It’s currently 2am and I am in the midst of an anxiety meltdown. It’s times like this where I lay awake for hours searching my issues in the internet, desperately trying to seek validation or for someone to tell me everything will be okay.
For those who don’t know what anxiety is or question if they have it or are just going crazy, the best way I can explain it is an all consuming fear that can grip you at any moment. Your thoughts may be completely irrational to someone else, but to you those thoughts flood your every waking moment to the point you wonder if you truly are going insane.
I’ve been an anxious person for a long time. I don’t know the exact cause but I know I was a quietly anxious child. By quietly I mean I would hide my anxieties as these originated as a form of empathy for others, part of that was keeping my emotions are secret so I wouldn’t worry anyone else. As a child I believe these anxieties amassed themselves into bouts of misophonia, the hatred of certain sounds. ‘Misophonia is a disorder in which certain sounds trigger emotional or physiological responses that some might perceive as unreasonable given the circumstance. Those who have misophonia might describe it as when a sound “drives you crazy.” Their reactions can range from anger and annoyance to panic and the need to flee.’
I never recognised this anger (usually the sound of people eating) was caused by anxiety, until I became an adult and I realised that when I was happiest, I could tolerate being in the same room as someone who was eating, and when I was at my most anxious, I would pull my hair out and scream at the smallest of crunches. For years my anxieties improved, until I began a job in which a lot of things could go wrong. Being a travel consultant was always my dream, and for the first three months I adored it, I woke up excited to go to work. Then a new member of the team joined who was a narcissist and a compulsive liar, he also loved to make me feel like crap. It was as if every waking moment of his working life he would want to put me down, belittle me and call me out on issues that could happen to anyone. He started contacting me on my days off and in the evenings, telling me I was in trouble, that I had made a mistake at work and there would be repercussions the next day. He would force me to call clients to apologise, he would tell me my customers were coming in to see me as they were unhappy with me. The thing is, it was all a lie… I specifically remember one night being so riddled with worry I didn’t sleep a wink. I had made a small error on a booking that was easily fixable and this colleague told me I had ruined his day, that he spent all day fixing my problems and I would have to spend the next day doing all his work to make up for it. He also told me the customer would be coming in to speak to me and he was ‘very unhappy’, I remember crying in the toilets that morning dreading going to my desk. Yet when the client arrived and I was fully braced to have him scream in my face, he produced a box of chocolates, thanking me for arranging his holiday and he was excited to go. There was no anger, my colleague made it all up, he then proceeded to take the box of chocolates away from me and said he deserved them more.
This led to the worst anxiety of my life. I used to get the train to work but had to stop and drive instead because every morning I would imagine throwing myself in front of the train. I couldn’t do that to my parents or the train driver, but it was a recurring thought. Work became hell, having to sit and listen to his lies, listen to him badmouth me to customers and colleagues when in reality, I was picking up his own slack where he was outright rude to customers and refused to do the work. I ended up quitting with no work to go to, I knew I had to put my mental health before work so I did, and it paid off.
The last few years (I quit almost four years ago) have been a rollercoaster. Whilst the anxiety eased, it was always there, laying dormant like a volcano, ready to be triggered at any moment. Even four years later there are times I want to call up the CEO of the company and scream at him down the phone , ‘how could you let this happen to one of your employees?!’. In fact, it wasn’t one, it was a whole team, we all ended up leaving.
I kept myself busy the last few years with travel and new job opportunities. A new marriage, watching my nieces and nephews grow, spending time with family and also making new friends. All that kept me sane, then I got a dog…
Let me start of by saying I don’t regret getting a dog, in fact, he is my pride and joy, my whole world. But the issue is I now seem to worry about Baxter, all day, and all night. He is so precious to me that I live in a constant state of paranoia that something might go wrong, that he might be sad, be hungry, be anxious, be sick, all of the above. The reason why I’m awake right now is because my dog began crying just after 1am. My body is in tune with him the way a mother is in tune with her new born baby. He could make the quietest of whimpers and my mind is suddenly on full alert.
Baxter has always been a good sleeper, since the day we got him he has slept through the night. However, he has a grain intolerance and a sensitive tummy. There have been a handful of occasions when he has needed to poop in the night, and he has cried out for someone to let him outside, and that’s what happened tonight. So why am I awake over an hour later? Because even though I let him outside to do his business and he trotted back with a wagging tail, I am creating a whole host of scenarios in my head of why he needed the toilet in the night. Has he eaten something he’s allergic to? Is he sick? Has he got a blockage? Does he have anxiety? What is wrong with him?! Deep down I know he’s a dog, and just needed to poop, just like humans do sometimes, but the worry is uncontrollable.
The reason I’m writing this is to hopefully help at least one person who feels what I feel, and if they are up at 2 o’clock in the morning Googling whether they’re crazy or not, they will find this article, and know that they are not alone. The worst part is trying to explain yourself to someone who doesn’t understand and they tell you ‘worrying won’t fix anything’. Yep, that’s the last thing we want to hear, if we come to you with our worries, hold us and tell us you’re here for us, that’s what we need, to feel safe and secure.