WARNING: This is a very miserable and self-deprecating post. You may be tempted to say I’m being melodramatic, too hard on myself, or over-reacting to things outside my control, and you’d be right. This isn’t about that though. This is about me being able to write down what is in my head so I can go back and analyze it. I wanted to put it here for others to read if they want to though in case it helps them.
I’ve been dwelling a lot on loss recently. I know I shouldn’t, I know I should be actively trying to steer my brain away from this sort of thing, and I can do it in the short-term. However, most days at some point or another, it sneaks up behind me and engulfs me in a blanket of melancholy, trapping me. Once it does, it takes an age to wriggle back out of it again. It’s exhausting, but it’s less exhausting than trying to fight it. In some ways I’m giving in and it’s my fault. I think that a lot about most of the symptoms I’ve been suffering from recently. I don’t think that’s wildly original either. many of the people I’ve talked to feel a similar responsibility for ‘losing’ to the bad thoughts. We’re probably right, just as it would be technically correct to say someone drowned because they stopped floating. They may have stopped floating because they wanted to. They may have stopped floating because they ran out of energy. This is like that.
What I mean by loss is a pretty fluid thing. When people in general talk about ‘loss’, it’s sort of short hand for death. I don’t necessarily mean death, though that is a big part of where my mind goes to sit on the rocks and poke at the tidal pools of my subconscious. There have been a lot of deaths over the past decade or so and I regret something about all of them.
I regret not seeing my aunt for more than a few hours every six months before lung cancer took her. She was an incomparably kind woman who doted on all of us. I should have done better.
I regret not spending more time with my nan and granddad. Granddad died of various cancers stemming from lung cancer a few years ago. I owe a lot of the good bits of who I am to him. He was always interested in learning more, he loved words and crosswords in particular, he was as sharp as his knives and a keen cook and former butcher. While I don’t pretend to be anything like him, I think he influenced a lot about my interests. I regret not spending more time with him when I was an adult. I think he and I would get on like a house on fire now. I miss not having him around, even though I squandered the time I could have had with him on pointless pursuits. I didn’t learn my lesson and I regret not spending so much time with my nan as well, after granddad died. She died last year and I miss them both more than I can describe. I should have done better.
I regret not having done all I wanted to do with my dog, Roscoe. He was taken from us this year by yet more fucking cancer. There was so much I still wanted to show him. It may sound silly to regret something like this as there was nothing we could possibly have done to make anything different. This is different to the others. I could have done something about it. I could have spent more time with them. I could have been a better nephew/grandson or whatever. But this? There was nothing we could have done. So why dwell on it? I keep asking the same question. I think somewhere deep inside, I haven’t quite reconciled it. I almost don’t believe it has happened, and I certainly can’t accept that was fair.
It is an oft-quoted truism that one should not have regrets. That we should accept that these things did or did not happen and move on. Like many of these things that people say though, I call bullshit. People say that sort of thing without actually thinking about what it means. If we don’t regret things, mistakes, whatever, then how can we address them and learn from them? I think it’s important to have regrets. What would be a better thing to say, would be that regrets are inevitable, it makes no sense to continually punish oneself for them. I believe that.
So why can’t I apply it to myself?
My brain has developed this awful trait of manoeuvring itself into a position where it can justify taking the blame or responsibility for things, many of which it has no business doing. If there is an opportunity to justify something being my fault, my brain will take it, irrelevant of whether it is logical or not. I say ‘sorry’ a lot. I ask if people are OK, a lot. If I’m doing this to you at any given moment, I’m sorry if it’s irritating, I’m just feeling particularly insecure at that moment. And no, I don’t need anything, it’s not an obscure cry for help, I just need to be reassured that you are OK.
This trait is particularly difficult at work, as my boss is a dictator rather than a leader. Rather than being content to find solutions, he needs to apportion blame to everything that goes wrong. He delivers every decree in a didactic manner that makes people feel like a wayward twelve-year-old. Five years ago, I’d have simply become angry and defensive. I find myself in a pit of anxiety half an hour later though, having accepted everything he’s said about my character and efficacy as gospel, regardless of whether it was in my control or not. I’ll then seethe and wallow in the self-loathing, tossing every sentence over in my head to squeeze fresh venom out of his words.
I’ve also crossed a line somewhere with some of my friends. At least in my head. I’ve been pretty flakey as a friend over the past few years to some people. People who I’ve grown up with, laughed and cried with, become adolescent with, burst into adulthood and all the associated new fears and troubles. People who’ve been there for me, helped me, counselled me. I’ve moved about a lot in the last few years, following work and opportunities, so it was inevitable that I would see less of friends with whom I’d been inseparable from just a few years ago. As things have gone on though, that’s happened less and less, and in the last six months, I’ve pretty much disappeared from some people’s lives.
And yes, it is my fault.
I’m sure I’m making it out to be worse than it is, and they probably haven’t even noticed, but to me it’s a problem that gets bigger by the day. The longer it goes on as well, the more difficult it becomes for me to address it and the further I retreat from it.
I’m frightened in case I have crossed some line, and now I’m untrustworthy.
The more this anxiety disorder progresses, the more difficult I’m finding it to dig myself out of these holes. They’re silly aren’t they? These fears? I can see that. From a purely dispassionate point of view, none of this is a real problem. The issues of loss, I can’t change so accept them and move on. The perceived loss of my relationships with my friends, I should just address.
Simple, isn’t it?
So why am I so scared?
With the exception of a few hours a day, I’m living with some level of anxiety or fear. I’m especially fearful that this isn’t going to go away ever, which is a lovely Ourobouros worm of terror.
I’m getting help. I’m going back for a reassessment with the county mental health services on Thursday. I’m probably going to have to wait until October though, as I know that’s when the next therapy workshop for anxiety starts.
I’m trying, but some days it’s too hard.