You see the girl above in the picture? Yeah, that’s me. Full face of makeup, a high neck jumper, straightened hair and a smile on my face. This is what many people perceive or think I look like on a daily basis. But that isn’t true. You’ll find if you look at every single one of my selfies, I look the best version of me. The occassional instagram story I may show the downside of me, but when I want to look my best I do. Why do I do this? Because I suffer with anxiety.
Yes, the girl who blogs, streams, does instagram videos sometimes. She has anxiety. To be precise, I have generalised anxiety disorder with hints of social anxiety. Alongside these, I have situational depression. I was diagnosed with these first by a neurologist last year. The situational depression was something I had to deal with, as it was situational. I only ever get depressed when experiencing high amounts of pain or anxiety from my other illnesses/stress triggers. But my anxiety was something that needed a war to get over. My anxiety caused many chemical imbalances which impacted on my Chronic Migraine-Vertigo, college life and social life. I started CBT in February 2018, and had 8 weeks of therapy. I found it really helpful in social situations, as that was the focus. I became more confident in myself as a person, and found I was able to do more things I loved, such as blogging, streaming, talking to people on the phone.
But it didn’t help me with the other demons that lurk inside my head. Maybe it could of if I had longer, but I was told after 8 weeks we are discharged to learn. If we find we need more help we can get more, but we need to experience and try what we have learned out. It’s been SO hard. And this blog post is how anxiety affects me, and how it most likely effects the others around you who have said to have anxiety.
1. Thoughts (Planning)
The voice inside your head is a powerful thing. It sounds just like you, so you tend to believe it more than the people around you. Even I can hear myself reading this blog over and over in my head as I type, because it gives you that reassuring feeling you’re doing something right.
But when you have anxiety, you rely on this voice to calm you, to reassure you, to repeat to you over and over again that you are doing the right thing, even when you might not be.
My thoughts control alot of my daily life. Of a morning I plan out my day in my head, exactly how it should go. And you see the night before? I was doing the same thing, but calculating how many hours of sleep I could get, and how many hours in the day it leaves me to do them things. Now to many, this may seem like a form of OCD, and maybe it is. But isn’t OCD a form of anxiety? I will lay there and look at the clock/my phone and go “Oh it’s 10:30pm. I need to be asleep by 10:45pm, and then if I can get 8 hours sleep which is 6am, I can…”. You may think I’d get to sleep by 10:45pm. Well, you’re wrong. I’m stuck in this anxious cycle. Maybe for 2-3 hours. Because my voice is going over and over again, worrying. “Oh it’s 10:46pm hahaha…okay lets aim for 11pm”. And you can’t just go to sleep, because by 11pm, you’re aiming for 11:30pm and so on.
The same goes for daily tasks. I am writing this blog post at 9:55pm. I hope to have it finished in an hour, maybe two so I can read over it. Then I’ll put the dog to bed by midnight. But I will overthink that, and try to rush this so I’m done in the hour. Then time is constantly added on in my head. Likelyhood is, this will take me till I’m too tired, go to bed and have to finish it tomorrow instead. Rather than writing till I’m genuinelly tired, I’m exhausted from thinking.
This is a big thing in the anxiety world. And when faced with other people with anxiety, it can be so challenging to let someone else be in control. I personally NEED to be in control of everything that concerns me. But only to a limit. Like, I can never decide on a restuarant to go to. Or where to go for a day out, but that’s too much pressure on me, and it’s not only letting me be in control of myself, but in control of others who may disagree with me.
My control comes to my personal space. Such as my phone, my laptop, my stationery and any of my social media. My neurologist said this is a form of OCD, while mild called “Educational OCD”. It’s not a common term, but mostly used for patients with anxiety, who lack control of their mental health, so try to stay organised in smaller aspects; such as teenagers who may not keep their room clean, but at school have the perfect pencil case, with a clean desk.
But control isn’t always in neat ways or even in cleanliness. A family member of mine is probably reading this going “Have you seen your room?”. I’m not going to lie, my room can get pretty abysmal. Not as bad as people make out, it’s mostly clothes. But that’s my anxiety again. I constantly feel like I’m in a rush with myself due to the planning thoughts. But that’s the thing, my room is “organised” to me and I have that safe space control. I know where everything is, even if some of it is drowned in clothes, I know it’s there. And I can still see the floor as a bonus.
