Take A Break

I’m not really sure where to start as it has been so long since I have dedicated my time to writing. My personal life got too much and my mind went completely elsewhere, so sitting down to write was something that I felt I couldn’t do, and for a few months actually sitting down on anything was extremely difficult…literally. I pretty much stopped watching TV shows and movies because sometimes even the thought of sitting still for over an hour would cause my body to fidget, and then anything I watched with my boyfriend, I would get up and down couple-several times throughout the film. The saddest part is that I would get up to go and stand in the kitchen opening and closing cupboards a few times, then I’d get up and walk to the bedroom to just stand there and I’d be confused as to why I was just standing in my bedroom aimlessly. I honestly struggled to just fucking sit down, if I did my body would either feel like it’s on the verge of exploding or it would just completely shut down and struggle to get going again, so I just stopped sitting.

I think this started at around December time and throughout the previous months I was struggling with the anxiety and depression, then during December I took myself to the doctors to get help, but it wasn’t until March time when I realised that yeah, not sitting is not normal and not good for you.

Before each therapy session I have to fill out a questionnaire that scores my levels of depression, anxiety and stress. On this questionnaire it asks how easy/difficult I find winding down and relaxing to be, well my scores for this were pretty high so my therapist brought this up during a session. I explained to her that I found it hard to sit still for anything longer than 5-10 minutes, that I struggled to watch TV, have a lie in, spend free time doing the bare minimum/nothing, that I was always on the move whether it be at work or at home. As I was saying all of this to her, none of it was registering to me that it was not normal, it was not how daily life should be, but I had just gotten so used to it. Years and years ago I used to binge TV shows and films easily, having a lie in/nap didn’t leave me feeling guilty or that I was wasting my day and sitting down was something I did just naturally. I remembered these times, but none of it registered till my therapist brought it up to me. She asked me ‘What would happen if you were to sit down for just 15 minutes’ and my reply was ‘I can’t, even the thought of doing that makes me fidget and feel like I want to explode’. Turns out that taking any sort of break became a bit of an anxiety trigger for me, so because sitting down/having a lie in/watching TV triggered those anxious thoughts/feelings, I just stopped doing them, because that way I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety and everything that goes with it. Taking a break became something I avoided doing.

My therapist and I began to break it all down. My struggle to sit down was more of a physical anxiety (fidgeting, restlessness, inability to actually sit still etc), whereas my struggle to have a lie in was more of a mental anxiety (inability to calm my mind, thinking about everything I had to do that day, anxious worries etc). Eventually we found the root causes which were a mixture of different anxiety triggers such as my lifestyle, work and how I presented myself. Once we discovered the root causes, we could begin to make the changes.

We began with how I presented myself. I love to clean, it is like a form of self-care for me, but when my boyfriend and I got our own place, my love for cleaning became a need to clean. I had to make sure all the dishes were done because what if people came round and saw dirty dishes in the sink? What would they think of me? I had to always be washing clothes because it was dirty of me to have filthy clothes in the washing basket for more than a day. The house always had to be presentable because what if. Then around September/October time when the depression came back, I had that depressive ‘I do not care about anything’ attitude towards all house work. Then on the days where the anxiety was more active than the depression, I would be so disgusted in myself as to how I could not have done the house work for so long. I would go on mad rages around the house and my poor boyfriend copped it most of the time (my sincerest apologies).

Work played a big role in this as well. I pride myself on my work ethic and how I present myself in my work. At the time work was extremely busy, we were short staffed and I had to step up into a more responsible role. It took its toll on me for many reasons which I will get into in future posts, but because there was so much to do and time seemed to be limited, the anxiety surrounding how I present myself through my work just engulfed me. I couldn’t help but think that how work was at the time, was how others were seeing me. Unorganized, messy, chaotic, stressful, and to those that know me well, know that I am not those things at all (I can get stressed quite easily though depending on how anxious I am). Then because there always seemed to be so much to do I struggled to take a break and sit down because honestly, the thought of sitting down when there was so much to do just made me feel like I had a rocket in my arse that was about to go on. I just couldn’t. Then once I got home from work I just wanted to keep going until it was time for bed, so I’d come home and usually either cook dinner or do a workout straight away, then do some house work and then try and watch some TV if I managed to stay awake because by this point, my body was crashing and I was just running out of juice.

