Why did Adele cross the road? To say hello to the other side.
I’m sorry, that’s a terrible joke. I can hear you groaning from here, but I do have something in common with Adele.
Unfortunately it isn’t a brilliant singing voice – anybody who has heard me murder one Queen’s many songs can attest to that. Nor is it a healthy bank balance. It certainly isn’t a plethora of music awards. I can just about play the drums and I know fewer guitar cords than Status Quo.
We both suffer from Anxiety. Unfortunately it is not an exclusive club. According to Mind, 5% of all adults in the UK suffer from this horrid condition.
I refer to my condition as my “Anxiety Monster”, and it’s taken me 36 years to learn how to control him. He hardly makes an appearance anymore. However, when he does visit it really is not fun.
He isn’t a nice furry monster like Sully in Monsters Inc. Excuse my language, but he is a total and utter Bastard. I call him a monster because when he comes to visit he changes the way I think, act and behave. At times he can take over who I am.
When my anxiety monster comes to call I feel on edge. All the time. I automatically fear the worst about the smallest of things, some of which haven’t even happened yet. I worry needlessly and endlessly. I find it hard to relax and let my brain wind down as it is a whirring mess of fear and worry.
My monster will treat me to a highlight reel of every mistake that I have ever made. The technical term for this is rumination, but it is like watching “Craig’s greatest bloopers” on repeat. The difference is none of the highlights are funny and there is no cash prize for the most cringe-worthy clip, just a bunch self-loathing.
My anxiety monster tells me that nobody actually cares how I feel, so why should I bother them with my tales of woe. My anxiety monster also tells me that everyone in the world is waiting for me to trip up, so that they can laugh at me. It makes me feel nervous and unsure whether the next step I take is the best way forward.
“Normal” Craig knows that I am other-thinking things; knows that things aren’t that bad and understands that the people I call friends and family are here to help and do want to listen. The problem is the Anxiety monster is able to dig his claws in so deep that I lose sight of this occasionally.
Over the last 36 years I have learned how to deal with the Anxiety Monster and I have learned how to articulate how I feel (well, most of the time anyway). However, I know that my son Matthew really struggles when his monster visits. Anxiety is an unwanted extra when it comes to neurological disorders (I still hate that term). When added onto everything else they have to deal with it can be a horrible thing to see you child to try to deal with.
Whilst you can’t stop somebody being anxious, you can learn to recognise the symptoms and put thing in place to help them cope.
Remember way back when in my first blog I discussed the merits of turning a negative into a positive? (If not go have a read as it is rather good) I use my experience of wrestling with my anxiety monster to understand how Matthew is feeling.
Luckily for my wife and I Matthew has expresses his anxiety in very obvious ways. He will gallop around the house, he will chew anything in sight (including himself) and his new “tell” is licking his lips to the point that they become red and chapped. At first we really struggled to understand how to help. I just assumed that what I did when the monster visited me would help Matthew when he received a visit. It turns out that everybody’s Monster is different and Matthew’s Monster to different things.
I am probably going to sound like a broken record now but this is a very important point – you have to ask for help. There is no shame in it, and Mental Health is just as important as your child’s physical wellbeing.
The Wellbeing Team at Matthew’s school are brilliant at helping Matthew deal with his anxiety at school. They have given us suggestions on how we can help at home and they have made a big difference. We now have a multitude of different “fiddle toys” and quiet spaces so that Matthew can have some alone time. Especially from his Brother, Dave, who can be a bit of a wind-up merchant.
The best resource is the one through which you access this blog- the internet. If you ask it nicely google will put you in contact with Mental health charities like Mind. I have lost count how many times I have googled about Anxiety but I have gained access to Anxiety webinars, talks and some really good advise to use for both my own and Matthew’s use.
You’ll never get rid of the Anxiety Monster completely. As I said he is a total and utter bastard. However you can make his visits a bit more tolerable, for everyone.