I think about loss from time to time, as you probably know if you’re a regular reader over here. I’ve discussed recovery from loss of a baby and other people’s reactions. But, we don’t only struggle or grieve over the loss of a person – whether they were fully-formed or not. Sometimes loss is part of growing into the person we have become, sometimes it leaves us feeling like something’s fundamentally missing, sometimes we can’t remember what it was like before we lost whatever it was. In this series of posts, I’ve asked some of my favourite blogging colleagues to write about a loss that they’ve experienced and how it affected them. You can find the full list here.
My very lovely friend Lisa from The Procrastinating Mum has kindly shared her thoughts on loss of a sense of self and the impact anxiety has on how she feels about who she is. This is a beautifully raw and honest post, I’m really touched that she felt comfortable sharing it with me and with anyone who reads it here.
I’ve lost things before. Odd socks, keys, more cardigans than I care to admit and even my handbag once on a night out. And I’ve lost more important things too – friends after a disagreement, family members after arguments, grandparents after illnesses.
And I have lost myself more times than I can count.
You deal with losses in different ways. The socks and cardigans are a minor inconvenience. Keys and handbags cause a bigger problem, as you have to cancel cards and order replacements, get new keys cut (I did eventually get my handbag back!)
Losing friends and family members after arguments are harder to deal with. At first, you might still be angry, but you begin to miss the conversations and laughs after a while.
Losing a family member or loved one is the hardest thing to deal with. No more cuddles or quick text conversations. No more catching them up on your life. Just an empty seat at Christmas and family gatherings. Overwhelming grief, sadness and even anger at first and more tears than you can count.
But what do you do when you lose yourself? How do you deal with that?
Certain times in my life stick out to me when I lost myself. The first time was when I was 15. I was dealing with depression, but I was young and didn’t know what was happening, so I kept it completely secret. I couldn’t see a future for myself and was in a very dark place. Thankfully, I managed to come out of the other side.
The second time I lost myself was after a breakup when I was 20. I had initiated the breakup, but I still struggled terribly. It was my first real relationship, and we even lived together, so I had to move home. I would go out drinking every night, and all I cared about was having a good time. At the time, I told myself that I was living my best life and having fun. However, looking back, I made some terrible and potentially dangerous decisions and many, many mistakes.
I didn’t recognise that person I had become, and it took me a long time to forgive myself.
I next lost myself shortly after getting married. Don’t get me wrong; I completely adore my husband. I think because I’d been on such a high with the wedding, I just came crashing down once it was all over and done with. It took me a while to realise that I was suffering from depression.
I found no joy in anything. I would cry in the shower in the mornings, cancel plans, refuse to go out. Making decisions is difficult for me anyway, but even the simplest of choices would cause me problems. I wouldn’t want to watch movies, read books or play games. There were some evenings where I would stare at a wall or just lay on on the sofa, staring into space. I had become almost a shell of a person.
However, things only became worse as the anxiety that I suffered with from a young age took over my life. My mind that had been so black and void, was soon filled with thoughts that caused panic attacks. My poor mental health defined me, and I could see no way out.
Thankfully, with the help of therapy, medication, support from friends and family and a lot of hard work, I was finally able to reclaim my life and happiness. However, I was not the same person I was before. How could I be?
And the most recent time that I lost myself was shortly after giving birth to my son. I had an easy pregnancy. However, childbirth was slightly more problematic but nothing terrible (14 days overdue, hormone drip and the use of forceps!)
I adored becoming a mum. It felt so natural like it was meant to be. I was a mum, I was a wife, and I was Lisa. I knew exactly who I was, and I had fought to get there. Unfortunately, my anxiety pushed its way back into my life and made itself comfortable. That was almost 3 years ago.
I have good spells and bad spells. During each bad spell, I lose myself to the anxiety for a while. I can see no way out, and it consumes absolutely everything. Nothing is safe, and a panic attack can be triggered by anything at any time. It’s exhausting.
I know I’m going to have to live with my anxiety for the rest of my life. It’s something that I’m struggling to accept, but I know it’s not going anywhere.
My husband said to me once, after I’d recovered from one of my bad spells that it was like having the old Lisa back. I completely disagreed. There was no way I was still the old person. I have not been through everything to still be the same person.
I don’t want to keep losing myself to my anxiety, so I will always keep fighting to come back stronger each time.
But I’m just so tired.