Last week was so overwhelming. I was really looking forward to meeting with my doctor who had to cancel the previous week. But when Monday morning rolled around, I got a notification that he was away again. I got a bit upset, not wanting to wait another week to talk about my issues. But fortunately, I got a call saying that I could come in on Wednesday instead.
I tried to get on with the week at a slower pace than the previous week, but I ran into a few unexpected glitches in my plan. First of all, my daughter had some issues at school and she wasn’t able to go to school full time, so my routine was a bit disrupted from that. And also, an unexpected project came in that had some urgency to it, so I had to shift some of my plans to accommodate the work. And my daughter had to have some bloodwork done, which was highly stressful for her, and in turn for the rest of the household. I had a terrible drive at night in the rain as well which took some time to recover from. On top of all that, I started my period late in the week, so was having more PMS type symptoms in the lead up.
Seeing the doctor
In the morning before I left for my appointment, my husband asked me what was going on, as he could tell that I wasn’t at my best. When I talked to him about what was on my mind, it didn’t go too well and I ended up frustrated. I am sure we both did. But I was starting to get medical anxiety again, and I went to him for reassurance and instead he started with “I probably shouldn’t say this but…” and then proceeded to go down more of a coaching route than a compassionate husband route. Of course I didn’t help things by not being clear about what I needed, and it had been some time since I needed reassurance for a medical anxiety issue. So I suppose we were out of practice. I told him that I would just sort things out at my appointment, but I was clearly still upset.
On Wednesday at my appointment I talked to the doctor about what was going on. We talked about what happened with my husband. He asked what I was hoping to learn from our conversation, and I started to tear up and say that I needed to know that things wouldn’t always be this hard.
I was concerned overall that I was getting more anxious but as I filled him in on the happenings of the previous week, it came out that I just wanted everyone to go away and leave me alone. So he led me through some questions about that. Turns out that the imagery that came to my mind was that I was a child of about two years old, and I was banging on pots and pans as I sat on the kitchen floor. Trying to drown out all the noise around me. Again, everything seems to lead back to early childhood. I really don’t recall too much more of what we spoke about in that session. Although I remember mentioning the ‘infinite mind map’ that was constantly spinning around in my head lately. That there’s the words “too much, too much, too much” often in my mind lately. We agreed at the end of the session that what would be best was if I went home and ‘did nothing’ (my words, not his) and he noted that I didn’t have to think of it as ‘doing nothing’ because taking care of myself was doing something worthwhile.
It was also a bit of a relief to have it affirmed that yeah, I was doing too much. And so I did go home after my appointment and I was home alone for the first time in what felt like forever. And I didn’t do anything ‘productive’ by the standards of our highly driven society. I laid on the couch and watched TV. I made myself some comfort foods. I cuddled up with a hot water bottle.
The infinite mind map persists in my mind
The next day I didn’t really have the luxury of another day off, so I got back onto things. I did seem to have more capacity, and felt somewhat less fatigued. But the infinite mind map was not going anywhere. I had mentioned it in my appointment, but it was still ‘all in my head’ and remained there persistently through the week. I had even talked to an artist about whether she could create the image I had in my head. I described the image as having so many things branching off in my brain, that I have to hide under a blanket to try to shelter myself from all of the things.
But even that conversation was difficult. It’s weird because I’ve always found it easy to chat to people online. It’s where I found my first real ‘tribe’ where I felt comfortable. But after a long time of social media participation, I withdrew for many months. And the demand of the notification that there was a message was tough. Not knowing what the message might say was tough. Not knowing how my responses would be read was tough… But I am getting off track. In the end, I was able to continue the conversation, and the the artist drew me this awesome image that is a brilliant visual representation of the infinite mind map, and the emotions I feel when it’s overwhelming me.
Swimming against the tide
On Saturday, I am teary and anxious. I spend hours just laying in bed. Not even listening to music or journaling. Just really shut off. And on Sunday, anxiety really intensifies. I have a big cry. I want to go with my husband and kids to visit with family, but I just can’t do it.
I write the following:
against the tide
And I wonder
if it’s always
going to be
than what’s the point
of even being alive?
And it’s not
even so much
because I know
I have what it takes
I just don’t know
if it’s worth
when the world
I’m living in
will never match up
with the expectations
for most of my life
Busting out the butcher paper
When my husband and kids leave, I take out the butcher paper and some markers and I create a representation of the ‘infinite mind map’. And I keep going for about an hour. And there’s still more to come out of me, but my family gets back home and interrupts my flow. And it’s Wednesday now and I haven’t touched it again. I suppose that’s the thing about it being ‘infinite’ – I know it will never be finished.
I have thought of many more things to add since. I could probably remove a couple of things now. But the things aren’t the thing.
Another check in
On Monday, I have my regularly scheduled appointment with the doctor. We talk about the ‘infinite mind map’. I tell him I created it on paper. I don’t bring it with me, or talk about specifics. Because I already know that the things aren’t the thing. I’ve had that conversation with my husband who said that the doctor could probably help me knock a few off the map pretty quickly. But I said even though that’s probably true – it’s not the things on the map that are the issue. It’s the map itself. At this stage, what I think I need help with is the busy-ness of my brain.
The doctor asks me what I came away with after doing that exercise. This triggers my brain into remembering that the night I made the mind map, I couldn’t sleep until I jotted in my notepad. What was running through my head, keeping me awake. I wrote:
Seems like I’ve made choices I didn’t know I would have to make and I thought I’d be able to have a career and a family like I was sold on all my life and the reality is that I cannot have both and now it’s too late to make a different choice so I have to live with this life of obligation without enough to balance out what I want for myself.
I felt really frustrated that I could never be both the perfect mother and accomplished career woman I though I was going to be. I was angry that my brain couldn’t cope with everything it would need to tolerate in order to achieve those dreams. I was upset that I hadn’t been able to spend enough of my time and energy on writing because yet again, too many other things had to be taken care of first.
And it was good to talk about it. To say some of those things that we are often too afraid to admit. And I do feel as though I was heard in my appointment, but the mind map had more to teach me.
Lessons from the infinite mind map
I continued to think about the mind map. Here are some of the things I came away with:
1. My mind has been way busier lately. I don’t know if it’s a result of less medication. Maybe the meds do help with some of that.
2. I need solitude and do not get anywhere near as much as I need to function at my best.
3. I do not trust other people to take over tasks. Even if I delegate, I will still feel responsible and keep account of the tasks.
4. My energy accounting is way in deficit. And so I really have to find out what energises me. I know solitude and rest do. But what else? This is something that I need to explore.
5. I need to create for the sake of creating. Yes, I do want to put effort into sharing my writing – but the priority for me needs to be doing the actual writing because first and foremost, I need it in order to feel like life is worthwhile.
6. Did I mention that I really need solitude?
And the scariest one of all:
7. There are things that I was too afraid to even put on my mind map. And those are the things that I need to address. And my next appointment won’t be about all the things on the mind map. It will be about all the things that aren’t.