My old friends, Anxiety and Panic, have come for a visit
I was frozen to the spot. My head had taken over. I had no control.
I spat the words out “you are worthless, you can’t do this, you are fat, you are ugly, you are lazy, you are selfish, you are judgemental, you are a rubbish mum, rubbish wife, rubbish self-employed no-body. Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Useless, useless, useless. Just who the hell do you think you are?”
I despised the woman standing before me.
“You are worthless, you are definitely not good enough and you are one big horrible failing MESS!”
The tears are just beneath the surface. They don’t come. My heart is racing, and I have the same tightening sensation in my chest, my fingers start to tingle, and I have dull pain down my arm. I just stand there frozen.
I stare at my own reflection. Disgusted. This is now.
I believed my thoughts
In that moment, it felt real. I believed all of those horrible things I had screamed at myself. In my head, I was repeating the words.
It felt like I had been taken over. For those few minutes I believed I was worthless.
For those few moments I was a complete bitch, to myself. Elizabeth was possessed, by someone else.
I had been in this exact same place a few years previously. The incredibly low self-worth, self-pitying, not good enough, disbelieving place, unable to cope or function, incapable of being king to myself. Only then I went completely on a downward spiral. My severe panic attacks did consume me.
Why today? What triggered this?
I had dropped an egg earlier. Yes, that’s it. That was all that happened. I dropped one lousy egg on the floor and my whole world implodedon me.
The broken egg, a bit like the old saying regarding spilt milk and don’t cry over it, well, yes, the broken egg, metaphorically speaking was me, I broke me. For a moment. Like the broken egg I felt like my outside shell, my hard exterior, was cracked, no not cracked, shattered. My usually controlled mind had splattered its contents in one great big gloopy mess. My normal self-composure gone.
I felt like I was free-falling, only this time there was no parachute about to open.
I was tearless.
Later, as I sat at the meeting, I was numb. I still didn’t know how I had managed to get there. I don’t remember getting dressed, I don’t remember the drive, I can’t tell you what was said in the meeting or by whom. I’m not even sure I know who was there. I was surprised I was sitting there.
I was one total mess.
Oh, sure I looked polished. I was in a nice outfit, my hair and make-up done. I spoke normally. To the outside I was normal me. Under the polished surface, well yes, that was a bomb site.
The meeting ended and I as I started to get up to go, she asked me how I was.
In that moment I had a choice, I could turn and smile and say, “I’m really good thank you and, how are you?” Moving the conversation swiftly away from me, as I would usually do, and deflecting away from my inner turmoil or I could I admit I was not great. I don’t know why I chose the latter option, I just did. Something inside of me was screaming out for a friendly person to hear me.
“I think I am fair to middle.” I mumbled. “Well, actually, I don’t think I am in such a great place today.”
That was exactly what I needed, to be asked and to own up. To acknowledge that I was not happy. In that moment I made the decision to be honest, in that moment I allowed myself to be vulnerable and she listened without judgement, without rushing me, she simply listened.
We sat and chatted, and I spoke about how I felt. The words tumbled out. As I tripped over the words, and made no sense, certainly in my own head, I felt the weight of everything I had been carrying become lighter.
I laid it all out in front of me, like I was unpacking the shopping bags. What started with, “I an incompetent failing business woman”, moved swiftly on to “I feel like a worthless mother, wife, daughter, I can’t cope.”
And with each sentence, with each honest admission, my inner pain lessened. My breathing slowed, my fingers stopped tingling, even the dull pain in my arm subsided. Exposing my vulnerable self, not so life threatening after all.
As I heard myself say the words, I tried to make excuses for my woes and not being able to cope, and I apologised. I attempted to make it, my woes, or maybe “it” was me, seem worthless, trivial and trite. I even caught myself saying out loud that I should be able to handle it and not feel like I did. Of course, she stopped me in my tracks. She didn’t allow me to talk trashy to myself.
I told her that I knew what it all was, I knew why I was behaving like this. I even knew where my limiting beliefs came from.