My control mainly begins with technology. Ever since we got our first computer ( I was around 7) i challenged myself to master it. It’s like I had a calling to master technology. Now I’m 20, I’m not the best, but I consider myself pretty good. I enjoy typing out, figuring things out. I even admin a few facebook groups. Now that’s a big port of control; my groups. The reason I have the groups I do, is because other groups to me werent satisfying. They gave me anxiety because either; the rules weren’t clear, they didn’t make sense, posts weren’t organised. I didn’t want a group to have power or be a dictator (although others may tell you otherwise), it was to have the control and see what I knew others wanted to. I think, that’s why my group Animal Crossing Addicts is so big. Of course, most of the credit goes to my admins over there, I literally wouldn’t have Addicts without them. But my ideas and thoughts into what I wanted Addicts to be started with the first thought “Oh my group would be better” “Oh my gosh, could the admins just..type that more clearly?” “Some of their files need updating”, and I couldn’t do anything about it other than create my own group and see how it goes.
3. Being out | Social Activity
So yeah, I have no social life. Well I do…online. Or if you count my family or my dog’s friends. Or my boyfriend’s friends. But if I can avoid a situation, I happily will. It again links to the planning. I have to plan the availibility and the day I’d be going out. So “wake up at 6, chill till 7am, feed the dog, take the dog out, wait for dad to wake up, aim for 1pm to go”. It’s extremely hard to get to that time and actually want to go. I don’t know what it is. At CBT, the therapist blamed it on embarassment, and maybe it is a little, I hate the idea of people looking at me. But it’s not so from self insecurity, I’d say 10% of it was. But I genuinelly hate being watched, and it makes me so paranoid. We live in a terrifying world, and I constantly fear death. I feel seriously uncomfortable someone looking at me, or walking too close to me. I like to have personal space, or feeling I can take my time, but being watched or being too close to strangers rushes me, causing more anxiety.
The same goes for awkward encounters. Such as asking someone to move out the way, or seeing someone I know. If I’m trying to get to an item on the shelf, I will do laps until I can freely get to that item without hassle. I will stand at the top of an aisle in a shop, and wait for it to be cleared, or atleast where two trolleys aren’t in my way to walk down. If I see someone I know, and they stop me and we chat, I will tend to avoid them for the rest of the time in the shop, because it’s awkward to stop again, or awkward to say “Sorry I have to go”. And again it does lead back to thoughts too. “Oh my god I need to get out of here” “What can be my excuse to not stand and talk?” “Okay if they’re going that way, it means I should go the other way”. But the thing is, if I do run into that person, I can’t turn back round. That’s when the palpitations start, the sweating, the nervous thoughts. “If I turn round now, I’m going to look like I’m avoiding them” “Okay, just pretend you have an important phone call or text” “Keep your head up, don’t avoid them…but obviously don’t look in their eyes” “You’re so rude”.
It also goes for being “out out”. I’m the “old lady” who will stay seated with everyone’s bags. I personally hate carrying a bag, but will protect it with my life if I have one. That’s an anxiety of mine, loosing something. I get where that comes from though. When I was younger, we were broken into just after New Years. All my Christmas money was left downstairs in my hand bag; the next morning it was found in the next street’s alleyway empty. I was devastated, especially with how silly I was to not put it upstairs with me anyway (of course, a robbery is not my fault.) So now I have everything glued to my hip. I will clench onto my bag. I will think “Okay this person is walking close to you, swap your bag over…but don’t look suspicious” and I will think that for the whole time.
But sitting down at a table makes me feel secure. If we go to a club and they don’t have seats, I’m extremely uncomfortable. And I’m even more uncomfortable if I don’t have my safety blanket; my boyfriend. He protects me, he makes me feel safe. So venturing out, makes me even more nervous to a club without him. He’ll go up to the bar and order our drinks so I don’t have to. He’ll watch me while I sit down if he wants to dance. He’ll suggest places where I can go and sit. He’ll tell people “hey don’t leave your bags, Amy is enjoying herself.” But that’s the thing, my anxiety makes me depend on someone who can’t always be like that or always be there. He’s a safety blanket.
This is why I avoid situations/going out. My anxiety turns me into a burden on others, a paranoid weirdo and/or gives me such bad thoughts I lock myself away. This isn’t all the time of course. There are days I’d happily go out. For example, I only enjoy shopping by myself. I feel anxious being with others when shopping, as I want the freedom and control (para.1) it gives me to not have to wait around for others, and focus on myself. So if I’m going into town, I’m quite happy to do that, if I feel like it.
Yes I consider myself a good typer, and sometimes I feel I can talk great online, and conversate perfect English. But the truth is, not always. There are times where I can get words muddled up, or don’t enact perfect sentences. And this is due to anxiety.
Now I know this anxiety is because of embarrassment. In school, I always believed I had to get the perfect grades, and uphold the perfect student image. I would never put my hand up, because what if it’s wrong? If I knew the answer and knew they could ask me, I rehearsed it over and over in my head, until it was time to say it. But the WORST thing my mind does, is think something random at the most horrible times. Like, have you ever called a teacher Mum instead of Miss? Or been completly speechless when asked something? Yeah I’ve had them a lot. And let me tell you, someone “normal” may forget them, but people with anxiety NEVER WILL. I called my year 2 teacher “Mum” in the playground once. And she goes “Mum? Am I your mum now?” infront of students, and in that moment I wanted to be swallowed up by the ground. I remember it perfectly, and it’s so imprinted on my brain, that I’ll probably always remember. And it’ll replay in my mind constantly, and I have to shake it out of my head. I think “oh my gosh I was SO stupid” but I was only 7. If you’re thinking about something, you’re bound to keep thinking about it for a little bit longer. But it was such an anxious moment for me.
