Made of Stronger Stuff

What a drag this pandemic is… Heading into another lockdown here in London as the infection rate and daily death toll have been steadily climbing over recent weeks. It’s less daunting this time around and from what I can tell less of a panic too, and I suppose we are OK with it as we know from last time around we can be cooped up together 24/7 without being overcome with an urge to throttle each other. And the routines are sort of familiar too – head out once per day to exercise and other than that just pop to the supermarket to get food.

What it does cut off is seeing friends and my placement sessions will now be done via Zoom, which I’m not a huge fan of as I much prefer seeing my clients face to face, but I guess it’ll have to work. Over video call just isn’t as natural as in person for obvious reasons, but it’s also less comfortable to just let the silence sit there for a while as you end up wondering if the wifi connection has frozen. You there? Can you hear me? Just checking? Not the best but it’ll have to work.

As for my recovery, I’m just ticking along nicely at 1,016 days (just checked my app!) and as I suspect is pretty normal it isn’t something I think about that often. These days it’s just my normal and when the 23rd of each month passes I often don’t even notice. Having said that, I never want to lose sight of how precious my sobriety is and how much it has changed my life, so whilst I may not be so acutely aware of which month milestone I might be at, I still feel immense gratitude at the simplest little things. Like the gift of waking up feeling well and not regretting yesterday.

It’s a good place to be.

The counselling course does take it out of me and it’s been nice to have had a little break for half term last week. Now for another six week stretch until Christmas.

Up until the last session almost two weeks ago, I was feeling really happy about seemingly conquering my fears little by little, but then there was suddenly what felt to me like a huge set back. The session was around suicidality. Whilst the subject itself is incredibly difficult and I knew it’d be a hard session – many people have had difficult experiences and it was bound to get emotional and triggering – I was also really looking forward to it as there is so much to learn. Personally, I have not been affected directly by suicide – I haven’t had those dark thoughts myself, nor have I lost anyone close to me in that way – so I wasn’t worried in that sense. I think mostly I was feeling quite conscious of wanting to really think over anything I shared in case it’d seem clumsy, ignorant or insensitive. But no, I wasn’t fretting going into the session.

Our tutor read out a story one of her clients had written about a moment when they had made up their mind to go ahead and take their own life but changed their mind. Of course it was a really difficult thing to listen to, the words of someone who felt so cut off from the world and hopeless. When we were sharing thoughts afterwards, I had something to say. Nothing controversial, nothing too personal and nothing that’d leave me vulnerable. Yet, when I raised my hand and the tutor called out the order of us – three of us had our hands up and so she normally notes down who wants to say something and decides who speaks first, second, etc in order for the session to flow and we don’t talk over each other. I was third. And the moment the first person started talking, there is was – my racing heart.

It came out of nowhere and oh my God, it was there with a vengeance. By the time the second person was winding down their bit, my heart was hammering so hard I found it difficult to breathe. It was the worst it’s been for over a year and it really confused me. When it got to me, I somehow managed to say what was on my mind but had to cut it short because it got so bad and I was shaking so much. My temples started to tingle and I was starting to get tunnel vision, like I do when I’m about to faint. What in God’s name?!

All I can do is soldier on. I feel upset that my brain’s alarm system is still sometimes out of whack and it did feel like a huge set back, given I’ve over the past months have felt so happy that I seemed to be getting over this crippling fear of speaking up, but maybe it’s just the Universe telling me not to be so cocky and remain a bit mindful that there is still so much work to be done. Who knows. I won’t let it stop me, but I won’t deny it has really shaken me and created a tonne of new anxiety around whether I’ll be able to do all this. Before this episode, with a couple of presentations that both went really well under my belt, I was actually feeling really hopeful, and this sort of knocked all of that confidence quite a lot.

Well. No running away. No wriggling out of things. The only way is forward and I suppose I will just have to trust that I’m made of stronger stuff than my brain wants me to believe. Again. Fuck you, panic. Have me under siege all you like, I’ll keep going even if it’s the last thing I do. Even if I do end up fainting, I’ll keep going.

Today I’m not going to drink.

