Anxiety, where did the word derive from? Because it so fits the feeling doesn’t it: anxious, antsy, agitated and apprehensive. All of those feelings need shelter from the anxious rain, under the umbrella that is love.
Ironically for me when I am in the throes of an anxious period there never feels like there is a shelter; no shield or safeguard. Where will I find this or who will be my umbrella? This is something that I wonder from time to time. As I have previously stated, I can normally cope with my anxious periods. I put in coping mechanisms to fight off the feelings. On some occasions though this is simply not achievable and that isn’t to say that the support isn’t there. It is just that my anxiety would rather I get wet; a Tsunami of feelings with no way to find shelter. Anxiety takes away your ability to share, you want to be honest but when you’re in the grips of it, your brain just won’t let you. Instead of having one chimp mess with your brain you have a Troop. And they are relentless. The symptoms vary from person to person; but for me mine bring a jaundiced plethora of perils. Paranoia, vulnerability, nervousness, sadness and insecurity. Basically I am robbed of my whole essence. It also impacts relationships and my ability to interact with others. I hide; my mask hiding the symbol of my inner self.
My most recent encounter with Lady M’s gift of anxiousness floored me a little. I had to take some ‘time out ‘, play hide and seek with my confidence. Leading up to this particular stretch my relationship with my boss took a thrashing. This took us both completely by surprise, totally leftfield. Why? Well sans boss, Sarah and I had worked in the same area for a couple of years, we had a great relationship; we had the ability to joke; to know when to take each other seriously; to respect each other and I could talk to her about anything. Then she became my boss and I turned into a clam. Mollie the Mollusk. It was weird. And I could not stop it. I tried reasoning with the Troops, but the strictest of Sergeant Majors couldn’t have controlled this unruly rabble. They would not budge. And I was backed into a corner my essence depleting. The same lady I had laughed with, shared hugs with, even shared intimacies with (me not her, she is way too shy) was sat opposite me and I couldn’t tell her about my most defining feature: my anxiety. The weird thing was; she was already aware, she had read my blog, I am vocal about my Menopause journey. But this time the Troop’s wanted a war and they were not about to retreat.
We talk about anxiety and how it impacts the individual and relationships. I have talked previously about how it has impacted my relationship with my partner Ian. Never before has it had such an impact with a third party. And boy did it take me my surprise. The Troops ambushed me and poor Sarah. The desired combat needed a joined army. But the Troops fractured our division. We tried all types of tactics, I cried, we talked, I cried, we clashed, I cried, we cuddled, I cried, we tried to connect, I cried. You get the picture. The frustration was unfathomable. Not only is Sarah kind and compassionate she is quite introvert and a little shy. Nothing wrong with that, until you have an angry, anxious, paranoid woman sitting in front of you crying. Jesus the strongest of characters would be baffled. I would’ve struggled to deal with someone behaving that way and I consider myself comfortable with tragedy and upset. Sarah is not. Was not. Is now. I had lots of time of reflect on this during my weeks absence, which probably should’ve been longer but I needed to get back to normality as the risk of being off too long is that you’ll stay in that state. It’s a proverbial roundabout. And I needed to get off.
I have managed absence linked to all kinds of illnesses in my work lifetime, from mums to be to mums suffering stillbirth, cancer and depression through to sickness and diarrhoea. I have heard it all. Sarah not so much. She has had a team of analysts and has chosen non-operational roles during her career. Nothing wrong with that, but again imagine the transition. Suddenly faced with this. Me. Menopause. Anxiety. What a baptism of fire. Reflecting on this after the event, I can empathise with how she felt, how confused must she have been. This outgoing woman, previously seemingly carefree and funny turned into this emotional shivering wreck overnight. With no real reason why. I know why now. Communication and perception. Yes sans me being her direct report she knew I suffered from the monstrous migration of Troops from time to time. But it had never mattered. Not to us. She always got the rational, strong, funny version of me. The coral not the mollusck. She had never witnessed the vicissitude of my seasons. I can only imagine it came as surprise. An Ambush. And the guns were loaded.
During this period my partner and I were coming to the end of a very long stressful time where we were renovating our flat. During my week off work I had the added pressure of builders and electricians for company. How did I cope? I never left the bedroom. For one week I binged on a comedy series I found on Amazon. The only human contact I had was my regular calls and texts back and forth with my boss. My partner Ian forearmed me with supplies so that I didn’t need to go down stairs during daylight and I drank little fluid so trips to the toilet were not a requirement. This time gave me lots of space to reflect (the shows I choose to watch during my anxiety periods require no watching but have the ability to make you laugh, forget, reflect) And reflect I did, why could I open up with her? how could I repair this fractured relationship? how could I make things better? The answer, communicate. I thought through why I had retreated to my trench during this particular war, why had I lost the ability to talk. Sarah called me, texted me gave me her ear when I needed it, left me alone with just enough space to know she was there but not flood me with questions. Gave me space. Time to breath. Time to understand how I could breathe life back into our relationship.
I went back to work still a little fractured but needing normality. The last thing I needed was the fracture turning into a crack. I was greeted with warmth not only by her but the rest of the management team. The simplest of things can stop a person going over the edge. I walked back into work already feeling a failure, so be treated with no judgement and a welcome smile is/was enough. Little actions like being included in conversations mean so much; stop you running back home to the box set and bedsheets. The next time we had a catch up I told her. I told every daft thought I had had since reporting into her, I told her about every time I felt like a dickhead. Why she must have thought I was acting like a dickhead. Why I had lost my tongue. Which for me is a bloody miracle for those who know me. How did it feel ? With every sentence began the annihilation of the Troops. We defeated them. Talking defeated them. Honesty. Admitting the problem. I don’t why I thought her opinion of me would change if I told her about my anxiety. If anything not telling her made it worse. Which I know is the first rule of thumb, talking being open, breaking the stigma. I know all this, advocate all of this , have practiced all of this. Doesn’t mean that it gets any easier to admit. But admit it I did. Like an oyster I revealed my pearl. My pearls of wisdom. This has made us stronger, we’ve had a great year so far, the best yet. Why? She knows the real me. And guess what? She still likes me, she understands me. She supports me. She always did; anxiety just wouldn’t let me allow it to be true. I can’t say that I won’t ever feel that way again. But I can say this. Next time the Troop’s set try set up barracks in my brain again she will be the first person I tell. Because I know there will be no judgement, no bad feeling and no anger. We will no longer let there be just ‘anxiety’. We will also ‘let there be love’.