The Old Devils

I am so sorry about the impromptu break that I’ve taken here at the Reading Room. This has been an absolutely horrible week for me, health-wise. The severe anxiety that I thought I’d seen the back of a couple of years ago has staged a return. As ever, it caught me by surprise because I thought I was managing it quite well. I’d been experiencing some anxiety and was doing exercise, taking care of myself, eating healthily, and had gone for a reiki session. Never before have I left such a session feeling anything other than calm and peaceful and at one with the world. But even in the session I felt uncomfortable, hot and oh I don’t know, jangled in my nerves. When darkness fell later that afternoon, a tide of anxiety rose that turned into a white night battling the old ugly demons. I’m still trying to get back on an even keel from it.

I’ve been here before, of course, lots of times. But it doesn’t seem to make it any better. In the first place, it’s hard not to be crippled by disappointment. I can’t tell you how much I was loving life without feeling anxious. But hating anxiety seems only to make it stronger; it has an odd bullying quality of demanding to be heard. So, somehow it has to be heard, and yet not fed as it is already the expression of something excessive and unreasonable. I think it is about feeling trapped in a position of extreme vulnerability, although this post, which is the best account and advise about an anxiety relapse that I’ve come across, says that it doesn’t really matter what causes it; it will be some complex equation of a thousand small factors and figuring out the answer takes more energy than it’s worth. There’s something in that. When your heart is fluttering as wildly as a caged bird inside you, the first response is not necessarily to sit back and idly wonder why.

But the timing can’t be completely coincidental, as I had just begun my new writing routine that I’d looked forward to so much. Leaving the university has probably bitten deeper than I like to admit. Being an academic was a wonderful shield for me; I felt justified in existing, and it gave me a sense of value. I still feel a little exposed as… just me. It seems bizarre than anxiety should rob me of the confidence I need to simply move forward into a new life, and one I want very much. It is so paradoxical, so self-defeating. Yet I sit here telling my anxious heart that there is nothing to be done; this is where we are now. This is what is happening. I will of course wait until the changes have been accepted, but there is no alternative to accepting them.

Still, on the side of good news, my doctor has given me supplementary meds, to be used very sparingly. And I will – I know I will feel a great deal better if I can get through this on my own enterprise. And the great weapon against anxiety, the only thing far more powerful, is love. Mister Litlove is doing a very good job of making me feel loved at the moment, despite my flaws. What a treasure he is.

Back with the books as soon as I quieten and tame my bolting mind.


49 thoughts on “The Old Devils

  1. It’s a shame you’re having so much trouble with anxiety just when you’re about to start a new and exciting phase, but change is difficult. Even when we’re looking forward to something new, we’re taking a jump into the unknown. So just keep well, gather your resources and good luck with the meds.

    • Jodie, and I owe you an email too! Well, we’ll get around to that. Thank you for your kind message. It’s the pits, but you’re quite right: change is always a bit distressing, even when it’s good. I like the idea of gathering resources too. It sounds most encouraging!

  2. I hate when I think that I’ve gotten beyond something finally and then it rears up its ugly head once again. So sorry to hear your anxiety has come back. I hope you get to feeling better soon!

    • Well that hits the nail on the head! I was SO glad to see the back of it. But everything I read seems to suggest that once an anxious person, always an anxious person, and it’s better to accept it, bitter pill though it may be! Thank you for the kind wishes – I hope so too!

  3. I am going to send you some stabled good thoughts right now before I have a drink. Good luck, take the pills and write when you want to not necessarily to the (I’m sure strict) timetable you set yourself.

    • Aw bless you, my friend. It’s times like these when I really wish I drank – I know my brother would say that not enough alcohol is the real problem… And you’re right, I am always a taskmaster to myself, though not to others. Hmmm, I probably have that the wrong way round!

  4. I agree with Bookgazing, even a new and exciting (and rewarding) phase means readjustment. Perhaps the reiki shifted something which is still clearing. I hope things will be much better soon.

    • Ooh I like that thought, Maybe the reiki did shift something that I’ve been working through. That’s also very encouraging. Thank you, Karen, you are always so very kind.

  5. Change is always really hard, no matter how optimistically it is viewed and it’s going to take some getting used to. Of course it doesn’t help that we are in the dark cold dreary days of January–poor weather always affects me no matter how cheery I think I feel. I’m so glad to hear Mr Litlove is taking extra special care of you. I hope the anxiety recedes very soon and you are feeling more peaceful and contented!

    • Why does it always happen when the weather is awful? We’ve had a fortnight of freezing temperatures and snow, and it just adds to the trapped feeling. But today, suddenly, it’s melted and the temperature has shot up, which is great but also sort of surprising. You are such a good support, Danielle, thank you. I seem to have so much change going on at the moment, with my son growing up and a change in my career. I sort of think I should sail through it all, but it isn’t happening that way! Never mind – I’ll get used to it all eventually.

