So, Metal Health. Anxiety. Paranoia. Yup, lets talk about that.
I’ve never really opened up about my anxiety on the blog. In fact until recently I’d never really opened up about it to anyone, it’s only over the past six months that I’ve begun to talk to the Beard about it all. And that’s because I could see it was damaging our relationship.
Why hide it? Mainly because I’m hugely embarrassed by it. Let me explain…
I don’t suffer from panic attacks and I’ve always been fine in large crowds, in fact I kinda like large crowds; festivals, parties, mainstream events, yup all fine. Fortunately, my anxiety doesn’t stop me from leaving the house like I know it does for others. I suffer from a different side of anxiety, I suffer from extreme paranoia, along with an incredible amount of self-depreciation. And so I know the real reason why I haven’t talked about it on here before; I’m THAT paranoid that I’d convinced myself if I started opening up about it, readers would either think all 482 blog posts prior to this one were fake, or that I was just looking for attention by writing this one.
Yup, welcome to the inside of my mind, 70% of which is one big cloud of negativity and worry.
I’m not even sure when my Paranoia started – or Pranging out as I like to call it – because I never had this problem when I was younger. I was actually a very confident teenager, and I loved being centre of attention. I performed on stage on a regular basis, I stood up to bullies at both high school and in college, I was always the one choosing Dare over Truth at sleepovers, ready and willing to accept whatever crazy fate was thrown at me. I had a great circle of friends, and I still do now, I’ve got a great family who are no more dysfunctional than the next. So I’ve honestly no idea where this Paranoia came from or what sparked it. As I’ve gotten older my Pranging out has gotten worse and more frequent. But after doing some research and discovering some online forums, I have a feeling it may be linked to my alcohol intake.
Just so you get an idea of how severe it is, and to get across that it’s not just a case of being paranoid that I may have left my straighteners on (although that happens all the time, including today) let me try and explain what it likes to suffer from paranoia and self-depreciation.
Everyone is out to get me
The main aspect I suffer from is that I think that no one actually likes me. When I meet new people, I believe within seconds they have branded me as stupid, in fact I still believe some people feel this way about me even though I’ve known them for years.
If I am working in an office/sat on a bus/riding the tube/basically anywhere in public and on my own, and I hear laughter erupting between a group of people, I immediately prang out that it is me they are laughing at. I’ve dropped out of blogger events last minute because I’ve been so paranoid about turning up and being laughed at, not making friends or people just downright hating me when they meet me.
But it’s not just strangers, I’ve been severely paranoid about my friends, my family and even my own boyfriend. I think that everyone is plotting against me, talking about me behind my back. Last month, for example, I was going to visit my Sister on a Friday night and the plan was to stay over at hers; the Beard said that in that case, rather than stay in by himself he would go and hang out with some friends, our friends, because we hadn’t seen them in a while. Within minutes I had convinced myself that he couldn’t wait for me to go, that he was desperate to have a night away from me, and no doubt those friends would be delighted they got him all to themselves. I actually imagined them all hugging him, patting him on the back, saying how nice it was to see him without me, and then I continued to picture them bitching about me all night!
Of course, none of this is true, and deep down I know this, and I would like to point out that my boyfriend is an extremely loving and affectionate person, as are our friends, but my mind can’t help but go to the extreme. Sometimes I’m fine. But then I have a bad week, like I did that week and I convince myself that everyone hates me with a passion.
I don’t believe in myself
This is where the self-depreciation kicks in. I can act confident-ish and I can put on a brave face, but I genuinely never believe my self-worth and I am always putting myself down. I wish I could be one of those people that oozes confidence and has so much self-belief. But I’m not. You know you have those people who can’t accept compliments, well I not only can’t accept them, but I tend to follow them up with a personal insult.
Them: “Wow, you look great, I love your outfit”
Me: “Thanks, I’m probably two sizes too big to be wearing it, but nevermind”
And then I try and laugh off my own awkward personal put down. Why do I do this? Because in my mind, if I simply accept the compliment, then the person who gave me the compliment will judge me as self-centred, obnoxious, and up my own arse. In the past I have accepted compliments with a simple ‘Thank you’ followed by nothing, only to find myself in inner turmoil, pranging out that they are judging me. So it’s much easier to just put myself down – I know, I know, it makes no sense.
I have an extremely wild imagination
I don’t know how else to describe this other than giving you an example – horror films or true crime, I can’t watch them. Normally when people watch these types of films or docs, they watch them, they maybe think about it for an hour or two afterwards, or have a discussion, then that’s it. Done. I watch a horror film and I think about it for days, sometimes weeks on end, convincing myself that it’s real and that it’s going to happen to me.
At the weekend I watched a documentary about the Cleveland Kidnapping (the three girls who spent 11 years living in a basement) and I became obsessed with it, watching any kind of YouTube clip I could on the matter, almost to prepare myself because I became convinced it could, no, it will, happen to me. It’s as if I was sucked into a vortex where the only thing that mattered was believing I was going to be kidnapped.
