Saturday, 20 August 2016

How Anxiety Stole My Joy

Deflated Balloon

I wanted to talk about an element of anxiety that I wasn't aware of before being diagnosed; the lack of desire and interest in things you normally enjoy.

As I have mentioned a couple of times previously, I love writing letters. This year I had managed to become penpals with a number of people from around the world, and it was wonderful. I loved writing to them and getting to know them, I loved their mail art, and the extra goodies some of them were generous to send to me. It was just so much time. However, there were some people who took a while to send there letters - which is, of course, absolutely fine; life happens and people get busy - but then a lot of letters arrived in quick succession, and fully realised how many people I had committed to writing to. I ended up with a pile of letters from people, around the same time I started to struggle quite a bit from my anxiety, and the number of letters I had to reply to became overwhelming.

So I stopped writing letters. I'd look at my pile of letters knowing I had to respond - feeling the expectation of my penpals for their letter, feeling pressured to write back - but feeling anxious every time I thought about it. There were just too many, and I couldn't face it. The idea of writing to these people stopped being something fun and enjoyable, and became something that actually caused me to get stressed out and feel anxious.

So I had to make a tough decision; I finally admitted to myself with a sinking heart that I had to cut down on the number if penpals I had. The prospect of doing so made me feel even more anxious. I'd be letting them down, what if they hated me? How could I even choose who to stop writing to? I decided the only way that was fair was to stop writing to those who were more recent penpals, rather than stop writing to those I'd been penpals with for a while.

I told two penpals a few weeks back, and that was all I could handle. One responded saying it was absolutely fine, they understood, and I was to look after myself. The other didn't respond at all, and I felt absolutely terrible. It took me a while to build up the courage to tell the others, and today, I did. And it was so upsetting to have to tell these really lovely people I would no longer be writing to them. They had taken the time and effort to write to me, some had even sent me extra goodies, and couldn't return the favour. I felt like I was failing them. I thought I would seem ungrateful, even though that couldn't be further from the truth. But I had to think of my health, and how stressed out it was making me. I've now whittled my penpals down to a manageable few, and I no longer feel so overwhelmed.

But I've really struggled with how it felt to not want to do something I loved, to have something I loved to be the cause of some of my anxiety. Granted, I committed to being penpals to far too many people in the first place, and I should have been more aware of the number and stopped sooner, but even so, I don't think I would have struggled as much, been as overwhelmed, if I didn't have anxiety. It's been so strange, and a bit of an eye-opener. I've noticed there are other things that I have had trouble with, as well. I'm an avid reader, but for a while, I didn't want to read anything other than the Harry Potter novels. I simply couldn't face anything else, and stuck to comfort reading. I wasn't that interested in book blogging, either, though I made myself write about the Harry Potter books. In the past two months, I've only written five posts for Jo's Scribbles (not including this one).

I've been struggling with some things, but with others I've just felt so unmotivated. But these are the things that bring me so much joy! My anxiety started to rob me of fun and enjoyment, and put stress, dejection and disinterest in it's place. I had deflated. I've been on anti-depressants for a few weeks now, had my telephone assessment on Monday to decide what kind of therapeutic steps would benefit me, and had my first session of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) booked in for just under two weeks time, and things have slowly started to feel a bit better, a little easier. I'm getting back into reading other books, and I've blogged about them. I've been writing a few more posts for Jo's Scribbles. And today I managed to tell a number of people I could no longer be their penpals and write a letter to one of the people I'm going to continue writing to. Things are moving forward, and I'm so glad to see this shift.

It's just been hard to to have my joy taken away from me.

If you have anxiety disorder, did you notice yourself struggling to find enjoyment doing the things you normally loved?

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