Today’s anonymous contribution to my Untold Stories series is an incredibly brave and incredibly sad story about a woman trying to live with Generalised Anxiety Disorder through lockdown, and how that is impacting on her relationship with her husband and her children. I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks that people are talking more and more about the impact of the coronavirus on mental health and I’m sure today’s storyteller can’t be alone in finding herself struggling to cope with this new way of living. If you have any words of comfort or reassurance, or are experiencing any similar, please do leave a comment, I know it would be hugely appreciated. If you have your own story you’d like to share, please get in touch.
I am THAT person
This pandemic. This coronavirus. This new way of existing. It’s terrifying, it’s depressing, it’s beyond our control.
I’m pretty sure mine is not the only household that’s reeling under the pressure cooker atmosphere of lockdown. Many are struggling to contain their kids or not particularly enjoying their partners working from home. It’s absolutely not a way of life that any of us are used to, nor do many of us like it.
But I wonder how many people have discovered that they themselves are actually impossible to live with. This is a sickening realisation that I’ve had to come to terms with. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). To explain: this does not mean I “worry”. It means that I spend my entire day in “fight or flight” mode. It’s a constant, exhausting, terrible fear. It’s a permanent attempt at holding it together, pushing down the urge to shriek with panic, persistently trying not to cry. It’s constantly seeking reassurance, constantly asking questions. It’s trusting no one. It’s catastrophising every single thing, until the world seems to be a terrible place not worth living in. It’s such a burdensome load to carry, that it seeps into my veins and poisons my blood with a depression that never lifts.
The pandemic has magnified my disorder. I rant, I cry. I’ve told my husband several times that I want to end my life. I drive him to the very ends of his patience, asking him questions about this pandemic that nobody can answer. His frustration with me boils over into him reprimanding me for irrational behaviour, for being “ridiculous”, for putting him under more pressure than he can bear. My daughters (18 and 20) comfort me as best they can, but inevitably become upset or frustrated. They are seeing me in a way I never wanted them to see their mum. I’m ashamed for not being strong, not being encouraging, not being positive. Neither of them will look back at this time and say that I was a ‘rock’ or ‘inspirational’. They’ll just see a sodden wreck of a woman, trying to get through the day. Unlike so many mums out there, I’m not taking up new hobbies, learning a new skill or raising money for the NHS. All I can do is focus on being sane.
In recent weeks, I have lost one of my closest friends. She works in a well-known supermarket and I asked her advice about collecting a grocery order. I’d been scrolling through Instagram and a very well known news reporter had shared a hugely alarming video about coronavirus. I instantly fell into a state of complete terror and panic and all I wanted to do was lock all the doors, shut all the windows and hide away. In my meltdown, it was my opinion that none of us are safe, we’re all going to die, the groceries aren’t safe, going to collect them isn’t safe… until I couldn’t breathe. My husband lost it with me, the girls lost it with him. Such a mess. Such a horrible, loud, exhausting mess. I sent my friend a panicked text, asking for advice and she replied nicely enough. I didn’t hear from her for a week. Then I received a heart-stabbing text from her saying that she was very angry with me: my text had been condescending and demanding. Despite our 17 year-long friendship, that was it for her. Despite her telling me just days before that she was “there for me, always”, this was too much for her. I get it, I sound like a maniac when I’m in the grip of this disorder. But this hurts. The kind of hurt that weighs you down and makes your chest feel heavy. I haven’t known how to reply and still haven’t.
The thing about GAD, is that it strips you of confidence. It makes you feel like you are weak, you have no control of yourself and nothing you say is either valid, real or rational. The resulting self-hatred is all-consuming.
My husband and I have talked of divorce, when this is all over. If it ever is all over. In all honesty, he has never been patient with my mental health disorder, which has caused a lot of conflict over the years, and I’m seeing that I have become someone that he doesn’t want to live with anymore. I can see my youngest daughter champing at the bit for uni to start, so she can move away. And the pandemic is making her panic that uni won’t happen for her, which makes it so much worse. My eldest, who was living at uni with her boyfriend, is also desperate to be back with him and away from home, away from me. Nobody wants to live with someone who has a mental health disorder, during a pandemic that never seems to end.
