With April being National Stress Awareness month it seemed only fitting to take some time out and dedicate a blog to an issue that has been something that has caused me a great deal of stress and trauma.
If you were to go back several years you would have heard me being described as a “social butterfly.” This does not mean I was out drinking every night, but I was simply one of those people who socialised all the time. There was always a work function, a birthday party or weekends full of lunches and nights out. I thrived on being around people and filling every moment possible.
Then gradually over the last five years I started to notice my social wings becoming smaller and smaller. And as such, over the last six months I notice I am more of an Anxious Annie than anything that resembles the social butterfly I once was.
The anxiety did not come from one isolated incident. Instead I find that it is a collection of events that occurred over a longer period of time. Perhaps one incident alone would not have caused my anxiety to build, however when events keep occurring that are outside your control and you don’t take time to address them appropriately then they are bound to cause you issues further down the line.
This is what has happened to me.
And lately, as I take more time to address my inner well being, I am finding that I am able to pin point those events that have led to my anxiety reaching its peak.
Incident number one. A work social event many years ago saw me out with some colleagues and clients. And as you can imagine, with it being the festive season too, alcohol was involved. As with most people, when I have had a few glasses of wine I let my guard down, my judgement becomes impaired and I generally relax a little too much. This particular occasion, which saw me joking with colleagues, led to one of the said colleague crossing a line. A line that saw me with months and months of turmoil and stress – before eventually seeking further assistance.
I managed to think I had dealt with the situation physically and emotionally. I got on with life and made myself believe I was stronger than I thought.
A year or so later I found myself in a second situation. At a friends hen do, with all attendees rather merry and having a good time celebrating, myself included, I ended my night early to help a friend home. She had got a little too merry, after going through a bad time herself and I took it upon myself to take her back to our rented accommodation. I successfully got her back, in one piece, but not without her becoming rather violent. Apologies were made the morning after, and I quite easily forgave. However, finding a way to get past the incident proved rather difficult.
After these incidents I started to question my own actions. On both occasions, I too, had been drinking and as such perhaps my judgement was not as it should be.
Social events that involved drinking soon became a no no for me. I found ways to avoid occasions where large amounts of alcohol were involved – if my presence was required then I would ensure that I was the designated driver. In doing so I would be able to take back control, to avoid situations that would cause me further stress and to shy away from any unwanted behaviour.
I would happily attend low key social events; gatherings in friends houses and quiet meals out were ideal, they caused me very little stress. However, “nights out” were completely avoided where possible.
Situation number three was completely out of my control last June when I was made redundant. Those who have gone through this process will probably relate to how this effects your mental well being. After the initial shock, you start to enjoy your free time as you search for the next position. However, what I found more often than not was that redundancy made me feel so incredibly useless, especially as my job role was previously described as “fundamental” to the company. I went through a rather turbulent time during my redundancy. With my confidence in myself completely blown it was rather tiresome keeping my head above water. I tried as much as possible between job interviews to keep occupied – I spent more time with friends and family, I took day trips and I de-cluttered the entire house. Anything to keep me as busy as possible.
Situation number four was the most heartbreaking of all. Loosing my uncle to suicide in September was something that pushed me that little further into anxious state. Not only did his death come as a massive shock to the whole family, he left a hole in all our hearts that can never be replaced. We spent hours, upon hours trying to come to terms with what had happened and what we could have done to prevent it. I threw myself into finding a way to raise money and awareness for mental health, but to this day I have not come to terms with his death. And I think in some ways I never will, but I will strive to advocate for mental health in his memory.
In the shadow of my Uncle’s death I made one of the worst decisions I have made in a very long time. I accepted a job that I knew would not be good for me. Despite a strong gut feeling that something simply was not right, not having trust in the role and being messed around during the interview process – I stupidly accepted the job. Perhaps I was looking for something occupy my mind other than grief, perhaps I was a little desperate after being off work for several months, perhaps it was pure stupidity or even a mix of all three. Either way, despite meeting some lovely people, it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. If you have a gut feeling listen to it, I should have listened to mine as it turns out it was spot on. I was messed around from get go, I was thrown into activities that had no relation to the job role I applied for and found myself falling deeper and deeper into a depressive state on a daily basis. The role had a toxic affect to all aspects of my life. I found myself incapable of following my daily routine; getting out of bed to go to the gym was incredibly difficult, I found myself feeling enraged during the working week, I had no energy despite getting a full eight hours sleep each night and often saw myself crying during working hours. I persevered for months, often wanting to walk out and not come back, until I found a role with a company that was the polar opposite.
Within a week of starting the new role, I found a change in myself. My energy levels started to improve, I found myself smiling to and from work and my routine started to return to normal. I no longer felt rage, I no longer felt the need to cry at my desk and I started to enjoy the thought of going to work and doing my job again.
I would like to say that I am no longer an Anxious Annie, but that would be a lie. The incidents that have occurred over the last few years are still heavily in-bedded within me. The difference now is that I have identified these past events and know that they have been causes for my anxiety issues today – mainly due to the fact that they were not identified and dealt with at the time.
Now I will talk about it and work through it on a daily basis, because in doing so I am helping myself. And in helping myself, I hope to help others. The more we talk about it, the more lives will be saved.