Lasting Panic attacks
Long time no blog! My final year of university has so far kept me extremely busy (and stressed out), and the Christmas holidays have been the last time I will get a break until May, so naturally, I haven’t been in much of a writing mood. I have really missed my blog though. I still have loads of things that I want to write about, but unfortunately – as I will have to start work on my honours in just a couple of days (eeeeeeeek!) most of those future blog posts will have to be postponed by a few months.
Things aren’t great at the moment. I now have no close friends as my online friend has stopped talking to me. He was very depressed and made some nasty comments towards me despite me doing all I could to try and help support him, and stopped talking to me not long after that. I know that none of it was really my fault, but I can’t help but feel bad about myself for all of the times that friends have abandoned me throughout my life. It certainly doesn’t help my self-esteem or my mood, it causes me to have a panic attack. But if someone wants to treat me badly when I am going out of my way to help them, they aren’t really my friend. I am quite used to giving more than I get back in return from close friendships, but if someone wants to be ungrateful and rude towards me, I’ll try to find people who will treat me with the respect I deserve. I have no idea how to do this though. I always seem to make the mistake of only making one close friend, so it hurts a lot when they abandon me. This probably has a lot to do with my social anxiety, but when I look back on the friendships I’ve had throughout my life, I valued the friendship far more than the other person did in the vast majority of cases. I imagine that this is a common thing in people with severe SA. Most people without SA usually don’t have too much trouble making friends, and usually have multiple friendships, but those of us with severe SA may only have one close friend (if we are lucky). Therefore, each friendship is much more precious to us than to people who are not socially anxious.
I do still have three non-close friends, but I only see two of them every few months (and I am not even sure that one of those people is really even my friend, given the way she treats me sometimes). I haven’t seen my other friend since July, and she won’t be back in Edinburgh until May, so I’ve been communicating with her exclusively through email.
I started talking to someone from an online dating site back in September. He seemed understanding when it came to my mental health issues (as he had to deal with the same things himself, we both suffered from panic attacks). We had a lot in common, seemed to be getting on really well, and both wanted to make a relationship work. Then a lot of really difficult things in his life happened in a very short space of time. I wanted to do whatever I could to support him, but he dealt with the difficult things he was going through by shutting me out not communicating with me at all for a fortnight. Given my issues around rejection, it was difficult for me to be completely ignored for 2 weeks by someone who claimed that they wanted to be in a relationship with me. He then stopped talking to me altogether. We didn’t even meet up with each other. I still feel bad about the way I left things with him, because there were so many difficult things that he was going through and (despite not taking kindly to being completely ignored/ shut out for two weeks) I really did just want to help and support him. Ultimately though, I think both of us were/ are too unstable and not in the right state of mind to have a healthy relationship. I’ve recently thought about trying online dating again, but I probably won’t have the time or energy to dedicate to a relationship until university is over. Or maybe Iâ€™m just making excuses. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible to have a healthy relationship if you don’t have any friends that you see on a somewhat regular basis/ are close to. What does everyone else think? The trouble with that view, however, is that I can’t be in a relationship until I make some close friends, and it seems that friends are usually a prerequisite for making new friends. Given this, and given my social ineptitude, it seems like a bit of a Catch-22 situation.
What scares me is that when I was talking to that guy from the online dating site, I was the happiest that I have been in a very long time. I can’t rely on another person for my happiness because it will destroy me if things end. Am I too reliant on other people? Or not enough? Why give another person the power to destroy me. and give me more frequent panic attacks?
I mentioned a few posts ago that I’d hardly seen my befriend er despite the fact that we were supposed to meet up with each other about once every two weeks. I actually met up with her again earlier today. I hadn’t seen her since September, and before that, the last time I met up with her was back in May. To be fair to her, she has had a lot of very difficult stressful things going on in her life this past year, so I don’t blame her. When the woman in charge of befriending at the mental health charity found out that we had been meeting so infrequently, she looked into getting me a second befriend er who would be able to meet up with me more often. I have met up with my new befriend er a couple of times, and she seems really nice. Ideally, my new befriend er will be able to go along to meet up groups with me and support me with meeting/ attempting to befriend new people. I don’t really hold out much hope though. I find it so, so difficult to open up to people, and I don’t know how to tell her about my anxiety and panic attacks that cause lack of close friendships. I also struggle to make friends face-to-face, and would have to somehow overcome the negative thoughts in my head that tells me I won’t be able to make friends because I am so socially inept and weird that no one would like me. There’s also the fact that I may not have the time to go along to many meet up groups, given the hellish onslaught of university coursework that awaits me. We’ll see how it goes. I am feeling really hopeless and miserable about my lack of close friendships and of a relationship but I am doing the best I can to distract myself from thinking about it too much. I can bury myself in university work soon. My old befriend er and I have finally arranged to go to a meet up together later this week, and my new befriend er and I may be meeting up again next week, so at least I do have a couple of (hopefully) positive things to look forward to.
Random picture of a Capuchin monkey that I took, just to break up the wall of text a bit
Work is probably the thing that has helped me the most in recent times, despite the near-fainting, awful insomnia, and other ailments that my anxiety around work has caused me (SA is such a lovely condition!) The insomnia is probably the worst of these. In the week leading up to Christmas, work started at 4 am. I averaged only about 3 hours of sleep per night for the whole week. This definitely didn’t help my mental health, and I was very stressed out and irritable. Strangely though, I seemed to function better socially for much of that week. Maybe I was so tired that I didn’t care as much about what other people thought of me, or perhaps it was just the long shifts and the fact that I was working every day that helped me. I still suffer from pre-work insomnia, even though we are back to 6 am starts now. Some nights I don’t get any sleep at all before work, which, again, definitely doesn’t help with my mental state. I really hate all the side-effects of anxiety, but I am so lucky to have gotten this job, and it has helped me so much, so I will keep on soldiering on through it all. I’ve learned that it’s better to just be with the anxiety rather than trying to control it. I usually find that the more I try to control my anxiety, the more it controls me.
