Making a List, Checking it Twice

Did I ever mention that I am an anxious person? I feel like it might have come up once or twice...

Over the year I have learnt to speak openly and as fluently as I can about my mental health.  Through both therapy and conversations with my peers I can confidently say that I understand my anxiety and how it manifests itself.  I am proud that I have invested the time to do this as it has lengthened my good periods and significantly shortened the bad ones.

Herein lies the trickster that is a mental health condition.  It doesn't want you to recover, it doesn't want the ground under your feet to be stable for too long.  Learn to predict the direction you think it will shoot and it will shift the goal posts on you.

This is where I currently find myself.  Trying to defend myself from an onslaught of shots from my brain having great fun playing target practice.

So, what is going on?  Well, to give you a snap shot, last night I lay awake unable to sleep.  I felt a grip of panic in my chest as I simply did not feel safe enough to go to sleep.  I had checked the front door and windows - twice; I had checked the oven was off - I even took a photo to prove to my brain that my eyes were not lying to me; I had checked every cupboard despite having been in the flat all day.  The typical noises that come from living in a block of flats had gone from oddly comforting to a sign that I was not alone.  

These behaviours had grown from the odd check on nights where I felt a little vulnerable to a compulsive need to complete them before I could close my eyes at night.  I know that I am safe, but these thoughts are so intrusive that I don't feel like I can fully trust myself and need to check again and again.  They are new and I don't understand why they are happening.

Well, actually, that is a big fat lie.  My fiance has started to work night shifts: he leaves at 11pm and gets home about 5am.  I had expected that the first few nights of falling asleep alone would be odd.  What I could not have predicted was a deep rooted fear that something was going to happen to me.  What is that something? I am honestly not sure, but at night it feels as real as anything the day light could show me.

A lot of mental health recovery is based on routines.  We establish patterns of behaviour that helps build tangible blocks of experiences to refer back to when we feel less able and in need of reassurance.  When these routines are broken (because lets face it, thats life ain't it?) it can test our ability to adapt these lessons to a new situation.  

The problem is here is that we often build these coping mechanisms based on our past experiences - in my case, how my anxiety had previously manifested itself.  Currently, applying my previous successes to these new intrusive thoughts is proving to be less effective than I had hoped.  What I do know though is what to do next.  

Writing this post in the first - speaking honestly about what I am feeling has been one of the most powerful parts of my recovery.  Secondly, I will most likely go back to therapy for a time. I know that catching this early gives me the best chance of it not becoming entrenched behaviour.  Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I will trust that things will get better.  That single thought is far more powerful than any other that I might be battling.  I can beat the monster under the bed.