So I tweeted this, deliberately late at night, thinking it would fly under the radar and disappear.
It didn’t, and to be honest I’m massively overwhelmed by the response. The outpouring of kindness and support has had me in tears, and I cannot put into words how comforting it is to know that there is so much compassion out there.
I’m also shocked at people who have messaged to say “Me too.” People who come across as confident, happy people, but who, like me are struggling with their mental health. While I really wish they weren’t, knowing I’m not alone does make sharing how I’m feeling a little less scary.
So what happened? I’m fortunate that I know what has triggered my anxiety. A few major things happened in a short space of time and my resilience ran out, followed by a silly accident that meant I had less down time to do the things that I enjoy and help me reset.
Whatever I was doing or wherever I was, I would feel guilty. I should be somewhere else, supporting someone else. I cancelled a few things that I had been really looking forward to as I just couldn’t justify the time on myself. There would be more opportunities in the future.
Every decision would be accompanied by a whole string of what if questioning, along with who am I going to let down most by doing whichever option.
Normally, my resilience would rebuild, and I’d be back to normal. Not this time.
I’m used to questioning myself. As school staff, we’re trained to reflect on our practice, to work out what went well, how we could do better next time. What my brain isn’t doing is finding positives, and if it does, it quickly finds a way to negate them.
Leaving the house in the morning can cause panic attacks. I’ve lost count of how often I’ve been sick at the thought.
My phone ringing terrifies me because what if something else has happened?
People say take time for you. I do not want time off from school. I love my job, I work with amazingly supportive people, and it’s the one place I don’t have to worry about my phone ringing. It’s the one place I don’t have time to overthink everything, constantly.
But then I get home and I’m exhausted from being “ok” all day. So I feel guilty for not having enough emotional energy left for my family but I have to find it from somewhere. Then I worry that it isn’t enough.
It’s a vicious cycle that just goes around and around and around and around to the point where I’ve utterly convinced myself that absolutely every decision I make is wrong, nothing I do is good enough and I’m letting someone down, which my rational brain knows is ridiculous, which then makes me angry with myself, reinforcing that I’m irrational, making bad decisions, not good enough and letting people down. My mind is currently not a place I’d advise anyone to visit. I’d rather not go there myself!
I have been to my GP. I’m waiting to see a professional through Occupational Health. I have asked for help and it’s coming. I miss being able to immerse myself in books and escape for a while. I miss being able to leave the house without worrying about who I’m going to let down or what I’m going to get wrong. I miss being me.
I want happy me back. The me that gets up and looks forward to, or at least doesn’t dread, the day ahead. The me that has time and headspace to thoroughly enjoy what I’m reading. The me that spots the beauty in what’s happening around me. The me that knows happy and sad and the calm inbetween.
So, after three panic attacks getting here, I’m spending the night with my very best friend. The person I’d ring at 3 in the morning to drag a body across the room. My person. Do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I need this for me? Yes. Will this ever stop? Yes. Hope hasn’t fully abandoned me yet.