Keep taking time for yourself until you’re you again

I used to love a bit of alone time. Cosying up with a book, maybe going to a coffee shop with nothing but a magazine for company, going for a long walk…I found being by myself, even for a short while, to be the thing I needed to get my head together.

I’ve worked in customer facing jobs for pretty much all of my working life, so time away from talking and pretending to be a pleasant person was vital.

Over the past few months, I have not wanted to be by myself at all. Any moment I was alone, even just for the duration of a shower, gave me much too much time to start to panic. To worry myself into a complete tizz. It is hard to concentrate on pretty much anything if you are feeling that way. I don’t know how many books and magazines I have sat down to read of late, and found that my mind won’t shut up for long enough to allow me to indulge in them. I don’t want to go for a coffee by myself any more, as I can’t stop refreshing my emails for long enough to drink a latte while it is still warm.

I’ve had to call my Phil plenty of times recently to come and meet me from the bus stop as panic attacks are leaving me feeling like I am about to genuinely collapse. It hasn’t happened, of course, but that’s the thing about anxiety, it plays tricks on you.

All I have really wanted to do is sleep. I could sleep for 24 hours solid, if given the chance. And although I am working a minimum of 6 days a week, and so it’s ok to be tired, the level of exhaustion I’ve felt can’t be normal.

I mentioned this constant tiredness to my counsellor during one of our recent sessions and she said something that changed everything. She told me that anxiety starts off hot; breathless panic attacks, nausea, heart racing, if you’ve had one you know that feeling. But after a prolonged time with anxiety, it shifts. It goes cold, as she put it. You feel lethargic, tired, like you don’t want to do anything. You get so used to be worried all the time that your energy dips to almost nothing.

That was exactly how I had been feeling. Fit for nothing other than muscling through work and straight home to hide away. And that is no way to live.

So, in the interests of being a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, fake auntie, shop girl etc I decided I needed to try and get back to myself. Stress, fear and anxiety had taken over my life and I couldn’t keep going like that. No one should have to.

The first step for me is to treat myself to taking time for myself. And not always in terms of going to sleep, however much I love to sleep and however tired I might think I am.

This blog is part of that. I am alone all day in work, and it was easy to stand around the shop all day panicking about the many things I thought might go wrong at any point. But now I make a point of writing. Which I used to love.

I am trying to get better at stepping back from doing things that I don’t want to do. I used to be worried about telling people that I didn’t want to go to places in case they would be angry and not invite me anywhere ever again. I would find myself standing in bars or friends houses, having panic attacks and doing my best to put on a brave face. It was exhausting. But now, if I am stressed out or anxious, I know that I need a bit of headspace, and am becoming more comfortable with telling people that, and at allowing myself to stop.

I suppose the simplest (and cheesiest) way of describing it is to say I am ‘recharging’. I was running on empty for far too long and very, very slowly but surely I am beginning to feel like my old self.

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