Me and Anxiety

Well, this morning has been somewhat different to my usual Saturday mornings. If you have read any of my weird life series you will be aware that I like my routines.This morning, due to illness and changing plans, I am currently sat in an unfamiliar coffee shop in an unfamiliar part of town trying my best to concentrate on writing this blog rather than standing up, leaving my coffee and heading home again. It seems almost fate, that I had already decided about the content of this week’s post before today and that now I find myself in a state of anxiety writing a blog post titled me and anxiety!

I’m sure that when I was growing up I probably heard the phrase – “You’re just a worrier” many times. I am a worrier to the point that I worry about almost everything and anything for the majority of the time. I’ve spoken about my weird life several times before and I have, to be honest, been putting this post off since it is often very difficult to verbalise my thoughts and feeling about my anxiety in such a way that it does not come across as sounding silly or well … ‘weird’. If you read about me and sleeping you will be aware that I have, what many people refer to, as an active brain and I do attribute many of my anxiety attacks to this. It is important at this stage to make it clear that I suffer from anxiety, although I will be referring to them, or it, as worries throughout this post, mainly because I think it flows better and I’m not sure that I am spelling anxiety correctly every time. In order to give you somewhat of an insight into me and my anxiety, I wanted to split the post into the usual three sections. First I wanted to share with you what I actually worry about on a daily basis, then explain what happens when things change and finally, because I like to end on a positive, the progress that I have made over the past years – well actually decades.

  • My daily worries – I can’t actually remember a morning when I have actually woke up and felt content, happy and restful. I don’t sleep well at all, for example this morning I woke up from a dream/nightmare at 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep because Mr. Active Brain kicked in. I don’t actually worry about anything major, which is probably why it is so frustrating. I think the best way to explain this to you is to provide you with some examples. When I wake up the first thing I worry about is always – do I feel well? disliking germs I worry constantly about being ill. The first thought that goes through my head is – are you ill? Of course thinking about this rises my anxiety levels and can actually make me feel ill. Every slight pain, twinge or slight feeling away from what I consider to be normal immediately increases my anxiety. Then I will worry about what time I will be finishing work – will I have to walk home late? Will it be safe? Will I get mugged? I worry about the car parking outside the flats where I live – will someone take my place, has something taken someone elses’ place why have they changed places. My mind literally goes into over drive and starts to think about numerous possibilities in order to explain or predict what has or is about to happen. I have to make it completely clear at this point that it does not engage with any positives, only the negatives. It is constant. Walking down the street – will that dog come near me? Do those men look dangerous? and even – which you will feel is completely illogical – should I take a different route home tonight because something is going to happen on the ‘usual’ route. If you read any science about anxiety, you will be aware that there is a connection between the nervous and digestive system and you can imagine whats happens – I’m sure the majority of my IBS could be attributed to my anxiety and my Gaviscon bill would be a lot lower without it as well.

  • How to really mess me up – The daily worries cause symptoms and thoughts constantly, but if you really want to see me go into melt down then change something major. Having routines, I realise is not actually good for me, although they do make me feel very secure. Why are they not good for me, well it makes any changes to that routine really impact on my anxiety levels. This morning my sister was ill and I had to change my routine. I can only describe the experience as instant panic. My heart beats faster and I break out into a heavy sweat. I can also get quite cross and even angry. Even if someone says something like – ‘can you go on to this conference in a nearby town?’ then BOOM! I’ll sweat and feel sick instantly. My brain just takes control and places me and my body into panic mode. I have a real phobia about the dentist and, even though my dentist is fantastic about me and it, I will see the appointment slowly getting closer and closer in my calendar and have several panic attacks weeks before as I try to analyse exactly what will happen, even though it is impossible. Anything can set this panic off, sometimes it is something quite minor other times something quite major. As a scientist and mathematician I consider that I have quite a logical brain and looking back after the experience I know that it was completely illogical but when I am in the zone then the logical side of my brain completely shuts down. It is literally in primeval mode – fight or flight and, if you have ever seen my non-existent muscles, you will know that flight is my only option.

  • Progress so far… – This is probably the hardest section to write since it involves me going back to a place and time in my life that I would never want to revisit. I actually hinted at it in a blog post I wrote about coffee shops but I feel it is important to actually demonstrate how far I have come from that rather ‘dark’ time of my life. Although it might appear that my anxiety is bad now, it was, and believe me when I say this, a lot worse. It was so bad that I would not leave the house for any reason that wasn’t completely necessary and I couldn’t go anywhere ‘new’ at all. I do remember once walking about town with my mum and sister and they went in for a coffee. I literally could not go into the coffee shop and I walked around town in a circle until they actually came out again. I would set off somewhere and return to the house several times making up excuses why I needed to go back even though they were just that, made up. I couldn’t eat out, or drink out and literally lived at work and in my flat. I lost weight, lost friends and lost every ounce of self confidence and self esteem. Some people tried to help by ‘forcing me’ into situations. This had disastrous impact on my progression and it was only the understanding people who allowed me to make my own steps into new situations and supported me as I encountered them. Coupled with this was regular meetings with a clinical psychologist that actually allowed me to start to make progress. When I look back at this time, I do realise that I have come quite a long way and I wanted to share that with you so that you realise that if you are in a similar place then it is possible to move forward, if, of course, you are willing to push the boundaries and make progress.

