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What Happens When Stressful Life Situations Exacerbate My Anxiety

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Right now, my anxiety is probably the worst it has ever been. Every minute of the day I feel like I’m teetering on the brink of mind-numbing, chest-constricting, lung-crushing panic. (Although the shortness of breath can probably also be attributed to being eight months pregnant.) It feels like I’m losing control of my life, watching it all just pass me by, and no matter how much I want to do something about it, I can’t.

There are three main stressors at the moment:

1. My first child is due in less than two months. Those of you already with kids will probably understand that even I, an anxiety-ridden wreck with an obsessive need to plan for everything, feel underprepared for the monumental upheaval ahead. My partner and I have sorted out all the essentials: where baby is going to sleep, how we’re going to transport baby around, whether we’re going to breastfeed or use bottles, and we’ve got all the relevant bits and bobs sorted out. What we haven’t done is actually collected any of said bits and bobs, because we simply don’t have the space to store them until they’re needed. Which brings me onto point number 2:

2. We have nowhere to live. Well, we’re staying in my parents’ storage room for now. But it’s really a two bedroom house they’ve squeezed a sofa bed into the storage room of, and with five grown adults occupying said two bedroom house, it’s a bit of a squeeze. Add a baby into the mix in two months and… well. You can’t. There’s just no room. So naturally, my partner and I are looking for a new place to live, with all the stresses that come with that. We are working on finding somewhere without too much of a commute for work, on a good public transport route for the non-driver (me), where we can afford the rent (let alone the bills) and sorting out references and credit checks and all of the background tenancy stuff. It’s a hassle and a half.

3. I started a new job less than two months ago. I love it – this isn’t one of those posts where I’m going to complain about my job for longer than you can stand to read, because I honestly find my job so rewarding. I’m a nursery nurse, working with preschoolers, and my favorite thing in the world is coming into work and listening to all the stories the kids have to tell me. Unfortunately, I’m also a person with crippling social anxiety around people my own age, figures of authority and anyone over school age in general. So after a rocky start my stress and anxiety got so bad I had to be signed off by the doctor. And that’s the crux of things, really.

I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed I couldn’t hold it together for longer at work. I’m ashamed I went to the doctor for an intimate health issue and forgot to ask for a repeat prescription of my antidepressants at the same time. I’m ashamed I ran out of my medication and spiraled so badly and so rapidly I couldn’t bring myself to go back and ask for more, making everything worse. I’m ashamed I cry at the drop of a hat — even without the extra pregnancy hormones. I’m ashamed my fear of rejection and abandonment (my primary struggles with borderline personality disorder) means I’m incredibly sensitive to criticism, actual or perceived. This means that even general meetings with senior staff and bosses are my literal nightmare because I feel like every slightly negative thing they say, to anyone, is a deliberate and personal attack on me. I’m ashamed because every time I ask my boyfriend “are you mad at me?” — at least ten times a day — he has to reassure me that no, he’s not, and he’s not lying or diminishing his own feelings, either. I’m ashamed because I know my fears are irrational, but I believe them anyway. I’m ashamed to ask for help, to need help at all.

Anxiety is something I’ve been dealing with for seven years, and it’s still the skeleton in my closet. The bogeyman under my bed. The elephant in the room, that I don’t acknowledge and push away until all the feelings I’ve bottled up explode and I can’t ignore it any more. My panic attacks feel like a bomb going off — a sudden, debilitating attack of paranoia, crying so hard I can’t breathe and unable to talk and explain why I am suddenly breaking down in the middle of the staff room on my ten-minute morning break. And that’s if I’m lucky; more than once it’s happened in the actual room in front of the children, which is a whole other kettle of fish. The more often these attacks happen, the more I worry about how unprofessional they must look. The worry makes my anxiety worse, and the vicious cycle just carries on and on.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel though. I start therapy in the next few weeks; having someone to talk to, trained to listen and help me deal with exactly the kinds of issues I’m going through, will help. I have to believe that. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself every day, while using my mindfulness app and filling out my bullet journal. I might not ever get rid of my anxiety, but I can tame it, turning down the volume from a monsoon to a drizzle. I’m capable of great things, and my mental illness doesn’t define me.

I won’t let it.

Getty image by Koldunova_Anna

Originally published: October 23, 2019
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