One of the problems I have with anxiety is how tiring it becomes. Wearisome is probably a better word to describe it, and it is very difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t experience it on a daily basis.
That’s exactly what I was trying to do with my partner the other night. I’m a fairly eloquent person, but I just couldn’t articulate my point at all. It’s been plaguing my thoughts for a few days, trying to come up with some sort of analogy that would help me explain why some days (less frequently at the moment, I might add) I’m exhausted and want to hide away from the world.
The main thing for me is not the content of the things that I think about – everyone experiences anxious thoughts on a daily basis. It’s part of life, and there would be something very wrong with us if we didn’t have an emotional reaction to certain situations. We’ve all had that heart-racing, sweaty-palm moment before sitting a test, speaking in front of people or waiting on an important decision. That’s perfectly a-ok. Nope, those sorts of things I am completely fine with. It’s the sheer volume of thoughts that pass through my brain. There’s a meme that circulates on the internet about people who have thousands of browser tabs open:
It’s simultaneously funny and not at the same time. Because this is the source of my problems. When I have a thought, it’s like an exploded diagram of a car engine. I don’t ‘worry’ about the air filter, but I see how a busted air filter affects the other parts of the engine and also how it works together with the brake system, electrics and suspension to make the car work. This brings up more exploded diagrams of the aforementioned aspects. It snowballs, and I find myself battling to rationalize, organize and contain all the thoughts within my head. This all happens within a few minutes, sometimes seconds, and before I know where I am, I’ve scared the pants out of myself trying to juggle everything. On a bad day, that happens hundreds of times.
Here’s what happened the other morning:
Original thought – Oh, look at the time. I need to feed the cat before I start working in the office. Perfectly rational thought.
Brain – Okay. To feed the cat you need to go upstairs, so you might as well clean the litter tray out too. There’s washing that needs hung up as well, and the clothes-dryers are upstairs and it’s raining so you’ll need to dry them indoors which means you’ll have to put the heating on. How much heating oil is in the tank? You can check the gauge when you go through to the utility room to get the washing out the machine and the cat food out the cupboard. By the way, you’ll need to put the cat food can in the laundry basket so you have enough hands to carry everything and open the doors. But you can’t do that just yet because there is dry, clean washing in the basket already that needs folded and put away – it’s bed clothes, but you only washed the duvet and pillow cases so the bottom sheet should really be in the next load you decide to put in. Perhaps you should go and get that first before you go to the utility room, and it means you can put it in the machine while you are there anyway. The bed’s going to need changed in a few days, so best do it soon, especially as the weather forecast isn’t great, and those are big sheets to dry inside, aren’t they? Plus, you are going to have to do the bedclothes for the guest room because you’ll have people staying shortly and the room needs to be ready, so get a move on with the rest of the dirty washing. You also need to dust that spare room as well before your guests come and you’ll need to hoover the room just before they arrive because you’ll need to move the cat downstairs into the office and there will be cat litter on the carpet…
You get the picture. This extended out further to encompass James going to get a new suit for a funeral and what my 10k time might be on race day. All of this went on in my head in less than ten seconds. Even typing it out has made my heart race. It’s easy to see why sometimes I feel overwhelmed, unsettled and knackered, and that’s what anxiety is for me. It’s not because I’m a ‘worrier’. It’s because I’m exhausted coping with all the things my mind throws at me.