I just don’t think I’m coping very well, I said. Then I cried.
Sitting in the GPs office back in August I described to the doctor how the physical symptoms of my anxiety, the heart racing, the dizzy spells, the nausea had started to frighten me. It was making me question my ability to look after my daughter. Things that I usually took in my stride were causing me disproportionate levels of stress and paranoia.
She was wonderful, calm, understanding, rational and not in the least dismissive. It’s certainly not unusual for carers to experience problems with anxiety she said. We ran through a check list of how I was feeling. Did I feel despairing? How was my sleep? How was this anxiety different to the kind of ‘regular’ anxiety I’ve always experienced but been able to control.
By the end of the conversation I could hear myself, now calm, talking myself out of it. It’s not that bad, I’m sure I’ll be fine, I feel better just for having said it outloud…and so on. Having talked myself into making the appointment (and, full disclosure, I had cancelled two previous ones at the last minute) I was only too keen to talk myself out of needing any actual help. Thankfully though doctor was insistant that I use the self-referral pathway to some group support for anxiety problems. She explained that they would be able to point me in the direction of the group which would be most suited to my needs.
So the self-referral card sat in my handbag, on the to do list. I always intended to do it as soon as things calmed down.
Then last week I started to feel really poorly, my stomach was in agony. I took ibruprofen and cracked on, it’s not like there is someone to call in sick to when you care full time. I was coping, getting by, not sleeping at night and not stopping during the day. I admitted that I ‘don’t feel great’ and added my own health to the things I could feel anxious about.
I think it was only really as I lay in the ambulance having collapsed on the school run that I recognised that neglecting myself to this degree was a spectacularly stupid thing to have done. Embarrassing too, given how many times I have advised people not to ignore their own needs. I’ve used all the clichés ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and so on. I am a huge hypocrite.
It was dehydration in the end that landed me in hospital but it was the virus, the anxiety, the neglect that led me to the dehydration.
So now I find myself sitting still, very still. I’ve been fed soup, I’ve been sent a lot of love and support and I’m feeling very introspective. All being well, I will recover from the virus pretty easily but the anxiety and the wilful disregard for my own health needs work.
My biggest problem isn’t so much recognising when I need to slow down, but that I obsessively worry about the impact my slowing down will have on other people.
It sounds so arrogant doesn’t it, that I can’t bear to ask anyone to do what I do. I wouldn’t want to put anyone under that kind of additional pressure.
One of the lessons this week has taught me is that when it comes down to it there are plenty of people able to step in and help if I just ask.
So the support team have taken over admirably this week and I have spent my bed-rest time contemplating what changes I need to make to stop this from happening again.
How do you cope? What are your strategies for reaching out before it becomes waving while drowning? I am for once ready to heed some good advice….