Ok so again apologies I haven’t written in a while. I have a block sometimes, well a lot recently so it’s difficult but that’s for another post. I have a few I want to share so will at some point soon.
This post is about anticipatory anxiety. In my case anxiety about anxiety. Ahh!! I get anxious thinking about ‘what if I get anxious’ and it’s horrible. The main trigger for this is Christmas. This Christmas to be exact. A year ago I was pre post partum anxiety and still in my ‘everything is amazing bubble’. I had no idea what would happen last Christmas. Christmas was my favourite time of year, I absolutely loved that time of year. All of it. The tree, the lights, snuggling up, the Christmas markets, the crispness of the winter air, the decorations, the traditions, just all of it (except mince pies and Christmas pudding. I don’t like those which my husband still can’t believe ha!) but everything else I love. I would feel so warm and humbled by Christmas and what it meant to me and my family. But now it’s different. Now that I am post my post partum anxiety it’s changed. Now I feel anxious, on edge, it feels unknown this year. When I’m cooking a roast dinner it reminds me of making Christmas Day dinner which last year I couldn’t do. When I see photos from this time last year it reminds me of how happy and excited I felt on the lead up to Christmas which I don’t feel this year. When I see the decorations box in the cupboard it reminds me it will soon be time to put them all up and I can’t avoid that.
I now can’t hide from it. It’s going to be happening. Christmas will happen and I will have to face all those what ifs. ‘What if I have another breakdown’, ‘what if I’m crippled by OCD again’, ‘what if I can’t cope’, ‘what if I have to go through what I did last year’. I can already feel the pull to avoid, to reassurance seek, to ruminate. Already I feel the dread, the doubt and anxiety bubbling away.
It’s scary. It feels like I might not handle it. It feels like Christmas means somehow I’m doomed to break again. It feels like I’m on a countdown to something super scary and difficult.
And you know what? It’s ok. I know I’m allowed to feel like that. I know most people would feel like I do. I know most people would be anxious on the lead up to a time where previously they found it immensely difficult. I know it’s ok to be scared and worried.
So what can I do? I could sit and stew on these feelings. I could let it consume me. I could let it push me into compulsions. I could delay getting our Christmas tree, I could delay putting the decorations up, I could ask my husband for reassurance (I do feel quite anxious even writing about these things because I do feel like if I avoid everything I can then it will help even though I know ultimately it will feed my OCD). I could do all the things to try to get rid of the anxiety right now but I’m not going to. Well I’m going to try to not to. I’m not perfect. I’m human so I’m not going to be too hard on myself if I do carry out a compulsion here and there but I’m going to try my best not to.
So my plan. My way to cope will be to “face the fear and do it anyway”. I’m going to get our tree this weekend. I’m going to put up the decorations. I’m going to carry on. I’m going to do all our traditions. I’m going to do them even when the anxiety really ramps up. I’m going to keep going when OCD and anxiety tells me the only way to cope is to with draw from life and hide away and that I won’t cope. I’m going to carry on and not fall into compulsions. I’m not going to withdraw. I’m going to reach out to my closest friends. I have three friends that I lean on often. They are my absolute soul sisters. I will reach out to family and tell them when I’m struggling. I will ask to visit them even when I’m anxious. Especially my sister. I will tell her when I’m struggling and ask to see her so maybe we can go for a walk or I can just spend the day at hers watching Goldie Hawn films. She gets it. I will go for walks, practice mindfulness. I will carry on because I know through it all I can do this.
I can do this. I have the most powerful tools against OCD and GAD now. I have knowledge and support. I have a backstage pass to the secrets behind OCD’s tricks. I know how they all work and even though sometimes I’m still fooled, I will remember I’ve seen all these tricks before. I know what doing compulsions does to my anxiety and I know how to manage that. I know what unhelpful thought processes make it worse, I know how useful mindfulness is and I know I’ve got through it before so should it happen again, I know I’ll get through it again.
Do I know it all? Heck no. I’m still learning everyday for sure but I know enough to keep my head above the water. I have support. I know where to reach out if I’m struggling, I know I can be open to those closest to me and I know there are millions of others struggling with the exact same battles that I am. I am now part of the communities online that offer me huge defence against OCD and anxiety.
I’m the defence castle on top of the hill ready for battle. I’m prepared. I’m not perfect, I know a wall here and there may crumble but I will still stand. I have learned I have a fight in me, a resilience that before last Christmas I didn’t know I had. I have the gift of hindsight. I know the red flags to look for when anxiety is getting too unmanageable and even if I miss a red flag here and there it’s ok. It’s all ok and all will be fine because I know, the bottom line, however my anxiety is going to go or however I’m feeling or going to feel in anticipation of this Christmas, I’ve got this. And worse case if I drop a ball here and there I know my closest friends, family, the online community and any professionals I reach out to will help carry me through as well until I find my feet again and that’s ok too.