It’s amazing how high-functioning I can be at times. I don’t know if any of my colleagues would guess that I am a nervous wreck on the inside (though I am sure they had realised that I am very awkward and weird, and that my behaviour can be a bit odd at times). I think my social skills have improved slightly but people attempting to converse with me probably still find me very awkward and stilted. Some days are better than others. I am definitely less anxious when it comes to talking to helping customers. As soon as a customer approached me, my initial thoughts used to be something along the lines of: Oh shit. SHIT! They’re talking to me! What do I do? Why can’t the ground swallow me up? Obviously, I still get anxious, but it’s somewhat more manageable now. I am also a bit better at actually getting my words out responding to people, rather than my anxiety causing me to completely freeze up. It’s amazing to think that less than 4 years ago, my panic attacks in supermarkets was so bad that I struggled to be in one on my own for more than about 10 minutes. Now I can stay in one for 8 hours or more, with relative ease, even during the week leading up to Christmas. I could quite easily do a full supermarket shop now.
I feel that I have matured somewhat in some areas, even if I am still well behind most people my age in many areas. I still don’t have any friends at work (again, the main reason for this is probably my fear of opening up to people, letting others get close to me). Despite knowing full well that no matter who you are, you are always going to have people who dislike you, and despite knowing that this may be more to do with the other person than a reflection on me, and that what other people think about me is none of my business, I still see being disliked in any way by another person as a failure on my part, even if they only dislike a part of me, such as my awkwardness, or how quiet I am at work. (Sorry, that one should have had a long sentence warning on it. Hope no one fell asleep half-way through it). Perhaps this is why I am so reluctant to open up to others.
Sleepy squirrel monkey
Something that worries me is that lately, I’ve been having intrusive thoughts, which mostly centre on bad things happening to me or to family members. I mentioned earlier that my anxiety around work often prevents me from sleeping when I have work the next day. The intrusive thoughts always seem to be worse more frequent when I am sleep-deprived, and my brain also seems able to make just about anything disturbing (re: intrusive thoughts) when I am in a sleep-deprived state. In the past, I have had occasional intrusive thoughts during times of stress, but not quite as bad as this. I feel awful about having such thoughts, even though I know I shouldn’t. I’m hoping that this is just a temporary thing and not something that will become more of a permanent feature in my mental landscape. Thankfully, I have slept reasonably well for the last few nights and the intrusive thoughts have been less frequent. I am so, so grateful that OCD is not something I have to deal with, because even the relatively infrequent and mild intrusive thoughts that I’ve had to deal with recently are disturbing and upsetting to me.
Last term at university was horrendous but I will cover that in another post, seeing as how I have already typed up an essay for this post. One positive thing that happened not long after my last post on this blog is that I went along to a women’s cycling group. At the time, I was feeling quite hopeless, as I had gone along to a nature meet up group not long before that, and felt miserable like an outcast the whole time that I was there, and spent the entire meet up wishing that I could go home. I was really nervous about going along to the cycling group, especially as I seemed to be the youngest person there. Things didn’t seem to be going well at first, as everyone else already knew each other and I wasn’t able to join in on the conversation. I once again started to wish that I hadn’t bothered going along, but as soon as we actually started cycling, I began to enjoy it. At one point, we all stopped at a cafe and I managed to talk to a few of the women in the group. I also managed to eat in front of them without too much trouble. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. I haven’t been along to the group since (mostly due to being busy with university and work), but hope to go along to the group somewhat regularly once university is over.
Another (supposed) positive is that I FINALLY started Interpersonal Therapy last week. As I had been on the waiting list since June, the psychologist who referred me has sent me information on how to make a complaint against the NHS. I am still undecided as to whether or not I will make a complaint. It seems like more trouble than it’s worth, and I doubt it will do anything whatsoever to change the deeply flawed and failing public mental health services. Has anyone reading this blog ever gotten any positive results from making a complaint about mental health services?
It’s always difficult for me to start seeing a new psychologist/ psychiatrist. I have grown to somewhat dislike distrust the profession due to my previous experiences of the mental health services. The psychologist I saw seemed nice enough, though she recorded the wrong scores for the PHQ-9 questionnaire that I filled out (always encouraging!) She said that unlike with CBT, I could have up to 20 sessions of IPT. I feel that I probably do need more long-term therapy if I am going to make any significant progress, so that’s good to know. I want to eventually do group CBT once university is over as well. (Have you noticed the common factor in terms of what is currently impeding my recovery generally ruining my life at the moment?)
I am absolutely dreading my honours project. As is typical of the (complete lack of) organisation at my university, we have only two weeks to write the proposal for our dissertation, and many people don’t even know what topic they’re doing yet. The deadline for the proposal is on my birthday, so this should be fun. We had an introductory session earlier today and I am freaking out at how much work needs to be done between now and May. As I said earlier, it’s annoying, because I have so much I want to write about, but it will just have to wait. Anyway, I’ve nattered on for more than long enough. Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far without falling asleep like that squirrel monkey.