(N.B suicide is mentioned in this blog)
I was asked this question many times over the years and my answer was often the same.
I don't know!
I could describe how every morning I would wake up feeling sick and scared, dreading the start of the day. Often I would start looking at my clock and see it was 5am and think great I don't have to go anywhere for a while. I would snuggle down only to peep at the clock ten minutes later and typically I wouldn't fall asleep again until moments before my alarm would jolt me awake already fearful and out of breath.
Next was getting up and eating......hmmmm what little amount of food could I get by on and yet reassure myself I had eaten enough to get to work?
There were times when I was just afraid and I could function with this grumbling fear in the background as long as I wasn't challenged in any way.
I would tell myself I would be fine as long as the car didn't break down or my daughter wasn't in a bad mood or work went calmly. There were many conditions to me feeling OK. This only made my world feel more scary and everyone else bigger and more frightening.
There was a period of two years where every time I woke up I had a humdinger of a panic attack.
I am talking the big daddy version that makes you convinced you are about to die. I never knew how I was gonna die but the feeling of impending doom was rife and I had to stop it. I would lay, panting on the floor and roll around moaning trying desperately to release the panic. This would make me incredibly hot and I would need to cool down for fear of fainting so I would move to the cold tiles of the kitchen floor. Here I would feel some relief only for another hit of adrenaline to make me feel I had to run and I had to run fast.
If an axe murderer had been after me this would have made sense. My body and brain were working together to get me to safety but there was no axe murderer only my thoughts and they were being seriously mislead by the anxiety gremlin.
Run Claire, you've got to run or you'll not be safe! Run, run out the door. No don't get dressed .....just run, run, run, faster, faster, it's not safe. You're gonna die. Your'e gonna die if you don't!*
By now I would running on my tiptoes around the room, shaking my hands and making quite bazaar noises.......breathe Claire breathe. There were times when I could hear a voice in my head telling me to jump off the balcony and I would be safe. It would dare me to jump or instruct me it was the only safe thing to do.
This in itself is incredibly distressing and the kind of thing that stays with you even once the attack is over. For me this was the beginning of an obsession about suicide. Suicidal thoughts were constantly niggling at me, telling me it was the only way to feel better and that people around me would be better off without me ruining their lives.
The attacks could last for anything up to 20 minutes and would leave me exhausted.
During this time I started using 7-11 breathing. A technique in which you breathe out for longer than you breathe in. It takes time and practice but it works and it is still in my toolkit for emergencies. It's worth googling and practising daily to encourage calm and relaxation.
Once I had survived the morning terrors I could get on with the rest of my daily routine, getting my daughter to school and myself to work.
So what was I afraid of? What sparked these barbaric attacks on my body and mind?
I went to group CBT, had 1 to 1 counselling, even studied person centred counselling for a while but the answers never came. It wasn't until many years later as I sat in a box room with a CBT therapist telling him about my suicidal thoughts that we discovered my fear.
I was afraid of being nothing, meaning nothing and ultimately being annihilated by my fear.
Looking back I can see that I had lost sight of the joy in my life. I had lost sight of who I was and what I meant to people. Going through 2 divorces had reinforced my fear of being worthless or rather I had chosen to see these events as meaning that.
All my life I had put my self worth in the hands of other people. I had chosen to allow every broken friendship to mean that either I wasn't worth being a friend too or that people are just nasty. I had chosen to see every ended romantic relationship as meaning I was unlovable. When God himself hadn't healed me from my anxiety and depression I had seen that as rejection and ultimately my birth mother giving me up for adoption was a wound that cut so deeply it would never heal.
Crikey I need a moment......that's hit hard.
Seriously wft did I do that for?
At what point did I decide that my worth was to be measured by how people treated me?
When and more importantly why did I hand my power over to others?
I don't know what the answer is as I write this but I do know the difference taking my power back is making to my life right now.
What do I mean by taking my power back? I mean being true to myself.
Learning about myself is a continuous journey that excites me. I am shedding behaviours that have held me back. I am releasing beliefs that no longer serve me and I am learning to love and respect myself. I am choosing to see the good in each day and situation and not fall into a victim mentality. Blame is now left at the door as it serves no one.
I am by no means a life coach or guru but I am making changes to my life that mean I look forward to each morning. I am far from the woman who felt she was only worthy if someone else said so.
* maybe that's what we should do? get on a treadmill and see if that helps ease the attack? just a thought