After the Storm

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Peace is not the absence of the storm, but the strength we find in the midst of the wind…. Unknown

I’ve always been an anxious person.  I’ve always stressed and fretted over things well before they happened.  I’ve always been “highly strung”.  It’s just a part of me that I’ve come to accept as normal and I very rarely notice my anxiety anymore.  It’s not until I get a physical symptom such as stomach pain that I realise I’m actually feeling anxious.  Like most things, we get used to feeling a certain way so that it becomes our normal pattern of life.  That’s how I’ve been for many years now with anxiety.

My mum always knew how anxious I was and was the soothing calm for my soul. Most people, however,  would never realise how anxious I am.  I tend not to show it.  I’ve learned to cover it with a smile.  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel it.  But I’m used to it.  It’s a bit like grief in some ways .  It doesn’t actually get better, it just becomes a normal part of your everyday life.

I’m very lucky that I don’t have panic or anxiety attacks as such.  For me it’s more just an overall anxiety that is always lurking in the background.  If things are particularly stressful, I’ll probably get one of the physical symptoms to remind me to try to calm my own soul now that Mum’s not here to do it for me.

Last night though, I had the anxiety attack of all anxiety attacks.  I woke up soaked in sweat and quite distressed.  I had a dream I was late for something.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal does it?  It seems this occasionally weird brain of mine thought differently. I will admit that the last month has been so busy and even though it’s been good things that are happening,  I’ve been struggling quite a bit with staying grounded.  I’ve been really overwhelmed with everything and have been trying to quell all the anxiety that has been building up.  I guess my dream just compounded everything I’ve been feeling lately and while I slept, the anxiety sunk in when I couldn’t fight it off.

When I woke up, I was confused and distressed.  It wasn’t a bad dream.  I didn’t feel scared or threatened.  There was really nothing that should have caused the reaction I had.  But react I did.  Along with the confusion and distress was an overwhelming feeling of dread.  The physical symptoms were also strong.  As I said I was lathered in sweat but I also struggled to breathe and I felt pinned to the bed.  I couldn’t clear my mind or distract myself as I would usually do. I couldn’t find the energy to get out of bed which might have shaken the feeling off.   I just had to lay there, enveloped in anxiety and dread. It was a horrible feeling.

I finally dozed back off but the feeling didn’t leave me.  When I finally dragged myself out of bed, I was out of sorts.  Yes, my mind was quite foggy and unclear but I also felt sore and lethargic.  Every muscle in my body felt tight.  I think I must have been extremely tense and that tension has made my muscles sore.  My energy was non existent and my mood was really low all day.   No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t lift myself out of it.  Truth be told, it’s now midnight the next night and I’m still feeling the same way.  I don’t really want to go to bed in case I have another attack like this.  It has really made me feel awful and I’m just holding on tonight.

It has, though, made me remember that I have to nurture myself and not take on more than I know I can handle.  I have to try to be more organised so I don’t get overwhelmed.   I have to change the words to my personal anthem.. I AM strong.. but I’m NOT invincible.. I am woman.  And I’m a woman who has lived through some pretty hard times so I have to be kind to me. I hate accepting my vulnerability but I need to learn to admit it, even if only to myself.

I’m determined that tomorrow will be a better day after a panic free sleep tonight.  I’ve got great things coming up in the next few weeks, with 8 of my images being shown in 2 exhibitions .  I’ve also got classes beginning, where I’ll get to share many of the creative processes I’ve learned over the last few years.  I have finished most of the work I’ve been doing the last few weeks so I can start to relax a bit and just enjoy the rewards.  If I find myself not able to sleep, I have a movie ready to watch to try to calm my brain.

For those living with anxiety attacks on a regular basis, my heart goes out to you.  Be kind to yourself.  If you know someone who has regular anxiety attacks, please be gentle with them.   It takes a toll, both physical and emotional, and it’s not a matter of just snapping out of it or shaking it off.  They may also be holding on by a  thin thread.  What they need is some understanding and a caring attitude.

And now, for me at least, it’s…. Happy sleeping ….. Livvy xxx

Letter of love

All that I am hangs by a thread tonight