Then there was the anxiety surrounding my lifestyle, more importantly how I saw myself. This is a topic that I will go very deeply into in future posts, but briefly for now, as some of you may know I have had my struggles with my body image and confidence, when the depression came back I lost a lot of weight (I wasn’t over weight to begin with, I was around a size AUS 12/14), not a lot of people knew what I was going through so with this weight loss came a lot of compliments, which I hated as the weight loss was not done by choice, it happened during a shit period and I had no control over it. The more people began to compliment my weight loss the more it began to fuck with my head. I remember going clothes shopping and bursting into tears in the changing rooms of Cotton On because my body just looked so unhealthy. It just represented exactly how I was feeling, but at the same time, I was wearing crop tops with confidence, which I have never really done. I remember most nights in bed I would run my hands up and down my belly and I would be disgusted at how prominent my ribs were but I also quite liked physically feeling that bit lighter. The day after our New Years Eve party, I looked at my body in the mirror and I could see my ribs clearly and I burst into tears, but I then went and wore a cropped jumper out for dinner.
As I began to get my appetite back the anxiety around gaining weight came so I pushed myself into exercise. I had to exercise at least 5-6 days a week, no matter how tired I was I had to go for a run or do a home workout, I had to do something, I just had to. So a big portion of my free time was spent exercising when it wasn’t always necessary, I could have been writing, napping or watching TV instead, but no.

To break this anxious routine and way of living meant that I had do to exactly what my anxiety did not want me to do…take a God damn break!

I couldn’t throw myself straight into the deep end with this as it would get me absolutely nowhere, so I broke it right down. I started off with sitting down for a bit on my lunch breaks, sitting down for 5 minutes once I got home from work, leaving some clothes in the washing basket for a day and so on. Then the most important part was noticing what thoughts popped into my head and what physical sensations I felt throughout my body when I went against what my anxiety was trying to tell me. I noticed and then challenged. Yes leaving some clothes in the washing basket might look untidy, however for starters they are in a washing basket and not spread all over the house, the basket is in the laundry room which no one will even go into and they are going to get washed any way. Does it matter? Not really!
I decided the best time for me challenge my ability to sit down is when I arrive home from work. 5 minutes of just sitting on the couch will allow me to get a bit of separation between work life and home life, it will help me get out of that work mindset and into my present moment mindset. So I began to sit down and I did have to push myself to stay sat down for a while, but once I began to sit I started to notice what my body was actually telling me. I began to notice a lack or excess energy, how hungry I was, I began to notice my muscles and where was aching and tired, and this then helped me to decide how to spend the rest of my evening. Could my body endure a work out? Did I want to continue sitting? Did I want to go out?

About a month ago my boyfriend and I binge watched the first season and some of the second season of The Fear Of The Walking Dead and I only got up about once or twice which was to get food or to pee. For the past several weeks I have been able to stay in bed past 8am (I think my record is now 11:30am), I’m working out when I want to not because I feel like I have to and I can stay sat down during my hour long lunch breaks! These are massive, massive achievements which have been shared between my therapist, close friends and mostly importantly myself.

Sitting down and taking a break is something we do from the day we are born, but when our lives or our minds take over it is so easy to forget how comfortable and how helpful taking a break is for us. People kept telling me to take a break, to sit down, that it was okay to sit down but it didn’t matter, it didn’t register till I actually began to notice it myself.

If you can relate to this, I will say this…take a fucking break for your own mental and physical health because holy shit, not sitting down is not good for you!

To everyone out there, rest easy.

Sending my love to you all,

Emma xo