I have been meaning to write this for some time now. Since Bell Let’s Talk day, in fact. But that day, I had a really bad day, mentally, I mean. That week I had come in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, and had to get tested, and quarantine for 14 days. Waiting on the test results was nerve-wracking, and my anxiety sent my brain to all of the worst-case-scenario situations. The test came back negative, but the quarantine was still in full effect. I know it’s Valentine’s Day and this may be heavy, but I am practising some self-love with some honest writing, to help myself and perhaps others <3 Also, I am writing this at 3 am, #becauseanxiety, and the words come when they come.
Having anxiety is hard on the very best of days. My brain can turn something simple, something that isn’t a big deal, into something huge and daunting and scary. Having anxiety during a pandemic is harder, because there are so many worst-case-scenarios presented to you by the media, friends, and family, and you’d think that I couldn’t make these any worse. But when I get inside my own head it’s a downward spiral…a maze that I feel like I cannot escape and a competition with my thoughts that I can never win.
Before being diagnosed with anxiety, I always thought I was “crazy”. I have bouts of uncontrollable crying – things make me cry more than most people. I have cried in public on several occasions, I cry as a response to any extreme emotion I have, whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger, anything. This makes communication hard for me, and I always thought that I just couldn’t handle my emotions, or that I was being a baby. My diagnosis was very powerful, because it provided me with a starting to point to figure out how to deal with how I was feeling, and why I was feeling that way, and why my reactions happened.
Another powerful diagnosis I received was when I was told I had PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. This diagnosis also helped me understand why I was feeling what I was feeling when I was feeling it – my hormones were out of whack often, which could then show up as me being an emotional wreck. In fact, according to several peer-reviewed studies, women with PCOS have a greater risk of experiencing psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. While this may not strike you as good news, it made me feel better because not only did I discover that I was not alone in the way I was feeling, but that this emotional rollercoaster I was on wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t just some crazy, crying girl.
Speaking of crazy, crying girls, let’s talk about booze. Alcohol and anxiety can be a vicious cycle. Sometimes you drink because it’s the only thing that calms the brain and helps the anxiety go away. But then the next day comes, and the hangxiety is real. So, do you drink again to calm the brain and risk a continuous pattern of drinking to feel better and then feeling worse and then drinking again to feel better only to feel even worse etc etc etc? And let’s not forget that booze is a depressant all on its own, so it doesn’t need your permission, your help or your anxiety to make you feel down.
And I won’t lie to you…breaking this cycle has been hard to say the least during this pandemic. I float in and out of it sometimes. I dance on the edge of sanity some days. I am happy many days. I wonder if it’s my brain tricking me, whether the happiness is real. Having to quarantine for fourteen days has been really hard on me. I do the usual “look at the bright side” self-talk; it could be worse, I don’t have Covid, it’s not that bad, others have it way harder. Trying to downplay my emotions and not giving myself permission to feel how I feel. But sometimes I give in and let myself feel how I am feeling; isolated, alone, anxious, and absolutely bursting at the seams with tears I am afraid to cry. I am the type of person that thrives off of the energy of others. A lockdown is hard, a stay-at-home order is harder, and these 14 days of quarantine have been some of the hardest days mentally of my entire life. I am almost scared to write that because I honestly and, in all reality, do not have it bad. I feel guilty for even having these feelings, and the guilt causes anxiety about those feelings.
These last few days I have found myself without motivation to do the things I know make my anxiety manageable – exercise, eating foods that make my body feel good and function well, reading, meditating, writing. Instead, I find myself in that cycle, the only thing I am motivated to do is have some wine, which I know is a crutch, that self-medicating with booze is so self-destructive, and yet it briefly feels good, and I am longing to feel good, even if briefly. I have definitely been in the throes of a drinking problem in my past, and I am scared enough of going there again that this cycle will only last a couple of days before I shake myself out of it and go back to the positive self-care that I know I need. So, I guess I am lucky in that regard, because there are many that cannot get out of the cycle. If you are one or know one of these people, please reach out to them and/or reach out for help.
This brings me to the here and now; Valentine’s Day, and also my 9 year anniversary with my favourite human. And I am exhausted from fighting and lack of sleep. Yesterday was particularly bad for me, being the morning after the third day in a row of having too much to drink. My anxiety was high going into it, and was so much worse yesterday after using what I know is the absolute worst coping mechanism for me. My boyfriend was trying to tell me that I would be sorry for drinking, that I know it heightens my anxiety, that I have that choice. And I was telling him that I know this, but just felt so desperate in those moments that self-sabotage was easier than logic. He’s very logical. I am very emotional. And a vicious cycle of our own began, each wanting to be heard and understood and feeling that the other isn’t listening or understanding. Communication is challenging with anxiety, because I often fall short of truly capturing what I am feeling and thinking, and I don’t think I can ever convey what it’s like to be a prisoner of my own thoughts. Today we talked more rationally, as we always do, and laid the argument to rest. I definitely can be my own worst enemy in thought and action, and struggling through the bad days to get to the good ones sometimes seems inevitable. For me there are more good days than bad, despite the pandemic and our current state of lockdown; it was the quarantine, the crippling state of not being able to walk out the front door, that got me good. There is a lesson in patience and perspective in this that I am working through as well, for myself and for others.
I write this for several reasons, one of which being that writing is therapeutic practice for me, to help me express my feelings effectively because doing so through a waterfall of tears doesn’t always get the right words across. Also, because I want women with PCOS to know they are not alone in their feelings. Heck, I want all women in this pandemic to know they are not alone in their feelings, and that, even if you don’t have it that bad, it’s ok to feel your feels. It’s actually really important to allow yourself these feelings because healing and happiness are often on the other side of working through the hard emotions that we tend to set aside, especially as women, because we are supposed to have it together always. And while sometimes feeling these feels means there will be wine, perhaps next time reach for a water. Make it fancy with bubbles and fruit and a bougie glass if you like, but know that it’s easier and more effective to find and deal with your feelings with a clear head vs a boozy haze. Your brain, your body, and most likely your relationships will thank you.