I have never been the type to crumble in a crisis. Mind over matter with a bit of hard work thrown in; naively I used to feel in total control of my destiny. Focused, with a [liberal] sprinkling of a stubborn tendency to get through any challenges that came my way. Anxiety was for other people.
But when truly tested I was to find out I was not only one of those other people, but also stubborn to my detriment. Stubborn enough to not see the wood for the trees, or rather the anxiety for the fear. The irrational fear of something happening, despite it not physically being able to happen again. The fear I unnecessarily projected onto everyday activities. The fear that I was not coping.
The fear that other people would realise I was not coping.
So I did nothing. I was fine; there was nothing wrong.
There was nothing wrong with events playing over and over in my mind, transporting me back to the paralysing fear of bleeding to death (Singular; adjective, just one person or thing.). There was nothing wrong with it catching me off guard and stopping me in my tracks. And further still nothing wrong with the sudden flashes of what I lived and breathed two days after giving birth to my daughter; flashes of trying sit up in my hospital bed refusing to lay down or close my eyes in an effort to not pass out. The images in my head held horrible inseparable hands with later thoughts of the gravity of the situation, adding the dimension of watching as a helpless bystander who was unable to look away.
I took control as best I could by avoiding certain situations and discussions. But this, along with a simultaneous disregard for the mundane and fearful risk aversion that had developed in the wake of the events of having Bean, left me feeling isolated and even less able to overcome my feelings.
To a point, despite the obvious disadvantages of my so-called coping mechanisms, daytime was the easy bit. It was the subconscious anxiety that refused to leave me in peace even when asleep that really got to me. My deep routed inner anxieties waited just long enough for me to get over the fear of going to sleep alone before striking. Just long enough that I could go to sleep without worrying something awful would happen.
But even this sleep-disturbing spike of worry was not enough to admit there was a problem. It didn’t matter that while I slept the feelings of fear peaked, with images at their most vivid convincing me I was bleeding profusely again. It didn’t even matter that months later I would wake up totally convinced I was waking in the early hours of that Wednesday morning in a pool of blood.
Maybe waking up standing on one leg in a bid to get out of a pool of non-existent blood with my face wet with tears was normal, just something to be brushed aside before getting on with the day.
My subconscious was getting the better of me time and time again, but my stubborn denial stopped me accepting there was a problem and stopped me seeking help. Irrational worry made insignificant decisions hold a disproportionate importance, and still there was no acceptance of a problem. My inability to verbalise what I was seeing in my head prevented me from feeling I could articulate and convey the issue to allow anyone in to help.
Despite my outward denial there had been months of friends and family suggesting it may be helpful to speak to someone. Attempts to veil my feelings were clearly thin, with those who knew me well unconvinced by my transparency. But still I thought their concerns were misguided.
I am unsure what finally broke my resolve to deal with it myself. Now I wish I had taken the advice of loved ones sooner, but I think it had to come from me. I knew I wanted Bean to know the old me and as she grew that became more pertinent. Perhaps there was also an element of despair that what I was doing alone was not making it go away. A large part of someone being able to improve the situation in my head was me admitting it was a problem; something that could not come from anyone else. I had to get to a point where I accepted denying my fear and anxiety was getting me no closer to my old self. To the contrary, I was rapidly travelling further from the person I was before I had Bean.
I eventually spoke to a hypnotherapist who walked me towards the images that most frequently emerged from my memories. She helped me to replace moments intrinsically tied to fearful emotions with something more positive. I walked towards my scared self waiting to be operated on, unsure of what the outcome of surgery would be, and replaced the feeling of being alone and scared with warmth and reassurance. I was sceptical of the effect of hugging my petrified self, but something clicked. In no way was the fear gone completely, but I could process some of my anxiety with thoughts that did not leap to a state of frozen panic. I could sleep and begin to recover out of the grips of something I had felt I had no control over. Hypnotherapy may not be for everyone, but for me it had echoes of the meditation classes I went to when I was at University. It just felt right. I am sure others would have their own right person to seek help from.
It is a work in progress, but admitting I had a problem and letting someone in was the first step in my journey back to reclaiming the bits of the old me I wanted to keep. I was worried my anxiety was a sign of weakness, a defining feature that someone else would have been strong enough to deflect. But this is not true; my weaknesses were thinking anxiety discriminates in who it lives in and that someone else would not be able to help me see blue sky in the storm of my thoughts.