I make sure to get straight into the shower every morning – something I’ve trained myself to do over the years of battling GAD and depression. But now I use it as a space to heave heavy, angry sobs. Uttering ranting prayers to a God I’m not sure I believe in anymore. The rest of the day is spent staring out of windows, blindly doing household tasks and not really talking. I’m too afraid I say anything that upsets anyone else in the house. Any anxious thoughts that I utter are met by my husband with a heavy sigh or a tut. So there’s no point in talking.
I generally avoid the news and I’m really careful on social media. But I know most of the talk is about the physical casualties of this virus. However, there will be other casualties – in my case, declining mental health and a failed marriage. The future looks so bleak and terrifying and I honestly don’t want to spend my days keeping quiet because my disorder annoys those who I live with. But I have no choice. Because I am THAT person – the person who other family members mock on social media; the person they can’t live with during the lockdown; the person they didn’t realise was so annoying until they were forced to be with them 24/7.
I am that person and I don’t want to be. I’m what they call ‘medication resistant’, in that no meds respond my condition, or they make me suicidal or very sick.
I’m fighting this by myself and I’m hanging on by my fingertips.
Wow, I’m in total awe of you, managing all of that in this scary time. I had a similar(ish) situation a few years ago – I wasn’t working because of my anxiety and my partner was made redundant and ended up at home for a few months. It certainly wasn’t on the scale of our current crisis, but it was a real shift in our dynamic and had a huge impact on our relationship as I could see and feel him getting fed up with me – or it felt like it at least. He says it was more frustration on his part because he wanted to be able to help me feel better and felt so powerless that it made him lash out. I really feel for you though and can only encourage you to keep going, to keep talking, and to get whatever help you can or feel able to because it can get better. xxx
This is truly a sad tale and one which will be echoed by others, particularly with the probable long term nature of this awful pandemic. I don’t have any magic answer but my thoughts and prayers go out to this family. The following numbers may be of use: Local Govt. CV Helpline 0300 790 6275 – 8am to 6pm and Mindline 01823 276892 – 8pm to 11pm every evening
Do use the numbers above from Anton, and also the Samaritans will talk to you. You don’t have to be in this alone and there are many who are in the same position. It’s not your fault you have a mental health condition but it’s incredibly hard for those that live with you, I’m sure it’s mostly because they feel as though they can’t help you. I live with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and honestly, some days I wish she’d never been born, but then I realise that she can’t help it and deep down the only thing I really want is to take it all away from her. My love for her is unconditional, even though she’s an adult and should be living her own life rather than making mine miserable. She understands that her behaviour is controlled by her condition and will apologise for her behaviour, which helps a little. She also knows who to call when things get real bad. Most of all, she knows that I love and support her even though I might lose it myself sometimes. Remember, people can be upset and angry with you but still love you all the same. I hope things improve soon x
I feel very sorry for you all but have no real idea of what you are all going through as I live alone and am simply fed up and lonely. However I hope that a few words of common sense may help just a tiny bit. This virus is with us now but it will be contained by our brilliant scientists. There will soon be an inoculation for this horrible disease, the trials have already started so things will improve and hopefully fairly quickly. Life will never be the same again but then your life was changing hugely before with your children developing their own way forward in life. I know a bit about how that feels as many years ago my daughter died and my son went to University the day after her funeral, that was not a good time for either my son or me and has probably left both of us scarred.
As for God, sometimes his answer is ‘no’, it’s never what we want to hear but I believe that is the way it is.
Good luck, hang in there, it will all improve xx
What treatment have you had? Loads of people train their bodies, but don’t know how to actively reset or improve the mind. That can be trained too. Proactive counselling from an exceptional therapist (they aren’t all the same standard!) such as NLP can provide a great relief. Don’t know how far you are from Esher but can not recommend Paul highly enough. http://www.comphealthclinic.co.uk/
Further to previous comment, Paul Sullivan that is (just seen there are two Paul’s). He may well be able to do something on the phone with you now. X
I promise you are not alone in those feelings. I do panic myself and worry about the effect on my partner and children . The only thing I try to do is take one day at a time or hour or minute , depending on how I am that day . I think if I shower , eat something and have managed to hoover or complete some task , that’s a good day. Concentrate on you first , it’s the oxygen mask scenario. So do what you need to do and try not to add guilt to your worries. I wish I had better words or advice to dispense, I can’t , but I can send a virtual hug and tell you that many reading this will be feeling the same, on many different levels. I can suggest you find someone outside friends and family to offload your feelings and help you manage them. They could help you express your feelings to your family in a way that they could empathise with instead of being worried or frustrated. Because so much of what you have said is about how you see it reflected back at you via them. Another idea might be to find someone your girls or husband could talk to also. Try not to repress it all. If you can, find it in yourself to reach out for help from a professional. You have taken the first step writing it here. I think you have written something very brave and honest and courageous. Thank you for sharing it .
