The third floor is out of reach
Beyond a wall I cannot breach
Only if escorted may I proceed
Life beyond my front door to lead
Anxiety has imposed these limits
To beat it will take more than minutes
For now I must accept my life curtailed
and that in doing so I have not failed
I’ve watched scaffolding contractors outside the windows of my second floor flat, working today to reach the floor above, and beyond. I realise that despite the safety harnesses, teamwork and effort involved to scale this extensive Victorian building, they are able to reach the third floor far more easily than I can at this time.
As the summer of 2015 arrived and illness took hold of me I found it increasingly difficult to get out and about. At first I chose to retreat as a form of self protection. Severe depression led to self neglect which led to feelings of shame and a fear of exposing myself. I didn’t feel like me and didn’t feel able to face much of the world, once more so vulnerable and reduced. Broke and with my home at risk, I struggled too to confront reminders of the life I’d been so assiduously working to build. Later, anxiety, rather than I, chose to restrict my boundaries still further.
My world shrank, as my illness grew. I stopped travelling the mile or so into the city centre. I stopped making the 15 minute walk to my GP’s surgery. I went no further than the pharmacy at the end of the street where I live. I only got as far as the bins right outside this building, to put out my rubbish. I stopped being able to go outside. I found myself trapped behind my own front door.
I didn’t go out at all for five weeks. I’ve ventured out three times in the last three, each time escorted by my friend, but no further than a shop in the area immediately surrounding my flat. I’ve put goals in place to stretch my boundaries and to make at least one solo journey to the pharmacy by the end of this month. Next month I’ll push the boundaries further still. I can’t Tigger my way of out of this, at least not to the extent of pushing myself too hard too fast, as I am oft’ liable to do. Slow and steady wins the race. Pacing? Yeah, I think I’ve heard that word … a few gazillion times. Crash and burn? Not this time!
Something over a decade ago I experienced life living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D.), Social Anxiety and Agoraphobia, alongside my severe depression and physical health problems. Life was such fun back then 😉 .
I have discussed the question of which is worse, depression or anxiety, with others who have experienced these illnesses. It’s like asking how long is a piece of string. They are both difficult to endure. However, some have told me they feel, as I do, that if they were forced to choose to live with one; they would choose depression. My reasoning for this is that with depression at its worse I feel I have to die. With anxiety at its worse I feel that I am dying, horribly and perpetually.
I highly commend No Panic for its support in the face of anxiety. The charity has expanded in the years since I used its services and appears to have even more to offer. Clinical anxiety is much more than worry or concern. It is a pervasive, debilitating and life-diminishing condition.
After discovering water dripping through the ceiling in my bathroom this week. I knew that I had to visit my neighbours living in the flat directly above, in order to try to discover the source of the problem. I don’t actually know who lives there and, as the configuration of that floor is slightly different to this, I am uncertain even which door belongs to which flat. Anxiety doesn’t appreciate uncertainty or unfamiliarity!
I had a very productive day yesterday, in spite of limited #spoons after little sleep. I tackled some stressful tasks with aplomb, but I could not open my front door, let alone venture upstairs. I tried repeatedly, deploying various strategies, but my feet might as well have been set in concrete. Shame and a sense of failure crept over me and, try as I might, I could not shake it. I tried to compose a blog post but found I couldn’t write, so consuming was the anxiety. I went to bed at 9, feeling gloomy and weary. I slept fitfully.
Today, I have once more been productive. I succeeded in opening the door to the postman and a further delivery. I haven’t tried to venture out.
I consider myself lucky that this time around I am not experiencing panic attacks frequent or otherwise. This time I think of my anxiety as ‘the wall’ – a sturdy but temporary fixture – that is blocking access to certain aspects of life. I learned a great deal as I sought to conquer the anxieties of old. I’ll use that knowledge to take down this wall, brick by brick.
That anxiety has sneaked back into my life is a bind. It is no more than that. I will get past it as I did before.
Coming next: Poor Self Care