It’s the same with my fear of flying; once the plane takes off, I don’t just become paranoid that it will crash, I basically convince myself that it IS going to crash, and I even visualise it in my head, which is quite disturbing, and that’s probably why I spend the entire flight waiting to plummet to my death and why my skin goes as white as a sheet!
Of course people who know me have no idea that I struggle with this. It’s not something I feel I can ever talk about. I mean, I tell people ‘Oh I’m a really paranoid person’ but I can never go into detail. I felt like I couldn’t even talk to the Beard about it without sounding like some jealous paranoid girlfriend. And how would I tell a friend about it without sounding crazy?
“So I know you hate me and your faking this friendship, but it’s okay because eventually I’m going to get kidnapped and live in a basement.”
I didn’t even know how to approach my Doctor about it, or if I should bother, surely she already thinks I’m a hypochondriac after visiting her so many times over the past 12 months, demanding to be tested for all kinds of diseases. Although, in hindsight surely she must already know I suffer paranoia! Is hypochondriac just another word for Paranoid??
Eventually I had to tell the Beard (after convincing myself that he was having an affair) and he was very understanding about it all once I explained it in detail. He now urges me to talk to him anytime I’m pranging out “Better out than in” he says. And I agree. Which is why I’m writing this post.
And I think another reason I want to talk about it now is because I’ve actually found something that has massively helped with my mental wellbeing and I want to share it. You may have guessed it from the title of this post, but lets do a drumroll anyway:
*Tap tap tap tap tap*
Remember that running challenge I loved/hated and finished back in February? I had to run every day for 100 days. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but when it ended (prematurely on day 85) I was so glad to take a break from running for a while. In fact I treated myself to a rather loooooong break from it, leaving my running shoes in the corner of the flat for weeks. But that’s when my paranoia started to creep back up on me.
Within three weeks of not running I was feeling extremely down. I was pranging out that everyone in the office I freelanced at hated me. I was pranging out that this blog wasn’t worth reading and was a complete waste of my time. I convinced myself that the Beard didn’t love me and that his friends only put up with me because I’m his girlfriend. I bullied myself into believing I had no real career and that I wasn’t doing anything good with my life. Not a single thing.
One evening when I was having another emotional breakdown to the Beard (who was no doubt regretting ever telling me ‘Better out than in’) he said “Go for a run”.
“Because when you were running, you were so much happier, not a care in the world, no pranging out.”
He was right. I put on my trainers, my favourite leggings and my trusty baggy T-shirt. I headed out to tread those pavements, earphones and apple music in tow.
I couldn’t believe the difference in my mood. By the time I returned, three miles and 27 minutes of thinking time later, I felt like a different person. It was like all my problems had been solved in this one short run. And the funny thing is, I actually have no idea what I think about when I go running. I’m not even sure I’m thinking about my problems, even the ones I’ve created in this crazy mind of mine. Whether it’s continuous laps in the park, or running like Forest Gump through the streets of London, either way something seems to happen. All those nasty negative thoughts that my mind likes to make up are extinguished by the realty that my life is actually pretty dam good. I feel completely free and by the time I return home I’m giddy with happiness and positivity.
After doing some hard-core research (ahem, Googling) I found out that physical exercise can actually trigger a chemical reaction in your brain to improve your self-esteem. It can also trigger another that improves self-control AND helps you to focus and motive yourself. Meaning I have the ability to control those nasty thoughts and push them away. Benefits from these chemical reactions include a better social life, improved sleep and all round happier mood. So basically, running = bye bye pranging out *mini fist pump*
Okay, so I don’t think running means that my Paranoia will completely switch off, but it has certainly turned down the volume. It may not work for everyone, but it has been noticed by both the NHS and the Mental Health Foundation, and I have definitely noticed a difference in my moods and my general pranging out, or lack thereof, since I began running last year. I didn’t even link the two together, it was the Beard who figured it out, no doubt because he is an outsider watching it happen. What would I do without him eh? I have to count myself lucky that I have such an amazing person ready to be there for me when I feel like I’m about to prang. No more suffering in silence.
Has anyone else out there noticed a link between running and anxiety? Or has anyone reading this been through something similar? I would love to know and love to talk to others about it. Either comment below, tweet me, or if you’re not yet feeling ready to talk about it, head to paranoidthoughts.com, that site is helping me a lot. I actually cried with relief when I first found it and read the accounts of others. Sometimes it helps just to know that another person has experienced what you are experiencing and it is normal. It also has professional contacts and coping tips.
Finishing this rather long blog post off on a positive note, remember Better out than in, talk to someone, or maybe just chuck your trainers on and go for a run. Anywho, I’m off to JD Sports to buy myself a brand new pair of trainers, woop woop!