I may regret writing this but here goes. I’m not very well at the moment. I’ve been signed off work with mental exhaustion, which in other words means I’ve had a bit of a meltdown. And rather than write about it in a few weeks when I’m (hopefully) back to feeling something a bit less shit, I thought I would write about it now, in the eye of the storm as it were because we don’t do that very often. And slightly more selfishly, I’ve disappeared from social media and not been responding to many messages so this is also a “sorry guys” to all the people who think I’m being a bit rude.
This is the first time in 10 years of mental health struggles that I have a) taken a significant time off work b) been honest about the reason I’m off work and c) admitted absolutely everything about how I have been feeling. It’s both completely terrifying and liberating at the same time.
So how did I get here? Well it’s been building up over the last month and classically I’ve put every warning sign down to something else; oh it’s PMS, oh I’ve just been doing too much, oh I just didn’t sleep well etc etc etc. When of course I knew it was because I hadn’t been looking after my physical and mental health – and if you ever think you’re going to get away with abusing either you’re mistaken – it always catches up with you, and usually at the most inopportune moment in a straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back sort of a way.
My anxiety levels have reached fever pitch over the last couple of weeks. Whereas my anxiety has always fluctuated, it’s been an ever present weight that hasn’t budged. And I don’t just mean a reoccurring worry or the odd sleepless night, I mean heart pounding like it may beat out of my chest 24/7, a constant feeling of breathlessness and lightheadedness and the tiniest change of plan or miscommunication causing an instant physical feeling of a brick being pounded in to my chest and feelings of nausea. And these feelings haven’t abated even when an issue has been resolved or rectified – it’s like I’m in constant ‘fight’ mode with unmanageable amounts of adrenaline running through my body. It has made concentrating on anything nay on impossible, it’s made thinking rationally impossible and it’s made sleeping impossible, despite being completely exhausted.
Another warning sign should have been my recent retreating from anything remotely social. Missed dinners and drinks with friends, cancelling days and nights out, missed gigs and becoming a bit of a recluse at weekends has become the norm again. Granted I don’t consider myself to be a social butterfly at the best of times, but the fact I have a long list of no-shows and cancellations of late should have been a red flag – I know this stuff!
I feel like I have been running on empty but trying to keep it together and spin all the plates. But of course that only works for a short time and eventually it all boils over and you quickly find yourself rendered hopeless, scared and unable to do the simplest of things. The barometer of how shit I feel for me, has always been – am I at the same point I was after my 31st birthday party laying on the bathroom floor crying uncontrollably? And the answer to this question this weekend was ‘yes’, albeit without the laying on the bathroom floor part as anyone who has seen my bathroom will know that laying on the floor would be utterly impossible given its size.
I spent Saturday to Monday alone in my flat basically festering and making myself worse. My boyfriend was away at a wedding, I couldn’t leave the flat, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stop crying. Everything felt like it was imploding, my life felt like it was in ruins, everyone hated me and I couldn’t see a way out. The fact my studio flat is so tiny too didn’t help as I was looking at the same 4 walls and had nowhere to escape to. Not even my sacred hot baths did the trick. Things unravelled pretty quickly.
I was already due to come back to Wales this week to spent some time with my family but knowing how I was feeling and how I could possibly end up doing something I would regret, I got on a train and came home a couple of days early. And that was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made.
Despite being in my thirties, sometimes you just need your Mum (and Dad, especially when you need picking up from the train station late at night). I poured everything out to them and in true parent fashion they helped me realise than nothing wasn’t fixable and that I would be okay.
I arrived feeling at my lowest and I’m slowly feeling like I’m clawing back some sense of rationality and calm. The peace and comfort being around family can bring when you’re at crisis point really can’t be underestimated. It’s giving me the space and time to reflect on things and to try and think of ways of building my resilience back up again. It feels a bit like I need to build new foundations and stabilise myself a little – not quite starting from scratch, but certainly back to basics. I’m not crying quite so much and I’m even mustering the odd smile and a joke, so there’s progress.
It’s worth mentioning that having noticed a dip in my mood last week and generally feeling unwell physically I went and saw my GP. I’ve been reluctant to do so for a long time as usually they give me the same line and I often come away feeling more hopeless. This time however, having had no joy in getting an appointment I filled in their online e-consultation and was contacted by the surgery the next day with a 20 minute appointment to see a doctor. Having only ever been given 5 minutes maximum it felt like a revelation and certainly helped in being able to discuss things. It resulted in a trip to the hospital for some blood tests to check there was nothing physical underlying. The results came back on Friday and were accessible via my Patient Access app – a superb app but in this instance, the ability to read my results without any narrative probably wasn’t the best. All my tests were normal bar one; an abnormality in my white blood cells. They were too high. And of course the first thing I did was Google it. Never Google it. I had diagnosed myself with leukaemia within minutes because of course that was the only thing that explained it (it isn’t as it could just be down to stress or a virus or something like that). So yeah I suspect that didn’t help with the almighty meltdown that ensued.
But I guess the point of me writing this is to remind myself and anyone else who may be feeling terrible that it passes. It’s hideous and painful and all encompassing but it retreats. It might not happen overnight but there will be a morning when you wake up and don’t feel like hurting yourself and don’t hate yourself quite so much. I feel lucky in so much as this hurricane only lasted a few days and I’m now feeling through the worst, not everyone is that lucky. I still feel incredibly exhausted, anxious and fragile and I know I’m still not well, but I feel I now have that tiny bit of hope that was missing on Tuesday morning. I also have a loose treatment plan having spoken to my doctor and Talking Therapies. I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be plain sailing from here, but I feel like I’m on the right track. And I’m counting my lucky stars to have such a supportive family, boyfriend and circle of friends.