By Caitriona McMahon @
I spoke recently about my first day trip to Dublin since developing acute anxiety disorder, labeling my experience ‘Mission Impossible,’ and I revealed the contents of my backpack and how it helped me through that particular situation.
I received so many kind messages and words of encouragement after I spoke about my experience on Irelandtodaynews.com.
What many people didn’t know was that on the way home the bus actually broke down. Yikes. And while that may not seem a big deal to most people, it was a huge issue to someone suffering anxiety.
But guess what, I survived it and so I am here to tell another tale. Mine is a story of trying to leave the house while being held back by obsessive anxiety thoughts, as if they were a bungee cord around my waist.
If I could ask you for a brief second to imagine: You need to leave the house but every time you go to close the front door a sense of dread pumps through your veins.
The type of dread that freezes you to the spot as you envisage the very worst happening.
Thoughts like “That’s it, the house will be burnt down when I come back, the washing machine will leak and drown the dog. Did I unplug the straightner? Maybe I’ll check one more time just to be sure…”
Sometime later you’re still stuck in that same vicious cycle of self doubt staring at the same empty socket convincing yourself your eyes are not lying and it is actually unplugged.
The frustration becomes overwhelming and the sense of doom, suffocating.
Depending on the level of anxiety some days it can take up to 20 minutes to leave the drive without turning back to check the cooker is off once more.
The secret for me is that even though it may take two or three routine checks, I try not to put myself down over it.
Instead I say just like with the backpack, this is what I need in order to manage today and that’s okay.
It’s like my personal affirmation especially when I see chocolate on offer. “Whatever I need to manage today is okay.”
We often hear the phrase “That made me second guess myself”. Well, can you imagine what repeatedly doubting yourself is like day-in-day out. Not trusting yourself at all?
Imagine not being able to trust what your eyes are telling you is right. Sometimes I can see the funny side and laugh. Other times the wall or the door gets the brunt of a swift kick in frustration.
If visitors are in the house, I try to do all my routine checks without being noticed and this makes the anxiety worse. It can feel embarrassing but now I’ve learnt to say I just have to check a few bits to put my mind at ease.
The most frightening aspect for me is the fear of the next anxious thought and the emotions that follow. Or the possibility of a thought entering my head and my doubting the entire routine check, which could have included checking up to 20 items.
Anyone that has anxiety will know what it’s like to be anxious about becoming anxious. At first it was very confusing and to be honest I felt odd. I felt strange and as though this was only happening to me. But now I know this to be untrue. I am not alone at all.
Now I know that for every tap I twist multiple times that someone not far away in another house is doing the same.
And maybe it’s not checking items for you or someone you know. Perhaps it’s overwashing your hands, obsessively cleaning, the list is endless.
If you suffer with obsessive thoughts it’s important you know you are not the only one. Various coping mechanisms are out there to help, including cognitive behavioural therapy.
There are a huge range of services and supports out there to help you. You simply just have to ask.
The cycle of negative thoughts can be broken and a new one created by you!