How do you let go of guilt and anxiety?

I saw the GP today. They have increased my anti-depressants and signed me off work for two weeks. The result is Guilt and Anxiety. The tortoise and hare are off the starting line.

The Hare (anxiety with a guilt backpack) starts to tell me I am not enough. I am letting down the students, the other teachers in my department and my bosses. It tells me I should be able to deal with all this while going to work each day. I worry about being judged by others. The panic causes me to breathe faster and my heart jumps about in my chest. My mind hurts as thoughts race around my brain, making me feel dizzy.

Many people will be judging me. Thinking I should be at school as I am not physically sick. I am not glued to the toilet, in hospital or unable to move. That doesn’t mean I do not have some physical symptoms: I am exhausted, having headaches, feel dizzy, nauseous and my whole body feels heavy. Yet I don’t feel it is enough for people to justify me being off. I feel they will judge me. Worse than that, I am judging me.

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My tortoise (logical brain) tries to reason with the hare. It explains that mental illnesses are equivalent of physical. That I am justified in my feelings and just like I could not cure my own physical illnesses, I need help and support to get better. My desperate despair will take time to get over and it is exhausting to do it. But they feel like clichés, slogans and advice I give others.

Am I letting anyone down? It is hard at school to find cover and make it meaningful. Will students miss out on having me as they will have a cover teacher instead. But sometimes our own health has to come first and I will help them as soon as I am back. How much use would I be in this state of mind? I am finding it hard to concentrate and it would be impossible to pretend to be ok for 5 hours a day in front of the children.

So, I need to show myself some compassion and let it go. I need to look after me and let the guilt go. But it is so much easier to say it. How do you let it all go? Reminding myself over and over. Will my mind just finally click into understanding?

I have learnt to be more compassionate to myself in the last couple of years. I now allow myself time to rest and recoup. I give myself time to look after my mind through meditating and reading. I adopted my lovely puppy, Toby, and I go for forest bathing walks. I have stepped away from toxic family members and that was not easy. So maybe this compassion about being off work will come too.

Maybe I just need to breathe, to give myself time and be patient with my life in this mental world.

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Teacher Training Days & Back to Work Anxiety

I am back to work tomorrow. After two weeks off this causes me some stress and anxiety. Usually when I tell people this, or even hint to it, I am told I am lucky to have so much holiday as a teacher. They are right, I am. However, it does not stop the going back to work issues I face when you have anxiety and depression, plus I am an introvert.

Nervous to see everyone and yet I want to get back into the routine a school provides. However these also raise issues and questions in my mind. Will I be good enough? What will people ask? Inevitable – How am I? What if I am not good? They do not really want to know that. How was your Christmas/New Years? How are my family? This is now the count down to exams. How are the kids going to do. Have they revised. Will they understand this is important. What am I teaching on Friday/this term?

Social interaction like this is draining and causes me some anxiety too. I do not know how to respond, how much people actually want to know and usually go with ‘Good’ or ‘Fine’. Then you ask about them and get a whole story, while I give them my ‘I was just being polite’ look. This might seem rude but these are work colleagues and not my friends. And I have a difficult relationship with my family, which I do not want to explain. I am polite and friendly but as an introvert it is exhausting keeping up appearances.

Tomorrow is also a teacher training day, which means learning something. I am not always sure what. Listening to people lecture about a chosen topic, I may of already had training on or not. Often it is on things unhelpful to actual teaching in a classroom but about new criteria from Ofsted, health and safety, data and so much more, it is not exciting.

As teachers we are also the worst students, like they say about doctors and patients. We will comment (not so quietly) under our breath and be unappreciative of the hard work or genius of the speakers. Most things labelled ‘initiative’ are dismissed as ‘will be gone by the end of term’. The speakers should expect loud groans if any interaction is expected and if you dare to utter the words ‘role play’ things will be thrown. It is harsh but true. Training teachers is not a job I would out my hand up for.

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I also find the crowd an issue. In my school we have over 100 staff and when we are together in the hall for training it is a lot for me. My heart races, I fear being picked on, having to talk to people around me, asked to engage and interact on the spot.

Tomorrow morning we are going to a special auditorium as all the schools in our link of academy schools are coming together. That is three Secondary Schools, seven Primary Schools and a Special Provision School (I believe). That is a lot of people. Too many for me. I will try to sit at the back and keep telling myself to breathe. Even entering that room is hard, my first challenge is to find somewhere to sit, with people I know, but essential to help reduce my anxiety.

I probably will find it hard to sleep tonight with anxiety running a muck in my head and because I will be worried I might sleep through my alarm. Highly possible, I have seven alarms and still sleep through them all. It is so strange as anyone making any other noise wakes me up, as I am usually a light sleeper, but my alarms I can sleep through.

