This will likely be a rather strange post, as I’m in a rather agitated and frightened state at the moment. If you think reading about someone who is frightened and agitated might make you feel that way too, then I would recommend looking away now. Also, I’m not doing this in order to make anyone else feel they have to shoulder part of my burden, or to start to feel ‘responsible’ for me in some way, so if you’re concerned you might react in that way, and you’re concerned it might be a problem, then again I’d suggest going and doing something else instead.
I’m concerned I’m in the middle of losing it (whatever ‘it’ is) in quite a big way. I am just so fucking scared at the moment. This is the part of my experiences that is labelled as anxiety, but it just doesn’t cut it. I think I do suffer from anxiety – things that other people perhaps find make them a little bit nervous, I find make me much more worried, and I think that’s what anxiety is – an excessive reaction to a real situation. That’s not what this is. I’ve spent most of the day sitting balanced on the edge of the sofa – I’m too scared to sit back and relax – with tears in my eyes, and literally shaking from fear, but there’s nothing to be scared of.
That’s what makes this so impossible to handle. If I was reacting to something real I could do the thing I do (and which is pretty similar, I think, to what gets taught in CBT) where I point out to myself that what I’m scared of isn’t as big a deal as I think it is, or that it’s very unlikely, or something. But there’s nothing, I’m not scared of or about something, I’m just scared, and so there’s no logical way to deal with the fear.
Actually, that’s a lie. I’m scared of the time of year, or because of it, or something. I used to love the winter, but over the last few years I’ve started to hate it. I can give you rationalisations for why, and there’s a partial truth to them. Minor illnesses become more common in the winter, and I have an absolute horror of them, and sickness bugs in particular. Last winter was hell for me partly because in late December and early January there was all that media hype about Norovirus. Last winter was also the time my mum died, and that obviously brings back grief, but also brings back profoundly horrible memories of the weeks before she died, and of knowing that I ought to be visiting her regularly, but also knowing that in my mental state at the time I just couldn’t. Both of those memories are bad, of course, and I’d expect them to have an effect, but they don’t explain the sheer dread that I’m feeling at the moment.
A not especially sympathetic GP I saw a few years ago for a routine appointment to monitor how my antidepressants were(n’t) working suggested to me that everyone felt depressed in the winter, and that everyone felt they were under pressure they couldn’t cope with in the run-up to christmas, and that I should basically stop whining and wait for the spring. As I say, it wasn’t particularly sympathetically expressed, but it wasn’t bad advice. This is a bad time of year for me. It didn’t used to be, but it is now, and I need to accept that, and adjust my expectations accordingly, and deal with it.
The problem with following that advice now is that I’m starting from such a low ebb, and a much worse position than I was in when I saw that GP. My current bout of difficulties began in March 2007, and although I’ve had better and worse times within that, I haven’t really picked up properly since. I just barely manage to cope with day-to-day living (although it’s been – and I really am ashamed to admit this – 6 months since I last ran a hoover over the carpets, or a mop over the kitchen and bathroom floors), but I have no energy left for anything extra.
After the time my family got so worried about me they reported me to the police as a missing person, I made a pact with my siblings that I would check my email once a day, and I pretty much manage to stick to that, but the occasional email is the only contact with friends or family that I can manage. Over the summer I was just about able to persuade myself out of the door for my weekly therapy appointments, but last week I failed to turn up for my taster art therapy session, and I didn’t phone to cancel, or apologise (not even a middle-of-the-night message on the answerphone, which I find a lot easier than talking to a person) because I just didn’t have the energy to push myself through the stress and anxiety of getting there or phoning to cancel.
I know I’m completely failing to get this into words – I’m just wittering away as though I’m talking about the weather or the price of fish – but I’m at the absolute limit of what I can cope with at the moment. It takes so much to go to the supermarket when you’re terrified to leave the flat, and while you’re out you think that everyone is looking at you and talking behind your back, and you’re terrified of touching anything (including the things you’ve gone to the supermarket to buy) in case you catch some illness or pick up some poison from the things you touch. I just don’t think I can keep doing this, and the trouble is, I expect it to get worse.