How brave of you to say this out loud. I wish I could utter words that would help you. All I can think of feels trite and possibly irritating:
You can do this, keep trying, would maybe watching a calming YouTube video on fish swimming or beautiful flowers give you a little pause. I’ve baked bread rolls today cos I’ve been worrying and 10 minutes of kneading helped. I’m also planning on watching French and Saunders later cos they make me laugh.
Sending support and love
Hi everyone. Thank you all so much for reading my story and responding so kindly. I very much appreciate your support, advice and suggestions.
I’m seeing a therapist privately (online sessions). Something I haven’t tried before called Quantum Energy Coaching (QEC). I’ve had a few sessions and it’s bringing up so much from childhood that explains a lot about my response to life in general. I think the pandemic has just pushed me beyond my limit and sometimes I just want to disappear completely. I’m taking myself up to my room when I feel overwhelmed and that’s helping the family dynamic. I really do have the most lovely daughters, who understand and care so much. My husband, not so much. He’s permanently angry with me, so I don’t know how that’s going to go. There’s not much I can do while in lockdown.
Take care everyone. Xx
I remember when I started therapy for anxiety, the therapist told me that anxiety can often get worse for the first few months, because you start digging into memories and feelings that are usually buried or at least papered over. I remember fainting after my flu jab because I got so worked up, just a couple of weeks into my therapy.
This is my life just now too. I moved in with my companion im 61 and he is 64. I have good days and bad days. Today I am barely functioning. I have sever OCD health anxiety and depression II also had many family and financil worries before lockdown. I will have to go home soon but am so afraid. I cannot put my companion through this anymore.Too make matters worse my family cant put up with me anymore. I too am hanging on by fingernails…my thoughts are with you all.
I am not going though the same as most my problem is my partner is always going on about my health problems at the present time with this pandemic still going on so I feel very sorry for this person I hope there is light at the end of the pandemic
I am right there with you! Today was particularly bad. I am so overwhelmed, so depressed and feeling guilt over my boys being on screens all day, and today I reached my breaking point.
I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE. And my husband doesn’t want to hear it. Can I just die from the virus?? I want to get away from this hell. Pray for me.
Oh Kim, that sounds awful for you, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Do you have anyone you can talk to about it – a friend or family member or a professional of some kind?
Hi Kim. I’m only just seeing this now – I hadn’t realised anyone else had commented on my untold story. I’m so sorry for how you felt that day and wonder how things are now? Xx
Reading this and some of the comments, I honestly could’ve written them myself. You’ve described the feeling better than any other text I’ve read anywhere. My husband is the same and actually, that does more damage to me than the crippling anxiety, OCD and depression I’m constantly battling. When I have an outburst, he argues with me, tuts, eye rolls etc. I’ve told him a million times how damaging that it, that it makes me feel like I’m having a go at him intentionally, when actually, I’d do anything not to be behaving this way. However, as per his lengthy track record, he doesn’t listen and continues to react in this way. I hate him for it, yet I’m in no position financially to kick him out. It’s awful. I know I’d be coping better without him. Ideally, he’d change the way he reacts to me, give me love and support rather than tuts but I have to accept that’s never going to happen. But what now? How do I live with him knowing how much he hurts me every single day?
I’m so sorry you’re going through this – I hope at least that reading about someone else experiencing the same makes you feel slightly less alone? It’s a really tough situation to be in, and I can understand why you feel trapped. Do you have any close friends or family that you could turn to, somewhere else you might be able to go for a while maybe?