I think the technical term for it is having “high functioning anxiety”. I consider myself 90% recovered from psychosis and anxiety but every day the problems are there in varying amounts. Back in the day I was very restricted by it all but these days I mostly refuse to let my problems stop me. I want to keep doing things as usual, to not let it defeat me and I seem to have found a balance that often works.
I wouldn’t say it is wise to live a never ending push though, we all have limitations and we need to listen and be aware of them when that is the appropriate thing to do. But, the fact I am 90% recovered is mostly because I have worked toward that for years, I had a great support team and I was lucky. To illustrate this subject and hopefully give some guidance to anyone who has to deal with this and similar things I thought I’d talk about a typical day, and what we can do to get through it. Don’t get me wrong though, sometimes I have a rather nice day and I hope I can keep that up.
Waking up. Sometimes, especially on Mondays my first thought is “I don’t like this. I want to go to sleep again because I was not thinking about my anxiety when I was asleep”. Then I think to myself – “It’s Monday, I have things to do, so I have to get up.” And I know that as I get up I will start to feel better about myself. And I do. This is of course very common, and it can be a trifle vexing to think that I have my anxiety and psychosis issues on top of the normality of waging a weekly war with Monday mornings. So one minute after waking up that’s one thing that I’m already trying to hold together, on top of the normal things that people have to hold together on Monday mornings.
I’ll go for a cigarette first, I smoke about 10 a day. It’s on my to do list to give up, but I must admit I rather like having smoke breath, a lighter wallet and lungs getting more tarry as time passes.
I work part time 5pm – 9pm so I have no paid job to get ready for yet. But I am busy most of the day with other things. I am not lazy and I am looking for a job with more hours. If anyone wants to hire me, feel free to drop a comment on this post of my dream job, I will reply.
On the first Monday of each month I sit on the North Hampshire Mental Health Service User Advisory Board and we meet at 10am. I take a banana, previous notes, pen, paper and a helpful attitude with me to the car. I am usually anxious, but simultaneously calmed (a bit bipolar perhaps) by the knowledge that most of the others at the meeting are in the same position as me, having mental health issues but well enough to give something back and try to improve things for local service users. We have one or two bigwigs in attendance with their experienced ear lending a hand in matters. We have an often passionate dialogue for two hours, then I grab a KFC on the way home.
I go to the gym. The walk into town is always annoying because I feel like people in the street notice me excessively so I put in my headphones, eat another banana and smile anyway because I’ve come so far and I am so much better than I used to be. This has been called “ideas of reference” by my psychiatrist. I had 16 therapy sessions for this kind of thing in 2016 and it’s helped a lot, free on the NHS. Waiting lists can be long but put your name down, I’m so glad I did.
One of the anti anxiety techniques we discussed was “People on the Bus” – using imagination to recognise that we are the drivers of our bus and though boisterous passengers can be loud and difficult they have no say on where the bus goes. Another helpful one, “The Monster pit” – it can feel like playing tug of war with a monster on the other side of the pit sometimes, but if you let go you might feel better.
These tips work well for people who are already in control of some or much of their problems and other people in the therapy sessions felt the advice was underpowered for them, but it worked and still works well for me in present day. On the way home I buy a fruit pot and something random for lunch, as well as a sandwich for 7pm while I’m at work (I find that I need to avoid having an empty stomach to stop feelings of slight fragility from hunger from turning into anxiety).
It’s now 2pm. I look at my to do list for home with things like – Email a pitch letter to a mental health magazine or organisation to see if I can convince them to let me write an article for them. Catch up with other social media interests and obligations. If I have time I’ll work on a blog post. Recently I’ve been painting a chest of drawers for a friend which has been time consuming (pre – sanding, two coats of paint…), but very rewarding. I do part time work at a local workshop too when I have a free morning, making coffee tables from recyclable wood that get sold in a shop, and that is very good for my relaxation. I recently presented a quick TV excerpt about woodworking for them, really interesting. That’s that in the pic at the top.
I’m a newbie violinist, my lessons are at 4pm Mondays, then I drive straight to work, then it’s four hours at an average but decent job in the warehouse at a local pharmaceutical company. 7pm comes and I sneak a sandwich into the loo at work and scoff that down. I don’t like them for telling me off three times for eating a sandwich at 7pm, they are strict about that, but what can I do except pretend I’m somewhere nice while eating it.
At 8pm my anxiety can really start getting to me on a bad shift, if it does I tough it out (I never used to be able to do that, things can change though)…distract myself by talking to others…what can really help is knowing that no matter how I feel, I have no embarrassment about saying to my boss “I need a few minutes to relax, I’m feeling anxious. I’m off to my car I’ll be back in a tick.” If I feel so bad that I want to go home, I have no qualms about doing that either. But so far I have been able to tough it out each time, and it is only four hours, and it’s comforting to know that some people have twice as long on their shift. I spoke to my boss when I was new there and he has anxiety stuff too so he would understand.
9pm comes and finally I can relax. I go home and put the telly on.
My daytimes vary with my activities. I’m doing well these days. For years I could hardly leave the house.
As far as advice goes we are all different and different things can help. Be enthusiastic to find what works for you. Read about mental health stories online. Find people you can talk to. Realise that it’s not usually taboo to have these internal struggles, and people are usually supportive. Running through each of my blog posts on this site is advice and support and though I never shy away from serious matters, I try to keep it light. Serious problems may require professional help, if that is the case, don’t be afraid to seek it!
I have anxiety stuff, coming and going, but sometimes it doesn’t come at all. I’m a very happy man, living a full life, socialising, doing happy things at the weekend, and at one point I was escaping from locked wards, trying to commit suicide. I jumped from a bridge many years ago, breaking my back. I recovered fully after a very rough 3 months not moving in hospital and to think how far I’ve come and how things improved for me is a central message that I hope can offer hope to anyone that is feeling less than happy because of the difficulties of this life.
If you can relate, I’d love to hear about it in the comments, especially if you have a tip or two to share?