better without me noticing and then before I knew it I was basically my normal self again. I’d still have a moment of panic every now and then but it didn’t come in the tidal waves I’d be used to for what felt like months and months on end.

I feel like once you get past the first bout of anxiety you find it easier to deal with the next ones – at least I did anyway. You soon notice that the breathing difficulties are just a physical symptom of your anxiety and put in place practices to deal with them. You ignore the headaches, the hot sweats are less intense and you don’t think twice about the shaking hands when they happen. Growing up and entering ‘the real world’ sucks, it’s boring and there’s bills to pay however with work and other adult commitments sometimes I find myself so busy I just don’t have time for anxiety. My brain is too preoccupied that it doesn’t have the capacity to make up terminal illnesses. Maybe that’s how I got better, maybe I just got too busy and found ways to keep my mind occupied but somehow I did find a way to climb out of the dark hole I felt like I was going to be trapped in forever. I absolutely still suffer from anxiety however it’s wayyyy less intense and thank God, has never been as bad as it was during this bout years ago.