I can’t quite believe it’s been 9 years. I think that every year. The eight-year anniversary of becoming anxious feels like a lifetime ago despite the fact that I’m not sure it’s been a very eventful year for me. As ever, I’ve been meaning to blog or vlog for months but the words just haven’t come out. I don’t have the confidence to explain why, or the ins and outs now, I don’t know if or when I ever will but I was put off from this outlet by the very person who was meant to be helping me and it’s been very difficult and very painful trying to get beyond that, get beyond the feelings that brought up (I don’t even feel able to name those feelings here) and start rebuilding the confidence and trust in myself to go back to sharing my story. I’m scared of repercussions, of being misunderstood or misconstrued again, of being told off or accused of things I haven’t done. Ever since I began my blog, I set myself strict rules of how I’d conduct myself and how I’d tell my story, making sure that I never made anyone identifiable without their explicit permission. There are huge chunks of my history that I can’t talk about by following these rules because the people involved would be easily recognisable or identified and I don’t feel that’s fair on them and so I keep quiet. But for someone who feels most comfortable being as open and honest as possible, these reams of red tape that I insist on upholding often cause me to become tangled and tied up in knots and it becomes easier to say nothing at all. I have often worried that I would accidentally say the wrong thing, share too much, or make someone angry, but thankfully that has never happened until last year when my words were misconstrued and warped beyond recognition by someone I thought knew me better and it’s burned me so badly that even writing this I’m second, third, and fourth guessing every sentence I write and I feel sick the more I think about publishing it. I’ve had advice from my new therapist that I did nothing wrong, that this is clearly a helpful outlet for me and something I should aim to return to and despite getting that advice over six weeks ago, it’s taken me until now to heed it and even then it’s only because I didn’t want to miss writing this anniversary post. I hadn’t intended to start on such a serious and painful note but I didn’t know how to explain my silence and my lack of full explanation and it’s eating me up too much to say nothing at all. I hope that one day I’ll be able to have more confidence again and share what happened to me because it was wrong and it was really painful and only in sharing these things do we shine a light on them and help others recognise it happening to them too.
Last year, for a whole host of reasons, many of which I’m still not aware of, I got much worse and found even the most basic things became anxiety-inducing. I started therapy far too late and quickly became destabilised when memory after memory came flooding back to me with no coping skills to deal with them. I’ve never been so overwhelmed by so many different things. I had a really frustrating 9 months of getting worse and my physical health deteriorating for good measure and I felt completely broken and started to rapidly lose hope, something that actually very rarely happens to me. I felt panicked nearly all the time. I couldn’t catch my breath, or concentrate, or think in a straight line. I was completely defeated. To top it all off, I got covid in November just 10 days after a sinus infection that had caused me to feel acutely suicidal and then my laptop broke meaning I couldn’t have therapy and was even more shut off from the outside world. It was a really dark time. Thankfully, this break from therapy made me realise my therapist was not a good fit, I should’ve realised it much sooner and have been beating myself up about it ever since, but she put me in touch with someone who recommended a new therapist and I can’t even believe the difference. Don’t get excited, I’m not cured, or better, or anything, sadly I’ve not been matched with a miracle worker, but the difference in the process, in the way I’m understood, has been huge. I’ve got such a long way to go to reach some semblance of normality or “functioning” but right now I’ve got a bit of my hope back, I can see that a light at the end of the tunnel may exist and last year that didn’t seem possible. I can’t express how far away it feels like that light is, further away than it’s ever felt but the fact that I think it might be there is such a huge step forwards from the place I was in last year.
The thing I’m proudest of over the last year, other than keeping going when I really, really didn’t want to, is the lived experience work I started doing for a couple of national charities. I don’t know what I’m allowed to share and what I’m not so I won’t go into detail but I’ve been involved in various one-off focus groups, as well as two longer group projects, using lived experience of self-harm and suicide to help shape guidelines, online materials, and create content. It’s something I’m hugely passionate about and it’s so nice to be able to make a bigger difference than I can here in my little corner of the internet. It’s also been so good for my confidence! In the past I’ve often found groupwork very challenging and it’s something I’ve always chosen to avoid but this has really shown me what I’m capable of, it’s given me a voice and shown me that I can work with others and enjoy it, and every time I finish a group meeting, I’m absolutely buzzing! I’ve just been accepted onto another group project running for the next 6 months and a 3-year project where I’ll be using my lived experience, this time in a research capacity and I’m so excited to get started, albeit completely terrified too!
As ever, there are lots of challenges that crop up, none of which I seem to get through easily. We’ve had various issues with our flat caused by the previous owner being a huge bodger of jobs and we’ve had huge stress and expense trying to rectify these. The shower that had almost certainly being leaking since it was installed, turned out to have rotted our floorboards and leaked through our concrete floor to the downstairs neighbour. We’ve been cleaning and replacing parts of window frames and handles that were rusted so badly they wouldn’t move because he’d stuck, taped, and glued, fly netting over the open windows and left them open for, we assume, years in all weathers. We’d been gearing ourselves up for the last 3 years to get them fixed and spent 7 hours cleaning gunk off the frames and thanks to a catalogue of errors with the window company, ended up having 4 appointments booked and 3 visits from them to finally, just 2 days ago, get them fixed! Even that wasn’t without its issues as a chunk was knocked out of the bedroom wall and we’ve got burn marks on two floors. I don’t know how we’re this unlucky but I’m pretty sure I’m cursed! Our shower was meant to take 2 days after we discovered it was collapsing and it actually took 5 over the space of 8 days because problem after problem was uncovered. I was genuinely on the verge of a breakdown and I still hold my breath every time I walk near it or it makes any kind of noise. It was fixed 3 months ago.
All in all, I’m not in a good place but it’s definitely a better place to be than this time last year. My physical health is a little better, my head is a little clearer and my hope is tentatively returning and I’m glad that I’ve got little, manageable things ahead to look forward to and feel useful doing. Blogging has always been such a help to me, to make sense of things in my life, to get stuff out of my head and to try and make a difference and help others, and I hope that maybe writing this post and sharing it will help me to rebuild some of the confidence I lost in myself and help me to reclaim this little space of mine. Deep down, I know I did nothing wrong, it’s just taking a very long time to feel that and be able to move on and trust myself.
Nine years on, nine years of setbacks and hope.
If you want to go back and read all of my previous anniversary posts, they can be found below:
One Year On – One Year of Fear
Two Years On – Two Years of Trying
3 Years On, 3 Years of Managing
Four Years On, Four Years of Frustration
Five Years On – Five Years Of…..
6 Years’ Agoraphobic – Coping with Social Distancing, Self-Isolation and Being Housebound: Advice for COVID-19, Anxiety and Beyond
Seven Years On – Seven Years of Changing and Staying the Same