I’ve been dreading the change over from November to December like it’s some kind of point-of-no-return. I think there is no possibility of me having a good day for the whole of December and January. A day like today, where I’m curled over on myself with fear, and I’m typing as quietly as I can for fear that ‘they’ will overhear me and come to stop me, but I can still manage to spend a few hours putting up a blog post, will count as a good day. I might start to feel better in early February, but that’s 8 or 9 weeks away, and I just don’t think I can make it that long. I don’t think I have the energy, or the strength, or the courage.
A few weeks ago, along with coming up with a wildly simplistic action plan for how I was going to make it through my difficulties – and how the hell I was ever naïve enough to think that could work I don’t know – I said I was going to keep an eye on myself to see whether I thought things were reaching the stage where I ought to ask for help. I think I probably have reached that stage now. Not so much because one particular thing has got so awful – although the fear of illness/ contamination thing is getting pretty hardcore, I think – but because a whole range of things have got a fair bit worse, and the combination is proving to be more than I can really manage on my own. So, have I made an appointment to see my GP, or phoned up General Psychiatrist’s secretary to make an appointment to see him?
No, of course I haven’t.
There are some logical reasons for this. I’ve already decided against taking medication unless it’s absolutely essential, and although I’m finding it hard to cope, there’s a difference between finding something difficult and failing at it altogether. The most likely outcome of seeing either a GP or a psychiatrist is a prescription, although possibly for different things – based on past experience, my GP is more likely to try and push diazepam than General Psych is. The only other possibility would be referring me to some kind of team that might monitor me more proactively than I’m being monitored at the moment, but a referral like that is probably unlikely, and in any case I wouldn’t really want it. At the moment, contact with people is part of the problem, so it’s unlikely to form part of the solution. Logically, there doesn’t seem to be much point in asking for help when I’ve already decided against accepting any of the help that might be offered. I also don’t see the point of making an appointment just for the purposes of moaning about how crap I’m feeling – it won’t make me feel any better, and it’s a waste of valuable time.
I’m aware, though, that some of my other reasons aren’t so logical. I’ve developed an absolute terror that I have a particular kind of serious physical health problem. So far I’ve managed to avoid consulting a doctor with all of the ill-founded but still genuine health fears I’ve had over the last decade or longer, but one of the reasons I’ve managed that is because my fear that I might be told I’m ill has always been greater than my fear of the potential illness itself. Even though I would be seeing my GP for purely mental health problems, I’m still frightened that she would see evidence of the physical condition I’m worried I have during the consultation.
Recently, that fear of being diagnosed with a serious physical illness has combined with my fear of being infected or contaminated, and that means that right now a GP’s surgery is one of the hardest places in the world for me to go to. Part of the problem with this is that it isn’t fundamentally illogical – a GP’s surgery (and particularly the waiting room) is, by definition, full of ill people, and at least some of those illnesses will be infectious. Waiting rooms are also bad for me, because they’re one of those places where you feel under observation – everyone always looks up at the new arrivals – and where there’s nothing to distract you from your own worries about what might be wrong with you, or why everyone’s staring at you. There aren’t even any magazines in the waiting room – not that I’d want to touch them (fear of contamination again) – just posters listing the symptoms of various illnesses.
These various reasons combined mean that, although I’m at the stage where I think I really ought to ask for help, I’m also at a stage where I just can’t. This is a catch 22, because the fact that I’m generally so scared is the reason I think I need help, but it’s also the reason why I can’t face going for it. I’m pretty sure the situation will resolve itself one way or the other – either I’ll start to feel better, and won’t need to go, or I’ll start to feel worse, and that’ll mean I feel so bad that asking for help will start to feel like a less impossible option – but it’s horrible waiting.
It’s times like these I actively want my depression back. At least when I’m depressed things are relatively peaceful inside my skull.