  6. For me, the worst Reiki sessions moved the most stuff (ditto with acupuncture). Don’t despair–I think this is energy that was stuck/trapped and is making its way out. It seems meaningful that this is happening on the eve of a new enterprise…although it must feel terribly frightening, I believe it’s probably a “purge.” And about as pleasant as most purges are.

    • Oh I am encouraged by the idea of a purge – horrible as it sounds, and as it was. I find that an extremely useful way of thinking about it. I’m still getting over it, but then, if I’d had an actual purge, I would undoubtedly be in a darkened room for some time! It’s good to know you’ve been through something like this too – thank you for that.

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment and for the support. When this happens, I think I’ve gone back to square one, but I haven’t. I’m in a better place than I was to deal with it, and I hang onto that thought!

  7. I’m sitting here mentally holding your hand because I’ve been where you are and words don’t always help. Good for Mr Litlove, it’s knowing you’re loved and supported that is so important at times like this. Remember we’re all there for you as well.

  8. I too wondered whet her the reiki had shifted something. Fingers crossed. God, anxiety sounds such a foul thing to be afflicted by. I really hope that you’re back on an even keel soon. And Mister Litlove sounds worth his weight in gold, bless him.

    • He’s been great – extremely supportive and sort of… unbothered, in a good way! I like this idea of the reiki shifting something – it has a nice, finite ring to it! And the promise of better things to come. I’m definitely running with that premise!

  9. I am also suffering from crippling anxiety but am also dealing with depression accompanying it. Am having a hard time even getting out of bed and just want to pull up the covers and remain there. I hope that the meds help you. I take a lot of them but they don’t seem to help much.

    • Kay, I am so very sorry to hear this and I send big hugs to you. I always find it hard to take the things I need – rest, space, peace – because for some reason they seem to me like things I shouldn’t need. But long experience shows that actually giving them to myself as a gift is the best thing to do. If there’s anything you need right now, take it, have it, and don’t think twice. Also, a friend of mine has just introduced me to Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the Painbody. I’ve found it extremely helpful. Information about it is easily found if you search online and it may help you, too. I do hope so.

  10. So sorry that your anxiety has returned. As other people have commented, change can be very stressful, even good change. I hope you feel better soon.

  11. I wonder whether your own expectations of yourself are too high? It takes time to settle into a new way of life and the anxiety (if you’re predisposed that way) is a natural side-effect of a huge and radical life-change. Don’t be too hard on yourself! I do hope you’re feeling better soon.

    • Claire, you are quite right, I always do have high expectations for myself, mostly that I ought to move emotionally an awful lot faster than I actually do! There really is a lot going on right now, none of which I have any control over, and that doesn’t help…. Thank you for your insightful comment – I really appreciate it.

  12. As someone who has been there and done that I am sending good thoughts your way. I too am very grateful for my husband who has the patience of a saint. I also like the idea of some sort of purge just for the metaphoric image it creates.

    • It does so help to have someone with quiet strength at one’s side! Thank you so much for the kind thoughts, which I really appreciate. And I think metaphors have quite a lot of power over the mind, so they are worth cultivating!

  13. I don’t have any insights to offer, but as someone who has been plagued with anxiety for years, I send much sympathy and many hugs. It’s hard to get anything accomplished when you’re expending a ton of energy trying to get your brain to shut up fretting about everything. Be kind to yourself! Give yourself some time and relaxing activities. You deserve them.

    • Dear Jenny, thank you for your solidarity. It makes me feel a whole lot better to know I’m not the only one, although I do wish for all of us a calm and serene future. I so hear you about expending a ton of energy just trying to get the voices to shut up. Isn’t that the way! Thank you for your lovely kind wishes, you are a dear heart.

  14. I’m very sorry to hear you had a relapse. I wish you the best. You can leave it behind. I have a feeling that the Reiki triggered a feeling which your mind interpreted as anxiety and reacted by reinforcing it. At some point even being excited about something knew which can be accompanied by the fluttery feeling can signal to your brain your body is having a panic attack. It’s burned into the system but you wil learn that it can come and go like a wave, you don’t need to experinece it helplessly. You will see, one day, there will be just a tiny flutter in some moments and you will notice but let it go. Not sure I make sense….

    • Caroline, I really agree that excitement can feel just like the start of a panic attack. I’ve studiously avoided any sort of extreme of emotion over the years, as it could all be experienced like anxiety inside me – although of course this is not exactly easy to do. I am hoping very much that I will learn how to accept these feelings without over interpreting them, and that allowing them to be will make them easy to live with. You make perfect sense to me! Thank you for your encouraging words.

