Sadly, people have questioned how I can be baking and setting up BuBakes when I am “sick”, and I can only say that those people don’t understand the kind of “sick” that I am. That’s absolutely fine - I didn’t understand it before, and I still can’t fully get to grips with it now.
That’s exactly why I want to try to articulate some of what I experience. This isn't an attempt to preach, educate or self promote. It's simply a step for me, as I aim to do my bit to reduce the stigma around Mental Health.
I'll try to keep it succinct, relevant and clear, I hope this gives an insight into the ways anxiety has affected me over the past 12 months.
It's important to remember that anxiety is not one size fits all; people have different triggers, ways of coping and struggles. These don't always make sense, and cannot necessarily be pinpointed. I still can’t speak to someone I know on the phone without it becoming a real ordeal, yet I can go to a foreign country and speak to a sales assistant there. Go figure. The following is purely my experience; and while there are similarities between people, I would never profess to be speaking on behalf of all sufferers.
Here goes, some things that are 'going on in there'...
1. It’s exhausting just “being”.
My mind concocts 100 possible scenarios for every passing moment, and they all seem to need processing. It's like cramming for an exam, and trying to work through textbooks full of information, all the time.
Not just for a few hours, we are talking about every waking moment. No matter what.
2. When told not to worry about something, that isn’t actually an option.
Logically I may know it’s not worth worrying about, but that doesn’t change my feelings. Embellishing on this point - there is no logic. This is torture for someone who likes things to be black and white. Until now I've rarely dealt with grey, let alone a whole spectrum ranging from charcoal to silver, or mercury to light black.
An example of irrational worrying was recently when I was in Starbucks. I KNEW that when I chose to leave it was highly unlikely that I'd slip, trip over a bag, fall through the door, and get outside to find someone waiting for me with a gun - all as a pigeon shat on me. However, even though I knew this, I did not FEEL this.
The fear I had was gripping, as though it were a guaranteed series of events. Knowing and feeling are not connected for me at the moment. Frustratingly this means I KNOW they aren’t connected, but I can’t do anything with this knowledge to regulate my feelings.
3. While I'm great at playing Devils Advocate, please don’t assume I’m negative.
Yes I may not be able to stop myself rustling up many negative outcomes, but that doesn’t mean I'm a pessimist. In fact, I always try to be optimistic, and strive to help my friends see and achieve the positive. I am incredibly grateful for everything I have.
4. “Friendship” is so much more than a word. I'm floored by how amazing some people in my life are. I know that they don’t fully “get” what is going on with me, yet they love the “me” that is behind this confusion.
Recently in Vegas and I had a “bad day”. Even looking at our room door left me shaking and in tears. I was pretty freaked out myself, so I can only imagine how my friend felt. Not only was she faced with a crying incomprehensible wreck, but also she was on holiday and this inexplicable situation was stopping the two of us going out. This friend did the best thing possible - she just sat and held me, then she tucked me up and ventured downstairs to the shop to buy us snacks.
What she may never understand is that the real comfort for me was the knowledge that she didn’t expect or need an explanation. She just let me be.
With these people in my life, a new level of trust has been formed; when they say that it will be ok, I'm able to blindly believe it. I may be able to argue against them with examples and facts to the contrary of what they say (devils advocate striking again!), but with this select few I'm able to accept that they may be right.
5. Sometimes I am still a badass!
I’ve always been of the mindset “man up and get over it”, which I have discovered doesn’t mesh well with anxiety. It’s simply not possible. Really. It’s not. I tried – and I used to be so good at it! That said I do occasionally have moments when “Grrr Liz” strikes.
On Monday I went to a networking meeting for the first time. I. Was. Terrified.
Rather than try and put up a front, I tackled the meeting as myself - I opened up about my anxiety at the same time as introducing my business, and I found people accepting both of me and what I was doing. The support and inspiration I found was above anything I could have expected, I have received more messages of support and encouragement since the meeting, and I am delighted that I went.
When I left I was shaking, and I know that when I go to the next meeting I’ll be dreading it. This is because my anxiety will heighten. However, while I may always struggle in social situations, it doesn’t mean that I have to avoid them forever.
Accepting who I am and what my boundaries are is something I have struggled with before. The fact I'm learning to do so now is badass in itself.
Sadly I can go for a lovely meal with Mr. BuBakes, have a wonderful evening with him, and then go to bed and lay awake for hours wondering if it was all a smoke screen for the fact he actually hates who I am.
The only way I can think to explain this is to compare it to the morning after a heavy night. Imagine the following…
It’s 11.30am and you think you have got away with not feeling after effects. You’ve gone into town for a walk and a cuppa; and just as you get to your table with your coffee a wave of nausea sweeps over you. You have no choice but to concentrate solely on not being sick, and you can feel yourself starting to sweat. You know you're nodding blankly at the person talking to you, and all you can think is how to excuse yourself and whether you can make it home or not.
That feeling of “how on earth did I think I had got away with it” is similar to my thinking “how did I think I was going to have a good day that would last”. Although you know you will be ok again eventually (and you promise that you will never ever drink again!), you can’t feel in any part of your body or soul that the agony will end.
It must be a frustrating thing for those around me, and I'm often convinced that they MUST be bored of me and my bad days by now. It makes it very scary to tell someone if it is a “bad day”, just in case it is the last straw for him or her.
7. I don’t believe that people with an anxiety disorder deserve a pat on the back for having it.
It is not heroic to have a condition; what is amazing though, is seeing the ways in which people accept and work with what they have going on. Acknowledge limitations, but don’t allow an illness to limit your potential. Adjust your focus to accept factors in your life, and then keep going.
8. If someone with anxiety asks you for help, that’s a HUGE compliment.
In my case, not only am I ridiculously proud, stubborn and afraid of failure; but I fear that if I were to ask someone for help, they would feel obliged to help or listen to me. If someone has reached out to you then be proud – for someone to be that vulnerable with you (especially when they are doubting themselves so much), means you really are trusted.
9. Feeling anxious about something is not the same as having an anxiety disorder.
It’s natural to feel anxious about something bad that could happen, but it is not the same when you are anxious about multiple unlikely events at once, and all the time. The clue is in the word disorder.
I liken this to a moment you almost step into a road when you shouldn’t. You gasp as you narrowly miss being hit, and it’s like you actually feel your heart jump - everything seems heightened, and for a while you can't think of anything else. Gradually that feeling fades, and you go about your every day life. That gut wrenching feeling of "that was too close" is one I can spend days feeling, constantly.
10. This is not a choice, an easy way out, laziness or a way to get attention. It saddens and pains me to have to even point this out, but I do.
There are so many other things I could say, I do worry that I am boring you all though. If you know someone who is suffering from anxiety, this is not a be all and end all guide. However, please know that while you may not fully understand their situation, it doesn’t mean that you can’t help them deal with it. Perhaps seeing if any of these points ring true could be a way to open communication with them.
If you suffer from anxiety and you have any ways in which it affects you that you think others should be aware of, then do please share them if you feel happy to do so. My interest in the condition reaches far beyond my situation, and I would be honored if you would give me an insight into your battles.
Thanks for reading, take care everyone
BuBakes is committed to reducing the stigma attached to Mental Health, and personally donates 25p for every order received to MIND. This is kindly matched by two generous supporters, meaning a 75p donation is made per order. If you would like to find out more about MIND, or make a donation you can do so here.