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My brain sometimes triggers a migraine or pain as a coping strategy but hopefully not this time. I do feel my body plots against the things I try to do, or the things I have to do. It sneaks up and makes me stop when I want to carry on and plow through. Mostly this happens if I am not listening to my body’s pre-warnings.

Well, tonight I am trying to listen, I am trying to process it all before the morning comes, before I even attempt to sleep. I will meditate before bedtime and set extra alarms. I will list the people I want to see tomorrow. I will remember I can avoid people in a crowd, so maybe use it to my advantage. This is my Tortoise working hard on taming the Hare, even before the race has begun.

Goodnight from life in my mental world.

 

Anxiety v. Logic, it is like a race between the Tortoise and the Hare

After sending my last blog post a 2am this morning I tried to sleep…but I still tossed and turned. My brain was on overdrive, unable to shut off my thoughts and let me sleep. With no IT helpdesk to call for advice, to tell me to switch it on and off again, I tried to understand why my usual journaling had not helped. Usually I can dump my brain onto a page and stop the whirlwind of thoughts.

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Then it occurred to me, I felt crazy! I felt that feeling of accusation, that someone was calling me crazy. And I mean that ‘crazy’ that somehow encompasses all the stereotypes and stigmas I try to fight. The ‘crazy’ when you see straight jackets, padded cells and Victorian Bedlam rolled into one. I felt this accusation like I had so many times before. I felt chained to a bed and locked in a room, unheard and surrounded by silence.

Where had this come from? My family, of course. In the past when I have expressed my version of my childhood of abuse and trauma, I have come up against opposition. My point of view has been invalidated and I was told my memories were plain wrong. Throughout my childhood and adult life I have been ‘gaslighted’ by my family. A term I learnt from reading My Courage to Tell by Laura Corbeth (lauracorbeth.com), an amazing 5* book Sydney and I reviewed for the podcast (The Mental Health Book Club Podcast).

Gaslight, verb – manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity (Google Dictionary).

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Image from the film Gaslight. Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in the final confrontation.

The film Gaslight (1944) is my favourite black and white movie and now I understand why. The husband makes his wife feel insane by denying her memories, experiences and manipulating situations. I feel this is what my family have done to me. As a child I was told my point of view was wrong, I had taken things the wrong way and misunderstood what was meant. It was all my fault and I needed to change. This continues to this day, especially by my sister.

When I started to discuss my childhood traumas with my family, they denied it and again blamed my perception. Questioning my perception of life, my memories and my own sanity. They made me feel crazy; like I was a hypochondriac, a liar, and mentally insane. Making up trauma and abuse, but why would anyone do that?

I now know it is actually their inability to accept what they did to me. Accepting any responsibility would be facing what they did and how unkind they can be. It does not fit with how they wish to see themselves and so it is easier to deny my memories and blame my interpretation. So when a family event approaches I fear these things will be discussed and I will have to fight for my version of events, for my sanity.

This time it is exasperated by the fact that I am suffering with depression, basically I already feel I am crazy. Plus, my sister has approached my sister-in-law and best friend asking if I am clinically depressed. Kirsty wrote my ‘escalating mental health issues’ and the ‘severity’ of what was described to her was concerning her. This all has caused my anxiety to increase as I now have to see them and act well.

It would be perfectly reasonable to ask, why can I not tell them the truth. I am suffering with depression and I am on antidepressants. But, if I do that I am admitting I am Cra-Cra-Crazy! It would be like saying they are right and none of my experiences happened. That my sanity is in question and so my memories are fallible and questionable. My past did not exist. it would mean I am not good enough or worthy as I have then made up this past of trauma and abuses. That I am a horrible person.

Maybe it is not as black and white as this, but this is what my anxiety does. It blows my thoughts up to ridiculous levels and I then have to talk it back down. My anxiety makes it all seem so logical, like a natural disaster it feels somehow inevitable. Through therapy I have learnt I can counter these feelings, my logical brain can take over and tell myself the truth:

  • Just because I have depression does not mean I am insane or crazy.
  • It also does not mean my past did not happen. My experiences and memories are my own.
  • Actually the reason I suffer with depression is linked to the childhood of trauma and abuse so it confirms my experiences.
  • If I was ‘crazy’ should my family not be supportive rather than ridicule me.
  • I am worthy of love and kindness and what I do is enough.
  • I am not a bad person and I would not make up these things. I am a generous and kind person.

I also need to learn to not let them make me feel this way. This is tough as my mind races to these places before my brain has a chance to catch up. It is like the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. The tortoise (logical brain) will always win in the end, but the Hare (my anxiety) will always bolt off the starting line and race off first. But my Tortoise will always teach the Hare a lesson by the end and this time it is to hold my own conviction of my past.

I need to own my memories and not let anyone deny my past. This is my life in this mental world.

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