Are the words I say to anyone either coming up to visit us or leaving our house to go home. “Be careful” I say to Joe every time he leaves to drive somewhere. It’s especially bad when it comes to cars, my anxiety. Every time anyone goes to visit my younger brother who lives a couple of hours away I have a knot in my tummy until they tell me they’ve arrived safely. Making plans fills me with confusing emotions as I want to go out, I want to meet up with people, but at the same time I always get these thoughts in my head- what if something happens. Maybe it’s safer to just stay at home.
Every day that we have as a family we get the same problem, we try to decide what to do with the day, but I’m so reluctant to make the decision to go out somewhere in the car as then it’s “my fault” if something happens. The constant news stories on Facebook about crashes and accidents fuel my fear, and I can’t get them out of my head for days, weeks, or ever.
OCD- Magic Thinking
I’ve always been an anxious person. When I was younger I suffered from OCD. I did “magic thinking” where I told myself that if I switched on a light switch a certain amount of times, or touched a certain surface it would somehow protect my family from harm. I knew in my logical mind that it was ridiculous but nevertheless I did it “just in case”. At the time I didn’t know it was called OCD and just thought I was crazy!
I always worried that this fear of something happening to loved ones would become overwhelming when I had children. When I had Lily I was filled with the maternal urge to protect her with every fibre of my being. She was so small and looked so fragile, I would do anything for my baby girl. My anxiety started to rear its head again, I was petrified of cot death, and would watch her breathing when she was asleep. I also became obsessed with cleanliness, washing my hands again and again to keep germs away from my newborn. It all sounds ridiculous and in my head I knew I was being over the top but I couldn’t stop myself. My hands became sore and broken and yet still I washed.
At one of Lily’s newborn checks the health visitor asked me questions to establish how I was coping mentally. It flagged up that I had post-natal anxiety, yet nothing was done about it. No doctors referral or advice. I think she saw that I was coping OK regardless of the anxiety so didn’t do anything. Still, people can put on a front and I feel that this could have been followed up. At times I felt like I couldn’t control my worries and felt extremely overwhelmed. As Lily got bigger and stronger my anxiety slightly eased, I still felt anxious and worried about her health or development but it was much more manageable. I even started driving my mum’s car as she wasn’t using it. I started to feel like a “proper grown up” driving us places like baby groups and to see friends.
That was until November. I haven’t written about this until now, honestly because I haven’t been able to face putting the words down. I was driving Lily, Joe and my Mum home from my Dad’s house when we had a car accident. It was all a blur and I won’t go in to details because I still just can’t. It was a bad enough crash for the dual carriageway to be closed for a few hours and we had all emergency vehicles on the scene, although by some miracle nobody was seriously injured.
Well, not physically anyway. I have felt horrendous mentally ever since. It triggered my anxiety in a massive way, and my worries about driving have now been amplified to the point where I feel ill at the thought of driving again. Even writing this triggers my mind to have flash backs. I’ve been having Cognitive Behaviour Therapy since the accident to try and get my head back to a less anxious state. I do think it has helped somewhat, but still I feel very nervous about driving.
Since the accident I have been gradually building up to driving again, it started with being a passenger for short journeys with Joe driving, or going on a bus. And has built up so that we have gone on a few longer journeys. We had a massive step forward the other day as I offered to drive Joe to a doctors appointment he was running late for. He acted like it was normal so as not to make a big deal out of it, and in the end he needed to drive himself so he could go on to work after but still, I did offer, which is a long way from never driving again- which is what I kept saying for a long time after the crash.
I think I’m just naturally an anxious person anyway, I try to fake it and not act worried but inside my head is working overtime worrying and obsessing. I worry about worrying!! And I really really don’t want to pass on my anxiety issues to Lily. So far she seems like such a strong confident little thing, and I see Joe in her in that way. I want her to be so happy in life, and sometimes the anxiety I feel does stop me from fully enjoying life in the moment, as I’m always worrying about the next step.
Friends and coworkers will tell you I’m a “bubbly, happy smiley girl” and I am, and I do feel happy. I’m very lucky to have a wonderful family and good friends. But I often disguise my true emotions because I feel like people don’t want to know when I’m feeling bad, I don’t want to be a “Debbie downer”. To bring their mood down.
I’m trying to talk more openly, at least to my family and close friends about how I’m feeling, as it really does help. Sometimes speaking to someone who has a logical straight forward mind, like my other half, can really help to just switch my thinking from anxious to positive. I feel like I got to a point in my blog where maybe I should let you see that I’m not all smiles all the time, I have anxiety and I’m dealing with it, and it’s OK to talk about it.
Have you ever experienced anxiety or are you right now? It seems to be a modern age pandemic, whether it’s down to work stresses, spreading ourselves too thin, or maybe we are just naturally anxious people now. Would love to hear your thoughts/experiences in the comments.