  • I have made myself come to a different coffee shop today to write this blog. This is good for me, although I do know that I have probably avoided going to my usual haunt due to the fact that I was worried that there would be no seats available – yes I even worry about that! I learnt a long time ago that in order to make progress with my anxiety I have to push myself and try and engage with new situations and people. I know I still have an awful long way to go with my anxiety and yes I will have times when it is really bad and maybe I won’t want to leave the house or feel that I can’t do things. But there are also days that I can summon enough self confidence to try something new, whether this be a different coffee shop, restaurant or even a train journey! I’m not planning to ever go back to those ‘dark times’ although it would be very easy to slip back to that place. I’m determined to go forward constantly in small or even tiny steps and despite at times taking several steps backwards, at the end of the day I feel that I am generally making progress.

    I don’t have an amusing or funny way to finish this post but I wanted to finish it by saying thank you. I am very grateful to everyone who actually puts up with me when I am in my ‘intense’ panicked states. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the support and, perhaps more importantly, the understanding that people have given and continue to give me. I know it all sounds weird and illogical and maybe, to some people, even pathetic, but to me it is all very real and I am always appreciative of the people who acknowledges this. If you suffer from anxiety then please take heart, we can beat it so please keep pushing those boundaries and moving forward since it is only by moving forward that we know that we are not going backwards.

    2 comments for “Let Me In! – Simon’s Cat – YouTube

    1. February 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Would be cool to play an one off, one of the dungeon crawls you made! Maybe the 8 level one!!!

    2. March 21, 2017 at 12:05 am

      I miss those early days so much. The current state of rpg’s , the rpg xubculture if you like, doesn’t feel like it did back then. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

      I was introduced to Advanced D&D 1st Edition, by my sisters boyfriend (the BEST boyfriend of the many she had IMHO..), who showed me S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks module after discovering I enjoyed computer based adventure games, I was hooked immediately and it wasn’t too long before I was hanging around the local game shop, Games Gallery, from which I was invited to join in a game run by the assistant manager, who was to become my long and good friend Steve, who was coincidentally, the reason I got to work at the local branch of Games Workshop for a time. Working there, in those days, before it became a Warhammer only shop, was amazing. It was the proverbial kid in the sweet shop!. Staff discount made it even sweeter – 50% off GW’s own products, and 25% off everything else. We also ran a great rpg club, with about 60-80 members at its peak.
      I was always the GM for my main group as no one else had the time it took to prepare a game properly, though after a few changes to the group, and people from the club popping up, I eventually got to play. Games by a company called Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU) were very popular in all of my groups. FGU sold games such as Bushido, Aftermath,Space Opera, Chivalry & Sorcery, Freedom Fighters, and Bunnies & Burrows, but there were many many more games, by many different companies, covering all sorts of genres – and I still have them all. Many were, as was the style back then, table and chart and rule HEAVY. We loved that. Comparing themto the current crop of “rules lite” systems, I would certainly go back to the old games instead. We played these games sometimes 5 days a week, as for a time we were all unemployed. It was all we did.
      I often spent days creating scenarios, making maps, creating player characters as well as npc’s. I found it quite therapeutic, as is miniature painting – thousands of the little buggers packed away testify to the time I spent doing it. My “toy soldiers” as my brother in law calls them…
      I used to get quite attached to my favourite characters, and whilst one or two died over the decades, most did not.
      For almost all of my characters I would go overboard by most people’s standards. I like to have an image for my characters, whether a photo or artwork. Sometimes I will see an image and that is the base for the whole character, built around the image.
      I always believed as a player, that giving the GM a detailed background, list of goals, motivations, friends, contacts and enemies, will help the GM bring my character into the game more, by using some of what I have given him in the game. As a GM I like to see what players come up with for their characters, and will often use it in the game. It involves the player more, makes the game more personal if part of the game is suddenly about them, and it can help the players become more invested in their characters.
      For myself, I would often map out the characters home, create a family tree, siblings, etc.
      For our Star Trek RPG (by FASA Corp), I created the whole crew of a 500+ personnel star ship… All as detailed player characters. Unnecessary and a bit OTT I know, but it helped bring every department on the ship alive, every member of the landing party was a person not simply a red shirt.

      I am often bemused whilst watching streams when I see the gm of a streamed game pull some “new” idea out of his box of tricks, and the players are like “wow!”, “that’s original”, “I would never have thought of doing it that way!”, knowing we did it 30-40 years ago.

      The games my most recent group and I played/ran, were very detailed games with a lot of depth. Quite dark games too, mature themed, and often very emotional and intense. Having played with the same people for nigh on 20 years, you create a bond, a closeness and familiarity that allows you to communicate in a way you couldn’t, with people you don’t know very well.
      I have been brought to tears several times in recent years during the last (decade long) game we played ,as some scenes were simply too emotional or powerful, overwhelming (GM was a bastard – but an EXCELLENT GM).

      Sadly the group folded, but the GM offered to keep the game going for just me, which he did for a few years, which to be honest I really needed, as it helped me through a bad depression at that time).
      Over the years I have experienced a lot of things because of rpg’s, and made some great friends, too. I have a lot to be grateful for, regarding rpg’s. I was discussing with my brother in law, my collection of rpg’s and miniatures. When he realised how much they are worth, (some regularly sell for £100’s!) he always tells me to sell sell sell. He doesn’t grasp what they mean to me .
      Yet I won’t. Part of me hopes and prays that I will get a local group together (even some of the old group!) and start using them again. But aside from that, as my memory fails, little by little each year, these boxes and books and miniatures on the shelves are my constant reminders of happy and sad and exciting moments, and great fun, and more importantly, great friends.

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