Anxiety and Purim.

Generalised anxiety disorder is defined by Wikipedia as “An anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about events or activities. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, and sufferers are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties.

Symptoms may include excessive worry, restlessness, trouble sleeping, feeling tired irritability, sweating, and trembling.

Fear of escalator’s, pigeons, sitting at a red light, being home alone may seem irrational, yet, those who experience daily anxiety will be able to relate to the ones I feel.
Anxiety disorders are on the rise, although some are easy to understand, the ones we all experience at some points, whether before an job interview, or long journey the nervousness we feel is considered “normal”, but what happens when anxiety follows you around like an annoying shadow, and no matter how we try to weave, and prance our way around it, it sticks to us wherever we go, whatever we are doing.
Those of us whom have generalized anxiety disorder will ask for constant, repeated reassurance and it is completely understandable that after being asked for that over and over again the one doing the reassurance will respond with a lot of eye rolling, believing we being hypochondriac’s, will not understand whey we cant just ” think positive” and will wonder why we need to over dramatize everything

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Having bipolar, combined with anxiety can at times be a daily struggle, from waking up till falling in to a usually highly charged/ disturbing dreaming sleep, somewhere at the back of my mind are those worries, those negative thoughts, “Do I look OK today” “Who will I talk to in the playground at school today” “Am I a good mother, wife, friend, employee” “there is a pigeon over there….. runnnnnn”!!
Carolyn M. Drazinic, MD, PhD, assistant professor in psychiatry, genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Centre in Farmington says, “It is very common to see an anxiety disorder coexisting with bipolar disorder”
Having a combination of Bipolar and anxiety can produce so many extra challenges. 2 people with the same symptoms ( in my case long lasting, stomach pain ) will have completely different conversations with themselves.
Person 1:”This pain is so annoying, it disturbs me every day, I just cant wait for the scan so I can deal with it, I am a little worried because its so often, but the Doctor’s have checked me over and over, they have sent me for tests, if they were overly concerned they would have ordered urgent tests, I will just have to wait and see”
Person 2:”OMG! what’s with this pain? I am so sure that the Doctor has missed something. When I have the scan they are going to find something life threatening, so scared, its just not normal to have stomach pain all day every day. What about that story I read on line?? I am just terrified, should I go to the emergency room tonight?? I need to tell people about this so that they can reassure me, ill just text my husband, friend, therapist, colleague to tell them my stomach is hurting again, and ask them if they think it is something serious? Shall I call an ambulance? No I cant, come-on you know its nothing serious right? No I don’t know that, I am sure they have missed something”.
I think it is pretty obvious which person suffers from anxiety. Yes it sounds laughable, and as I wrote the above I found myself smiling, as I see clearly how often I have the above conversation with people.
Anxiety together with bipolar can cause so much unhappiness and exhaustion, coupled with the obsessive thinking that most people with bipolar tend to have, it can become overwhelming.
Presenting itself in many ways, anxiety can effect us physically, usually through a panic attack. The experience of a panic attack is terrifying. You feel as though your heart is beating at extremely high speed, breathing becomes shallow and you find yourself gasping for oxygen, sweating, trembling, and severe panic are all symptoms of a panic attack. I have not Thank God had a panic attack for a long time now, but I clearly remember the all consuming fear, the all encompassing thought that I was about to die. Eventually I found ways to control and keep the attacks short. This was through deep breathing, reassurance (again!) and listening to sleep mediation videos on you tube. I am ashamed to admit how many time I called Hatzola!

To paint a picture of what anxiety feels have a quick internet search for the Eshima Ohashi bridge in Japan, a a towering monster of a bridge, stretching in to the sky, once you have driven to the dizzying heights of the top, you are faced with the terrifying prospect of driving down the sheer, vertical road ahead of you. The fear you feel is akin to what someone with anxiety will feel going about their daily business, for example when for an unknown reason I developed an irrational fear of elevators , the picture in my mind was the same as I would feel driving up or down the Eshima Ohashi bridge. The elevator looming before me challenging me to step on. Thankfully now through sheer determination on my part ( pat on the back for me!) I am able to cautiously step on, though it takes me time and I dread to think what I look like to other elevator users, as I stand, a panic stricken look on my face, willing myself to take that first step.