10 thoughts on “Made of Stronger Stuff

    1. Yes. Yes, I do. Can you go in and I’ll follow closely behind for a while? Eek. And our NZ trip obviously won’t happen, waiting for a refund and it broke my heart when we told the in-laws, having to tell them we were taking the boys and now the magic of that is gone for the time being.. So depressing. By the time you and I get to meet, we’ll be four or five years sober!! Jeez, I’m feeling so booooooooo. xxxx

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  1. Hug
    I wish I knew the answer. My own anxiety appears out of no where and also brings that fear with it. Then is dissolves for a while.
    Deep breaths. Maybe some clary sage.

    Anne

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  2. I got this in grad school during a presentation (after a night out drinking), and it has just gotten worse and worse over, um, yes, the past 14 years. I finally got an rx last year (it’s called propranolol) in order to give a presentation at work, and it was game-changing…for that moment–as in, it is something I would rely on to give presentations, but not something I would take regularly (though, I have taken it once for a silly personal presentation on a Zoom call, that’s how bad I am with this stage fright crap!). Anyway, when I brought it all up to the psychologist I was seeing, he was like, it’s a form of PTSD, or something like that. That’s what it feels like to me, a totally physical, uncontrollable reaction that I just cannot seem to conquer. It has been crippling, and I have felt judged more than once on my character (no one gets that this is a powerful PTSD-like reaction, not personality flaw…), usually by “big boss types at work… Sounds like you’ve gotten yours tamed, though? Good job on all your stuff going on past few months, esp. during COVID!

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    1. My son was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago, something that was undiagnosed for such a long time that he self medicated with alcohol and the rest. He’s not out of the woods yet and is still waiting for the elusive mental health referral (which is not happening due to covid) but I know exactly what you’re saying about judgement. Good luck to you!

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    2. You have literally described me here, to every last detail. And yes, I have the same medication on prescription for occasional use when it might otherwise topple me! It does remove the racing heart and severe physical symptoms and this morning (I’m logging on to class in 10 minutes!) I have taken it to avoid a repeat episode. There is still much to conquer but propranolol does help a lot in the meantime – something my doctor went through carefully with me as she knows my history and I just CANNOT take anything that might get me trapped again in another cycle of addiction. When you say game changer I can only agree – it’s made a bigger difference than I can begin to describe. (And no, last time I hadn’t taken it and got over powered unexpectedly – I’ve only taken it on very few occasions, like you describe for times when I’ve known there’ll be presentations or the other bits I really struggle with). THANK YOU. xxx

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  3. I’m so proud of you though! Even though I’ve not experienced that personally, I have been witness to the varying degrees of anxieties that all 3 of my kids have. It helps me understand them a little better. YOU help me, Anna. Thank you.

    We’re in a different position up here in my part of Scotland. The central belt has much stricter restrictions right now and any new cases, or deaths from covid have been confined to the South. That doesn’t mean were blasé here, but it does feel like were in a safer bubble of sorts. I’ve been longing to travel but when the opportunity arose to take a wee trip, I didnt take it. I made all sorts of excuses but I didn’t do a thing about it in the end. It was confusing to me, as I’ve always jumped at every opportunity to travel. Instead, I sat here day in, day out, and suddenly I realised that I felt sad! Not to simplify this (but because this is YOUR blog and not mine!!) I gave myself a good old telling to.

    It’s been 12 years since I weaned myself off my antidepressants. I had worked hard to get to that point, have worked hard SINCE then to get better…and no damned pandemic was going to put me back in that black hole. It’s obviously not as easy as that, but it kinda IS for me. I refuse to go back there. I have far more important things to do now.

    And that’s what I ‘hear’ in your words. It’s strength and I’ve known that about you and been as proud of you since the first day I read what you had to say. You inspire me always. ❤💙

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  4. You did it! you spoke up 🙂 and that’s amazing, even if it’s not very pleasant yet (believe me, I know the feeling!). I love that you put your hand up first, and then started to feel nervous: the part of you that wanted to sat something was leading in that moment 🙂 Every time you manage to do this and “survive” (as you did here), your brain will learn that it’s ok and safe and you are not in danger of undergoing complete annihilation, and it will get easier 🙂 ❤ xxxx big hugs xxx Anne

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