I tend to keep my mouth shut in person. It’s why it takes a lot for me to come out of my shell. To some people I’m known as a very quiet person. My pain management doctors noted it the other week. I told them if I don’t want to talk, I really won’t. They said “Yes, you don’t talk much”. But it’s because I’m so afraid of mumbling, so afraid of saying the wrong word or even rambling on about it, and going round in circles.
And sometimes, I say the word wrong, when it is still the same. In year 7, for “southern” I said “sow-thern” instead of “suth-ern” and it’s still in my head to this day. A year ago instead of “electrocuted” I said “electrified”. Both very embarrassing for me. I personally, blame it on having one really posh parent (sorry Mum!) and one Irish parent. I hear different accents and dialects, and always have. My auntie says that I had an Irish accent till I was around 5. Now I have a scouse accent, and trust me, it’s in the same frame of not being able to understand by outsiders. So my words and pronunciation get mixed up a lot. But it’s worrying for me. I’ll repeat words in my head, until it’s time to say it. And I may not even get a chance to say them, because the topic would of changed by the time I’ve practiced what I said. And then you’re put on the spot; so you say nothing.
5. Reassurance | Identity Confusion and Alteration
As I stated before, I rely a lot on reassurance. And it can be majorly unhealthy. I mainly need it from those closest to me, and I don’t really know why. It’s not really a matter of wanting to feel love, but feeling like I am doing things right, whether in that moment or in life.
One example is doing a shopping list or a takeaway order. I will ALWAYS confirm the lists with my mum a few times, just to check I’ve done them correctly. I will ask several times “Anything else” because the thought of forgetting something, actually terrifies me, because it’s a sign of failure. I also need reassurance on outfits for occasions, or sending a message. I just need to know it’s mature, it’s correct and compassionate most of the time.
I guess I also need reassurance in love. Love was something I never thought I’d experience. Because of my anxiety, I taught myself how to be independent. I always thought “people in love are idiots” because of how heavily they relied on the other person. But then I fell in love, and I second guess it every single day. I feel dettached from myself. I would never regret Daniel, because I do truly believe he completes me, and is my other half. But i can’t help but think “is this real” “what if we did breakup, I’d have literally no one” “I don’t know if I could live without him”. And that’s why I need to know how he feels. Or I need to let him know how I feel to see if he feels the same. I hate change in tone in texts, I hate double texting. And he’s probably reading this like “….” but it’s true. I never thought I’d fall in love, never mind someone actually fall in love with me. I’m constantly doubting myself, wondering why he is with me, why he puts up with me. But I’m also anxious about the fate of the future. I need constant reassurance, that I’m not a failure in love, and never will be.
I also tend to experience Confusion and Alteration because of this. By now, some will know that I go by Sunnie. My blog is Chronical Sunflower, and I like to be known by Amy or Sunnie. Amylou is not my dead name, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m changing because of gender or gender confusion. But, because I like to disassociate myself from myself. Sunnie is a positive name, it relates to the sun, sunflowers and people knowing me as that gives me a sense of positivity. But it also gives me anxiety because why am I highlighting myself as positive when I am not? Does this mean I’m a fraud?
Sometimes I find my voice changing, or the way I act changing. People have asked me before “why are you speaking like that” “why does your accent change from a scouser to a wool?” “why are you talking like a child?”. I genuinely don’t know if it’s a part of my personality, or because my anxiety is trying to make me feel safe. I felt safe as a child, so maybe my child voice comes out as a calming effect. I feel safe changing my accent, because it’s fun and different and tends to mean I’m feeling comfortable. But during these things, I also find it really difficult to define who I am as a person. Sometimes I do feel like I have different personalities. Not to a sense that any take over me, don’t get me wrong I am not a self diagnoser. But I do change myself quite a lot. And it’s an anxiety thing 100%. It’s not just because “I like pink stuff one day, then grungey the next”, it’s because I’m so anxious about being monotone that I need to constantly change and like new things.
So this is how anxiety affects me pesonally. I could probably go on, but it’s causing me a little anxiety trying to think of things. And I definitely feel like I’m rambling. But I’m not the only person who ever feels like this. Maybe you do, your friend, your sister, cousin. Someone dear to you probably suffers with anxiety. Anxiety isn’t always feeling nervous, but it affects your daily, social and future life. How do you experience anxiety?