In my last two blogs I talked about HRT and predominately what progesterone was doing to me, both physically and mentally. And I had intended to follow on from that with how I feel now. How? I feel great: my mental health has never been better and I am so gleeful and stable. And I love sharing with you that finally after 8 long years of anguish and affliction I am now OK. Earlier this year I was far from that, I was probably the worst I have ever been, feeling worthless and hollow. This was at the end of March beginning of April this year. Ian and I had just finished filming the TV show about love, intimacy and sex, we had finally finished the renovations on the flat and all was good. Except my brain. Now it is hard to understand anxiety and depression until you have it. And I do not want anyone to get this just so they can empathise with me and others, you’ll just have to trust me when I say it is real. You cannot just ‘Pull yourself together’.
My first hand experiences with anxiety and depression go back a long way, almost as long as I have been on the planet. You see my mum has suffered at the hands of anxiety and depression pretty much for as long as I can remember. Was it brought on by the Menopause? I have no idea. She would have been about 33 years old when I was born, which now is practically a teenager and the age some people have their first child. I was her fifth, the last one. And completely unwanted. I used to resent the fact that I knew I was the ‘unwanted one’. How dare she not want me. Back when I was less emotionally intelligent I used to cry and think that she didn’t ‘love me‘. I would pick up on every comment she made and allow my brain to go in to dark places about her love for me. All completely unwarranted and fictitious. She does love me, but she was 33, had 3 three kids over 10 years old, had just given birth to my brother David (also a surprise, money was tight and we were cramped into a three bed council house). Here and now I understand why I was not wanted. I would not have wanted me. I have one child, that was enough, and he was unplanned. No, not unwanted as such. But I was sixteen when I got pregnant to my first ‘real ‘boyfriend. Sex education and open discussions clearly not resident in our house. Just as well there was no room.
Back to anxiety, depression, my mum and the cycle. I have no idea when my mum first suffered with anxiety, but I remember her being poorly and constantly angry when I was aged around 10/12 years old. She would have been about 43/45 years old then. I never understood it and just thought she was tired and of course angry at me for existing. The unwanted. I wonder now if she was going through menopause. When I ask her, she says she isn’t sure, can’t really remember and given the life she had at the time, feels lucky to have made it through those years. My poor mum had many troubles other than money; my eldest sister was a bad egg and as you may already know an alcoholic. My eldest brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia around this time too. I cannot imagine having to cope with those stigmas attached to two of my children, and suffering anxiety and depression. Jesus, I go into a meltdown if I think I have said the wrong thing to someone. Imagine going through menopause and carrying a burden around like that. Remember this was the 80’s, almost 40 years ago, there was no compassion for mental health and alcoholics back then. Our family were the talk of the town. And the town was small. I am not blaming anyone, even the people at school who used to bully me because of my brother. We were all basically ignorant.
Anyway, is anxiety heredity? The statistics say that if your parents suffer then there is a 40% chance you may suffer too. BUT and here is the BUT. I never suffered. My mum used to say she wished she could bottle up my confidence and sell it. She was always amazed how nothing fazed me. No, I don’t think I did inherit mine. It wasn’t my mum’s genes that brought me crashing down from my buoyant burrow of exulting ecstasy. It was another Lady. Lady M. Before Lady M entered my life MY head was stuck in the eighties, blissfully ignorant of just how impactful anxiety and depression is. I had no clue. Earlier this year I think I went through the worst stint of anxiety to date. It was awful. I have no idea why. Does anyone? My brain seemed to be spinning around in my head. Anxiety is like your brain is in a waltzer; ‘scream if you wanna go faster, say nothing if you want it to stop’. The thoughts whirling around and around in your brain; every now and again: Stop. Then the thoughts disgorge out of the waltzer disorientated and dizzy. Intrusive and unwanted. The thing about these intrusive thoughts are that often you unconsciously believe that you want these things to happen. I remember hurtling down the motorway and being convinced that I wanted to grab hold of the steering wheel and smash into the cars alongside us. I used to sit on my hands on the journey to work to stop myself pulling on the handbrake or grabbing the wheel. There were times that I would be in bed, get up and go the attic window and have an uncontrollable urge to throw myself out of the window: thoughts going round and round in my brain stuck inside the waltzer. I am screaming STOP, STOP, STOP. But Lady M is louder, and she is screaming she wants to go faster.
These times can become all consuming, especially if you try to figure out why you are thinking these awful thoughts. Don’t. If you suffer from anxiety it is common to have more darker thoughts than the next person, and more frequently. My advice is to let the thought come and go. Allow your brain to process it and be mindful that this is your anxiety not you. For those that have never suffered anxiety you may be thinking that this all sounds a bit suicidal. It is not. There are other examples of dark thoughts my brain has flung out. But I don’t allow my memory to conjure them back up. One spin around the fairground is more than enough thank you. And some are just too disturbing, Those of you still blissfully ignorant will may not understand this, that is fine. Those of you that do understand, I salute you. So that is where I was for a good few week, months earlier this year. I was consumed by anxiety. A walking nerve ending, like an exposed wire. Bare and ready to shock. I was screaming but the waltzer in my head was going faster and faster.