Not my first rodeo with anti anxiety, anti depressant meds, so that is not an issue as such for me. When the time is right, needs must, and I have no issue with taking such medications to help. But is that time now?
I am getting ahead of myself here, the last thing I said was I was going to speak to the doctors. Well, that appointment has come and gone. Much to my delight the conversation was relaxed and open, and I felt I was able to express myself clearly. More importantly I felt I was listened to throughout, and the doctor understood where I was coming from. Ironically 2 hours before the appointment I received a call from the surgery informing me that the appointment would now be on the phone as the doctor was working from home! Alright for some eh.
I discussed how I have been anxiety "free" for a long while now, and how Covid times have shown me there is a way to do my job, and be in a good place mentally too. And that even starting to process returning to an office environment has thrown me into a tailspin, and it is affecting me. I said I have always been bad in public spaces, or crowded environments, and do much better alone or in controllable spaces. From there we moved onto the more general aspect of the issue, and the social anxiety.
Her feelings on the matter were two fold. Firstly recognising that this new episode is triggered by the fear of being back in a space I can't control, and that this has until now been avoidable with no impact to my ability to do my job, or work for a living in general. And that secondly she would like to try and improve my general wellbeing in all walks of life, by getting me help for my "anxiety disorder". Her suggestions being using medication to control the anxiety, and counselling to address the social aspect of it, and help me find ways of improving my state of mind in such settings.
We also discussed moving forward with matters at work, and how I can go about addressing my anxiousness about being in an office again. Going back over how things were before Covid, and how I have over the years learned ways to "cope" with the anxiety it caused me, rather than overcome it and feel normal at the end of a working day. Touching on how mentally exhausted I get when in uncomfortable situations. Using all my mental energy to appear and function as "normal", and when the curtain falls, just crashing and being left exhausted, and totally drained. Not to mention feeling edgy and in a foul mood. Repeat that on a daily basis, and the cycle is, wake up OK, interact with partner and friends, go to work, be drained of all your will to live, come home and be an utter arsehole until you go to sleep....Repeat...
Some would say I am not that bad, or too cranky etc, but even that alone takes all my reserves to maintain. Being aware that you are behaving like a bit of an arse is really upsetting. So you are then left with two options. Hide away, or draw on your final reserve of mental strength to at least be likable. It is a really hard one to explain, everything feels so fake. Oh look, its people, slap that smile on, crack a joke or two and reply to "how are you" with a very plastic "yeah yeah good thanks". Rather than, "well to be honest dying inside right now, this is exhausting the shit out of me".
Having spent so many years with multiple personas (not split personality), switching at will to suit the audience, I have become very self aware, and know the second I am starting to be "fake" . And let me tell you, being fake has an energy burn 10x higher than just ticking along being me. To put it in physical terms, as some people only understand those, think of the difference you feel between walking at a nice sedate pace, and running flat out as fast as you can. Heart rate rises, body temp sky rockets, muscles tense, and energy rapidly drains from your body. Now imagine feeling like that, while still just walking along. It would be alarming right? Welcome to my anxiety mind!
So, here we are, post appointment. Diagnosis "Anxiety disorder", treatment, counselling and medication, prognosis hopeful but too soon to tell. I have sent off my referral to the Mental Health service providers locally, and await to hear back with any sort of waiting time, and suggestion of treatment. I have informed my work of the outcome, and await hearing if there is any intervention at this stage, and I have collected my medication from the pharmacy.
The last two are the important factors here. Work, I am sure there is no need for any intervention at this point for a number of reasons. Firstly there is no official 30 day notice period given to return to the office yet. Just the pre-notice notice, if that makes sense. In the meantime we all await to hear if there is a chance of overturning the decision to end WFH. And secondly, at this point the anxiety has not affected my work. While working from home I am still able to function OK, but can honestly say that my focus and concentration has taken a huge hit, as I have touched on before. If and when work are to do anything, it will be a referral to the Occupational Health service, to assess my ability to carry out my job, and see if they agree with the GP. The GP has said they are more than happy to work with the OH to make sure the best and most suitable arrangements are made, to allow me to work, while managing my well-being.
The second factor being the medication, and the point of this blog entry. So the deciding factors here are a bit of a mess, hence blogging to try and make sense of it. Bear with me here.
My need to go down this whole road, to me at least, has been the anxiety triggered by the knowledge of the request to return to the office coming. Until that point I have felt better than I have ever been before. Sure there have been moments of avoidance and struggling with socialising away from work. That is something I have always lived with, and chosen my battles carefully. Risk vs reward so to speak. Is the end goal worth the use of all my mental energy, feeling exhausted and edgy for the next day or two? As you can imagine there are not too many scenarios which warrant that result. The GP wants to tackle this aspect too, so the medication and counselling is to help with all walks of anxious life. OK, great.
Or is it? In general, I don't like being around a lot of people, fake people, talking shit, all in the name of looking good. No thanks, I will stick with the genuine people I actually like, people who know ME and not one of my personas, and that I can actually communicate with, without becoming exhausted. There is no denying that there is social anxiety for me in both settings, but one is far more manageable than the other. Do I feel the anxiety in the calmer setting needs addressing? Maybe! It would be nice to spend more time with people I like in a wider range of settings and environments, but do I want to medicate to do that? THAT is the question here.
The other half of the question, am I happy to medicate, and have to attend counselling to learn coping mechanisms to return to an office, to do a job I have done without fault for the past two and a half years from home? Well............... errm, no, not really! I appreciate I did it from an office before, but that was before WFH was even accepted as possible for my team, and before it necessitated us being at home to do our jobs, to enable the company to keep functioning through Covid. A change I was willing to make for my employer, at very short notice. A change which proved itself to be beneficial to the company on a number of fronts, and one which showed me that my mental health was SO much better away from an office environment. All very accidental. But when you discover a better method by accident, or through circumstances, do you change back because the old normal is the only right way?
If you commute to work by car and the main road you use is closed, and a diversion is set up. If the diversion it turns out it's a quicker route. When the main road opens again, do you go back to your old route? See where I am going with this? There is a new, proven route / work method, why deviate from it for the same of going back to the "good old ways"?
So now, while I wait to hear about the official line on WFH, if any appeal has been successful, or if indeed we will get our 30 days notice to return. Do I start the medication now, to primarily treat the anxiety caused by the news. Tolerate the side effects as the levels build up in my body, and possibly trigger worse anxiety in the short term, and maybe the need to take time off work anyway. Or do I wait for the outcome, and if it us unfavourable, and the notice is given, THEN start the process of taking the medication, at which point I feel it would be more than needed, as my anxiety will blow up? Feel free to share your thoughts.
I know the idea of the meds is to help with my social anxiety too, but right now, I don't want to take meds, and feel like I have been forced into this by matters at work. Which are the primary reason I am in this situation, and had this conversation with my GP in the first place.
Phew, that was a lot to get out of my little head. Thanks for reading.