Honesty And Anxiety

Honesty And Anxiety

Lately, my anxiety has been… bad.

I thought I was doing better, that I was learning to manage it and cope and get through. During the summer, I had some seriously anxious periods, including while travelling, but they were generally triggered by specific events or environments, so they seemed more logical than some of my other anxiety. And, while they weren’t fun, I mostly got through them without too much difficulty.

So I thought I was in a good position to start the new year at Cambridge, that I’d have the confidence and experience to get through anxious periods and get my work done.

I was wrong.

I’ve been back in Cambridge for just under three weeks, and honestly, my mental health has plummeted somewhat. The last two Wednesdays, I’ve had essays due, and have ended up taking anxiety naps all afternoon instead — that is to say, hiding in bed rather than doing work because I’m too overwhelmed to think. Last week, I managed to get a really detailed plan written, which made up for the failure to write an essay, but this ewek, I didn’t put a single word on paper. I couldn’t. It felt like my brain was screaming every time I tried.

I like that this contents page invites comparison between ‘the future tense’ and ‘the tragic death’ because that’s basically how I feel about Irish.

Yesterday was my first properly unproductive day, actually. I talked about usually managing three or four hours of work, but yesterday the only one I managed was my seminar in the morning, and even there I kept spacing out and losing the thread of what we were talking about — I don’t think I contributed in a particularly meaningful way, and I also failed to do any work independently after coming back.

I’ve been hiding in books and TV shows, which have gradually shifted from being the thing I reward myself with when I’ve done work to the thing I do instead of work because it’s all I can face doing at that moment. Yesterday I kept having panic attacks, and the only time I managed to be calm for a couple of hours was while I was reading, because it distracted me from the inside of my own brain.

I feel better when I’ve danced or done other exercise, but I can’t practice too often for fear of annoying my flatmates and the people who live directly above me, and I’ve had quite a lot of bad pain days (mostly the aftermath of teaching beginners at our taster sessions), which has also limited my options for working out my anxieties in a physical way.

Because of all the dance I was doing at home, I lost some weight without really meaning to — and ended up feeling so much better about myself as a result. I don’t think I realised how insecure I was about my body until that moment. But that’s translated into paranoia now that I’m not dancing quite so much, in case I put it back on again, and I’ve ended up developing unhealthy thought patterns towards food and exercise which I know I need to stop in their tracks before they get any worse, but I don’t really know how to do that.

Pan Solo enables me to make fried eggs that are actually round despite being a rubbish cook, at least.

I’m a mess.

When I arrived in Cambridge I filled in a form for an appointment with the University Counselling Service, and I’ve been given an appointment next week, but I’m actually in a way worse place now than I was when I filled it in, and if I were doing it now I’d change some of my answers. (Particularly the one about issues with food. I didn’t think I had them. Apparently I do.) Cambridge has short, intense terms in which everything moves at a rapid pace, heightening every experience — including mental health problems. Within three weeks I’ve managed to find myself in a totally different position to how I was before I got back here.

I’m going to turn up at my counselling appointment like, “Hello friend, I know I said the situation was like this, but I actually have a whole three new issues now!”

I don’t know whether it’s just Cambridge, or whether the new meds I started taking for my headaches are having negative side effects. (They’re a very mild dose of an anti-depressant, so it’s possible they’d affect things like that.) I don’t know whether it’s because of whatever nutrient deficiency caused my blood tests to come back ‘abnormal’, because they haven’t yet told me what that abnormality was and whether it’s easy to fix (so of course I’m anxious about that). I don’t know whether there are other physical factors at play — or whether it’s just Cambridge.

But it’s reminding me of all the things I dislike about this place, even as I’m rediscovering its good points as well, and I hate that it’s happening so early in the year. This is my last year, and I want to be positive about, to enjoy it. I am positive about some things, but it’s hard to remember them when I’m sitting on the kitchen floor crying due to anxiety about an essay I have no idea how to write.

I’m telling you this because I hate picture-perfect portrayals of university. I hate studyspo blogs with their beautiful images of flawless work and clean desks, as though they’ve never scrawled their notes on crumpled paper surrounded by the detritus of a week’s Haribo consumption. I hate blogs that carefully curate the writers’ lives to only show the perfect bits, the highlights reel — because it’s just not true.

And because if I don’t tell you that this week I’ve been anxious and miserable and panicking, I’ll have nothing else to say that’s genuine.

But I did at least go to my supervision today, even though I hadn’t written a word in preparation for it (and couldn’t access the notes I’d taken while reading because my tablet was refusing to turn on). And I got through it, even though I basically scratched half the skin off my upper arm while fidgeting due to anxiety while actually in the supervision (I really need to get a fidget toy to take with me). Today, I should probably do some translation for tomorrow’s Irish class, but then I can watch some more Lucifer. Or go to the ASNaC film night where they’re showing Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Or both.

It’s going to be okay, I think. It’s just… not at the moment. And I won’t pretend that it is, because that doesn’t help anyone.

2 thoughts on “Honesty And Anxiety

  1. I’d anticipate the counsellors are used to people’s situations having advanced between submitting the form and having the interview; potentially the form’s first purpose is to find the people who are deep enough into something that they definitely need to be seen immediately rather than needing to be seen as soon as can be managed.

    Possibly odd question but it might spark a workable idea: you have a hardstanding path outside your flat; could you practice dancing on that? No shaking of floorboards and the noise is further away and beyond a window.

    1. I don’t think dancing on the paths would work: they’re always super damp at this time of year (and one of them is muddy because the kitchen pipes empty onto it peridocially), and dancing on concrete is really bad for your shins, whereas at least floorboards have a tiny bit of ‘give’. Also, it’s a bit too cold to dance outside. Mostly I just try and make sure my flatmates are out / not trying to concentrate, and if I’m dancing in bare feet it’s okay, it’s just difficult to find a time and place to practice hardshoe drills, which are extremely loud and annoying. (We’re trying to find a venue where we can teach hardshoe classes, and once we’ve managed that, I might try and see if I can book it for an additional practice session each week.) But doing some light shoe exercises and some cardio is better than nothing — that’s what I’ve been doing since writing this blog post, actually.

      Yeah, I’m sure the UCS are used to it. And I didn’t have to wait too long at this time of year, which is good; I know later in the year they get busier and the waits are longer. But I’ve been slightly caught out by how quickly my mental health has declined.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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