With Purim just around the corner I am mindful of the stress and anxiety this Chag can bring. Social, financial, interpersonal anxiety can rear its head. This year I will let myself “off the hook” I will repeat the mantra that has become a lifeline, “I am OK, I am doing my best” and hopefully this year the costume I don will not be used to cover up my anxiety and fear but will bring me true happiness, free of worry.

Saying No!

My therapist has a few phrases she loves to say, wise and always practical, she will often remind me of two vital components to living a healthy life, ( its been 4 years, and yet she perseveres, got to give it to her, she doesn’t give up) these two things are:

Self Care and the stories we tell ourselves.

I have been asking myself, what was  it that made me land up in the psychiatric ward last week? There must have been a build-up, a pressure boiler getting hotter and hotter, a story  occurring that eventually led me to my massive Bipolar manic episode.

My episodes are usually few and far between, and are usually over within a few hours. So what was different this time? Why, on this occasion was I unable to stop the racing thoughts, the need to be moving, the terrifying (for myself on some level , for others too) manic behaviour I was unknowingly displaying?

I think the answer is in those two words, self care.

The ability to say no is a skill that the sensible among us have learnt, to know your limits, to be able to say ” I would love to help you out, give you that ride, cook those meals for you, help organise the party, be class mum, take out that sick person, babysit your children, etc, but right now I need to focus on myself”

Its interesting, even writing the above, I felt selfish, as I type the thought  kept running through my head, ” but what if they are relying on you, need you to do that, the fact that they asked you means they thought you were the one to approach”.  The saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy lady”. Perhaps that busy lady is indeed so busy because we all keep asking her to do things for us?

Whilst in hospital a close friend came to visit, “Sara” said Abigail in her strictest tone of voice ” You have to stop doing so much for everyone else, do you think that by saying yes all the time, you are maybe covering  up for some kind of insecurity?”. Her perception really surprised me, at first a little hurt by her words but quickly recognising the absolute truth in them.

Do we say yes to people all the time, even when we are falling apart, even when we are crying inside for someone to give to us, even when we are just so tired of doing and doing and doing until we fall, exhausted and worn out in to bed because we have some constant voice in our minds, replaying the narrative that most of us have learned throughout our lives, “good people are the ones who do for others”. We see on all forms of media, the good of humankind, those that risk everything, those that stop at nothing to help the vulnerable, the suffering, the children who are hurting and hungry and that voice will tell us, in order to be seen as “good” this is what you have to do.

No one wants to, or should want to live a selfish life, we all need and aspire to do the best we can with the tools we have been given, but I have learned the hard way over the last few weeks, PRACTICE SELF CARE!

The stress I have been under wasn’t anything radical, we all deal with daily stresses, and need to be able to develop inner strength to cope with them, but it was a drip drip build up, it was a friends illness, a stillborn for someone else, another illness, being confided in about a the state of a friends sadness with her marriage, hearing about loss of finances for another, just doing, doing and doing more.

My body and my mind were telling me to say no, to let them know gently that right now I could not be present, I needed to look after me, but the insecurity inside, the part that drives us to try and please everyone, that part won.

So, what will I do next time? will I be able to say no when that person asks that favour? I hope so, even if it will be uncomfortable, even if my brain is rebelling against the words my mouth is speaking, I hope that I will be able to look deep inside, see what I need to do to be my best self, perhaps take on a little less, indulge in some me time, close the curtains, dont rush to answer those phone messages, learn that, hey, you know what, they will find someone else to do that thing that “only you” can do. Have a haircut, massage, nails done, a day away from everyone an everything.

Most of all, tell, tell the person who loves us most that we need to be selfish, if that person is ourselves, or a spouse, parent or friend, tell. We all need appreciation we all need physical and emotional acts of love.

Please take care of you.

Sara.

 

 

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