  15. Litlove, sending the biggest and warmest of hugs to you.

    Apart from Reiki another thing you might want to look at is some sort of hypnotherapy – while never having been formally diagnosed I’ve had to deal with anxiety attacks for the longest time plus I’ve battled with an obsessive need to control things both professionally and personally. I’ve recently undergone some hypnotherapy sessions that have helped me get to the situation that led to the whole thing in the first place… All of this to say I don’t know if you’ve explored it but once you’re feeling slightly better you might want to try some therapy that will help you identify the root cause.

    I’m glad you found Eckhart Tolle. Spirituality practices and meditation definitely helps in getting to a better feeling place.

    Love, hugs and remember – things always get better (even though we might have a circular path and seemingly go over the same geography at times!)

    • Juhi, you are such a sweetheart, thank you for this lovely message. I’ve heard from other people that hypnotherapy can be very helpful with anxiety and it’s definitely on the list of things I could try. I really must read Eckhart Tolle properly! There’s a book that is seen by loads of people as a masterpiece of self-help, so I really must get to it. I empathise completely with your wanting to control things – I hate situations where I feel trapped and not in control of my own exits, and you are so right: things DO get better, even if in the moment they look like they never will.

  16. I also like the idea of the reiki shifting something. And isn’t it typical that just when you embark on something new and exciting writing-wise that all the old devils return? I think I’ll send you an email since I don’t have anything wise to say here but I did just want to say that I’m sending you lots of reassurance and good wishes.

    • Thank you, dear Pete – it was lovely to chat to you a bit. And yes, it is SO typical that the start of something lovely should be plagued by problems. Sigh. These things are sent to try us, as the saying goes… But here’s hoping the reiki really did shift something – I guess I’ll soon know as I’m intending to get back to writing next week. Fingers crossed.

  17. Hang in there, Litlove. When something is worrying me, I imagine it is a soap bubble. I concentrate on watching it disintegrate. Get well soon…and then tell us something wonderful to read. Big hugs and love from Georgia.

    • Thank you dear Grad for your encouraging and comforting message. I don’t know what I’d do without my virtual friends, really I don’t! Big hugs to you, too.

  18. Sending you many hugs and best wishes. Change is so hard, but this too will pass. I hope sharing here helps a bit.

    (that site you linked to is very interesting. Gosh, blurring vision and ringing in the ears, both of which I have suffered from and put down to age, can be symptoms of anxiety?)

    • Thank you, Jean. I know you know just what it’s like. I often get ringing in the ears – particularly if I have to go and be sociable. It’s a real nuisance, but then what anxiety symptom isn’t? But I’m so glad you like the site – I’ve found it helpful in all sorts of ways.

  19. Oh, Litlove – lots of hugs to you! I’ve ridden the anxiety train myself for about a decade now and I am now able to at least recognize a pattern of when it occurs and shosrten the duration of the attacks – have you been able to see any sort of pattern? It sounds like maybe a bit. You know this, but there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with taking the drugs to help you get over the “hump” as long as you are using them as a supplement to a healthy lifestyle! Take care of yourself, know you aren’t alone and very soon you will really be able to tackle your new, highly anticipated routine!

    • Dear Courtney, you are quite right, it’s in the patterns and in catching them nice and early that some hope lies! I have to say this one was different and a bit unusual, but I’m hoping that I’ve got to the bottom of it, and can understand it a little better, even if I wasn’t so able to manage it this time. I am really awful about taking drugs – never like doing it, but I will quite readily if things are bad! But my dear friend, I didn’t realise you suffered from this too. My memory of having a young child was that it was both better and worse. I had so much to do, I didn’t have the energy for anxiety. But a child is a hostage to fortune and I was desperately anxious when anything was wrong with him! Thank you for the solidarity and the comfort. I do appreciate it so.

  20. Hooray for Mr. Litlove for making you feel loved! I hope you get over this soon and can get back to what you want to be doing. Try to be happy with all the progress you’ve made (I know it’s not easy). Give yourself a big hug from me.

    P.S. I’m reading that Zadie Smith collection of essays right now and loving it!

    • I thought at first that I was right back where I started, but in fact, I’ve recovered a bit quicker than I expected, and although I’m really disappointed it happened at all, I do think I am further along the curve than I at first feared. So… on balance, there’s hope! The hugs help. 🙂 And so pleased you are enjoying Zadie Smith!

  21. Your posts where you share about your anxiety always touch me deeply. The beautiful way you can describe such an evil disorder actually inspires me to feel better. Anxiety has to be one of the most frustrating things and always seems to come up at the strangest times. I’m sure you will be in better balance soon. Leaving your job will take some time to process.

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