She quickly told me, “you might well know all that, because you are a truly great coach to others and try as you want to coach yourself, this is one of those times you can’t. We all need help sometimes, we all need someone else to listen to us.”
The reality of my situation dawned on me. I was, no I am, coping with a lot of incredibly stressful life events at the moment. My head, completely full to the brim of dealing with everything, was finally calling me out. Somewhere, inside me, was yelling ENOUGH!
I was staring at my Anxiety and potential debilitating Panic and I had to own up to it. I had to reach out to someone. I had to be vulnerable.
Recognising the Overwhelm and then the Reframe
She very quickly walked me through some of my feelings. I am lucky because not only is she an extremely experienced coach, she is also a very knowledgeable lady and an incredibly kind and caring human. She asked me some key questions. She took me on a short journey, and I owned up to myself that I was not super woman and in laying everything out in front of me, I finally recognised that I have a lot going on. And the lots going on is not your everyday little stuff, it’s pretty damn major and incredibly upsetting and worrying.
My overwhelm was causing my anxiety and panic to rear up again.
I felt myself soften. I found clarity around some areas. I recognised what was on each of the plates I was spinning and understood that whilst they are all very different, they are equally important.
I started to hear myself saying, “I am not a useless, incompetent failing business woman. Nor am I a rubbish mother, wife, daughter. I am not worthless.”
By owning up to my situation, seeing clearly everything I have going on which is overwhelming me, being vulnerable and making that decision to reach out, within half an hour, I had reframed my thoughts, recognised my self-worth and had a much clearer perspective.
All the things I am dealing with haven’t magically disappeared. Yes, I still have a lot I am coping with. But the things I am coping with are exactly that, life events, issues, problems, challenges. What they are not, is me. The life issues don’t define me. They certainly don’t warrant me talking to myself with such contempt and venom. They are external events happening and what is important is how I see them, what I tell myself about them, how I deal with them, what strategies I put in place and finally how I move forwards.
As I walked out of that room, I felt calmer. In my head were the sentences, “I am worthy. I am good enough.”
I am winning
The difference this time around, this time I caught myself. Yes, I had talked horribly to myself and whilst that is not kind, not great and certainly not something I am proud of, what I am pleased with is that this time I caught myself.
Last time my Anxiety and Panic Attacks stopped me wanting to do anything. On this occasion, well I had a bad couple of hours, and then I reached out. I allowed myself to be vulnerable to a friend, I gained some perspective and I found out that it wasn’t even scary to do so.
In addition, when my husband came home, I let myself be vulnerable again. I shared what had happened, I explained how I felt, I was honest, and we talked it through. Last time, well it was months and months before I even took one layer of bricks off my wall so that he could see in and by then, well I was very poorly. This time, we worked through it together.
So, yes, I know I am winning, I have learned lots of things to help me cope and I recognise my Anxiety quickly, so that I can acknowledge it, reframe it and move forwards.
Anxiety can creep up on anyone of us at any given moment. It can most definitely feel like our minds have been taken over and our reasonable thinking, our normal way of being disappears. And anxiety can quite quickly escalate into full blown Panic Attacks. Yet, having Anxiety is a normal emotion and is very common. 1 in 6 adults experiences a form of mental health problem every week. It is not taboo and should not be frowned upon.
Here’s the thing though. We control our minds. We control our thoughts. We control our anxiety. We can learn to recognise the signs in ourselves that are unique to us, but which we know lead to anxious thoughts and feelings and instead of Anxiety taking over, we can find a way to reframe the situation we are in and look for a different outlook.
When someone asks you how you are, be honest, if you are feeling low or, like I was, fair to middle, share it. Don’t hide your truth away. I am an incredibly private person and don’t shout about how I feel, I am the classic stiff upper lip. I am forever grateful for the support from such a wonderful, caring and kind woman in my network leaning forwards to me, listening without judgment and allowing me to lean right back in to and talk.
Don’t be scared to ask someone how they are. Don’t be afraid to talk when you are asked. Don’t be too busy to listen when they talk.