Lately I’ve been feeling incredibly reclusive, withdrawn and quite low, with an overwhelming need to protect myself, and to live my life in a way that I can emotionally manage. Sometimes, I just need to batten down the hatches, recover from my day, or get through a difficult phase in my life by myself. It’s inevitable though that when these periods come along, when I’ve lost my mojo those invitations come rolling in, and when I feel the need to isolate they can feel like demands upon my personal space and time, making me feel anxious. I can’t manage being social when I’m feeling antisocial! But my inner conflict which goes with this is painful; am I selfish for politely saying ‘No thank you?’ Should I be co-dependent and please the invitee before myself? Is it selfish to put your own needs first when you feel like you’re struggling to cope? There are times in all our lives when we feel overwhelmed, overwrought and vulnerable, add to the mix anxiety and sadness and I’m in my cave!!
I want to write a heartfelt letter to all of you who mean well, but find it hard to understand where I sometimes find myself:
Dear (Insert name here!)
Please don’t take this personally, it’s not you, it’s me, I’m going through something right now and I don’t want to spend time away from home because I’m tired and I need to protect my time the best way I can. I have a full time job, and I take pride in my work and I want to do it well.
However, by the time I’ve added on my commute plus working through the day without a break I’m working a 40 hour week, and I get weary. I choose to remain committed to what I do because it brings meaning to my life and I need to pay the bills, but sometimes life gets me down, like now, when I am trying to sell my house, and nothing is happening, I feel in limbo, and even though I know where I want to be, somehow I can’t get there, and the Universe is saying ‘No!’ This year began with a family trigger which devastated me. A month later ‘Storm Doris’ took half my roof off! Scaffolding then went up and was abandoned for over a month just as I had put the house on the market, and my insurance company put me through the wringer! My daughters having flown the nest and growing up also resulted in me feeling a need to redefine myself from ‘Mum’ into someone else I don’t recognise…yet. Overall 2017 has not been the best year of my life!
On a level I’m aware that I suffer from generalised anxiety and depression and I struggle occasionally. Friends and family want me to go and stay with them, spend the day with them, do this, do that, but I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to be at home, either alone or with my daughters or with my partner, and right now, in this moment in time, in MY world, I can’t manage much more than this. I’m flat out. People who don’t work full time find this hard to understand. I have to worry about who will feed my cats, how long will I be away for, when can I politely retreat again? It all makes me feel incredibly anxious. Weekends/Bank Holidays Christmas/New Year – it isn’t personal. I have so little time off, I don’t want to spend 6 hours of my downtime on a motorway, it exhausts me and makes me feel stressed, then I’m not fresh for work and I do a bad job. If I mess up at work I beat myself up unmercifully, and my anxiety goes through the roof!
Generalised anxiety and low mood and worrying are things I live with, but it’s not down to YOU. Sometimes I’m sad about how my life has turned out, I didn’t choose to have an emotional breakdown years ago, nor did I choose breast cancer the following year, but it happened to me, and it changed who I was, and I’m not the same person anymore. I lost a lot back then, my marriage, my home, my emotional and financial security, the good life, the easy life, and at times it’s felt uphill since those lazy, hazy days.
Many years of therapy later I do feel better, and I’m a lot stronger, but I can still be triggered, and so I choose to protect myself, particularly from family of origin triggers. Emotional regulation is a real challenge when you’re hurting.
Sometimes life DOES change you, and one has to accept those changes. When I struggle, I can accept the changes I’m just not so good at embracing those changes!
Sometimes I just need to say:
“This is who I am now, I’ve changed, things are different, but it’s not personal to you.”
I have to recognise how much I can manage in this moment in time.
I can still be productive, but when I become reclusive and I withdraw – well then I need to isolate for a while to manage my feelings. It’s ‘cave time!’
‘Cave time’ is a more healthy choice for me than caving in.