A few years ago, before mental illness fully struck, I would not have understood how someone could live every day and every night with anxiety. I would not have understood how simply rocking could be a relief. I would not have understood that feeling in the pit of my stomach. How, when the anxiety grows, that feeling creeps upward, pushing under my ribs and strangling my lungs, leaving me gasping and panicking. But that was then.
I’ve finally got a medication routine that seems to be helping. I no longer look at high places and think of death. I no longer pause before grabbing a knife to chop veggies. But that doesn’t mean I’ve gone back to normal. Normal doesn’t exist anymore.
These days I go to two very different community groups. Both are two hours long. The first group is social recreation. We make crafts, go bowling, watch movies, play board games, and simply talk. The second group, called Wellness, does something new each week as well. We’ve gone Nordic pole walking, done yoga, learned about finances, learned how to knit *cough* I mean other people learned how to knit, and baked cookies.
My social rec group is very small and easy for me to manage. I enjoy the Wellness group too but, when it’s crowded, it is hard for me to cope. I’ve had one panic attack in that group and the staff and other students were very helpful. I worked past it fairly quickly and was able to rejoin the group before it was over.
I also have people from the Canadian Mental Health Association coming in every other week now. They help with paperwork and will be there for moral support if I need to make a phone call but they’re mostly there for social interaction and to fuss over my kitties, who absolutely adore the attention.
And, finally, I’ve got friends who go out for karaoke with me once a month. They found a bar and it’s perfect for me. I think the highest number of customers I’ve seen (minus us) was six people. I don’t know how the bar stays in business, hopefully they have a good lunch crowd. But it’s something to look forward to.
I walk a fine balance between looking forward to things in my future and overwhelming myself with the sheer amount of days. I pick one or two for certain things and hold onto them as an anchor, proof that the future is coming and will be fine. And it’s not even just the far distant future. I’ve overwhelmed myself by planning dinner because it’s four hours away and what am I going to do with myself until then. There’s too much space to hold on to. That’s the difference between a good day and a bad day.
Some days are great. I chat with Kait, wash the dishes, make a meal for lunch, go grocery shopping, and make something simple for dinner. Other days, the best I can manage is scrolling through Facebook and messaging friends. Getting dressed is too hard, preparing meals is even harder, and there’s no way I’m getting out the door, except maybe in case of fire. Most days are in between. I might stay in my cupcake onsie pjs all day but make a kick ass dinner. I might go out grocery shopping but have an english muffin for dinner. As many people know, it’s all about the spoons.
I’m registered for a new group called Lead your Life. It’s only from early April to the beginning of June and I’m already low key concerned because it’s 2 1/2 hours and I find two hour groups a bit long. I know I’ll manage and I know the group will be great but the anxiety is still there.
I sometimes think about going back to work only, once again, to realize that’s out of the question. If I can’t manage attending a group for longer than two hours, there’s no way I could manage eight hour shifts. I would not be able to get away from loud noise or crowds. If I got anxious, the best I could do is take an Ativan tablet, something my previous manager joked about as in “Kathleen’s going to get high again”. There wouldn’t be an option for going home or going to a quiet corner. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to break my work into manageable pieces with plenty of short breaks in between. I’m reasonably sure I’d have another break down if I went back to work, something nobody wants… especially me.
Right now I’m sitting in my warm room, kitties curled up in various locations, and Facebook open and ready for me to chat. I’ve got enough spoons to make a decent spaghetti for dinner tonight. And for now, I’ll stay content and leave the future ahead of me.