I need to tell you some things.
If you are a reader of this blog, let’s face it, it’s because you know me. If I have any unfamiliar lurking readers from the blogosphere I’ve yet to know about them. And if you know me, you may wonder why I didn’t turn up to your exhibition opening, why I didn’t turn up to one of mine, why I behaved oddly or ran away when you did see me, why I don’t answer the phone and haven’t replied to emails or other messages.
Really – the simplest and most honest answer is that a little over a month ago I had a nervous breakdown.
That feels so weird and overdramatic to say it so blatantly. My temptation is to soften it off and refer to it as ‘chucking a nervy’ or something like that, but that just feels contrived. My panic attacks increased in frequency, I was spending much of my time in terror and tears of frustration and confusion at home and in the bathrooms and while walking between offices at work. My mind was racing at top speed all the time but I was unable to ‘get the clutch in’ and either add or extract information. I felt that to an outsider I must have taken so long to construct a spoken sentence that I must have seemed like a stroke patient but I just couldn’t pull the words out of my spinning brain. I developed a stammer when in the most distress. My hands shake and my face tics. I was consistently exhausted, had no ability to concentrate and was alarmed by my inability to form a simple string of logic. More than about five people at a time can send me creeping backwards into a dark corner like a scared dog. This had reached crisis point when the anxiety started to spill over into my studio practice and a dear friend reiterated to me ‘This is really not normal. You need to get help’.
I have since left the new job and have been diagnosed with, and am being treated for, a general anxiety disorder (GAD) and a social phobia. I am also reading library books with antiquated sounding titles like recovering from nervous illness. I go for long walks, work in the garden, listen to downloaded comedy podcasts and try to do the hardest thing which is the advice to ‘let time pass’. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get better and fears for the future wind me up again so I simply try to do that. Just let time pass.
But I am here. And I kind of miss you. Eventually I do reply to emails and messages but sometimes I don’t answer the phone because it is just too hard to extract and form the words as fast as is necessary for a conversation. With email I can take my time to turn thoughts into words. It’s not that I don’t like you. I’ve just been ill. And now I’m getting better.