My Dad once told me, “This is not a dress rehearsal, this is it! Make the most of it”. I was a teenager at the time, I felt I was infallible, and these words meant nothing to me. I’m now in my 30’s and these words mean everything to me. We only get one life, one chance to actually live, and I spend most of it over analysing the little things, and missing the big things because of it. When I was at my worst, and fearing that everything in this world was going to kill me, my Dad (again, a very wise man), told me this “Look darling, there is only one guarantee in life ‘no-one is getting out alive’”. That very statement shook me to my core, he was so right. No matter what I do, I’m going to die. Now, whilst this was said to be a little reality check and make me feel better, it did the opposite. This statement made me very fearful, that was until recently.
I am still very fearful of things, and sometimes I get worried that today will be my last. In fact, I dare to say that every single day of my life, I have at least one thought of that day being my last. It’s quite a depressing thought, but it’s true. I understand fully that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, no-one is. I struggle to see my life in 10/20 years’ time, as I’m convinced my time is numbered. Having this feeling of impending doom, is probably one of the worst feelings I get from anxiety. All the other feelings I can just about manage, but this one, is different. My fear of crowds and being claustrophobic is something that can be avoided, but death? I can’t avoid that, it’s coming, and it scares me more than anything else in this world. I’m sure anyone reading this, anxiety disorder or not, can agree. Death is not a happy prospect and it will scare anyone, but to ‘normal’ people, they don’t think/dwell on it quite like we do.
Due to my fear of dying, and my social issues, I was living a very sheltered life for a long time. I was avoiding social situations, being very introvert, and in turn, not really living. I turned to alcohol to help me through. Now, I’m not saying I was an alcoholic, definitely not, but if I had a night out coming up, I would be sure and be half way gone before I left the house. I needed that Dutch courage to be able to get through it. I would then drink to forget, and when I was drunk it was great. I would be the life and soul, outgoing, ‘happy’, able to enjoy myself, no cares, no fear of dying, that was until the next day. Hang overs when you have anxiety, are nothing short of dire. It can bring on all the fears. You have heard of beer fear, right? Well this is beer fear magnified! I also started to have my weekly bottle of wine at the weekend, as this was sure to let me have a full night’s sleep. It wasn’t a rested sleep though, it never is when you drink, but I’d convinced myself it was helping.
During my ‘mid 20’s crises’, when I was back at college, I was out drinking at least 3 times a week with my college friends. I felt I was doing great, I was out all the time, I had friends, I was ‘enjoying life’. Looking back now though, I wasn’t really. I was masking my fears with alcohol, and it wasn’t helping, even if it felt like it was at the time. All I was doing was masking the problem, and in turn, making it worse in the long run.
When I was at my Sister-in-laws wedding a couple of years ago, I drank a lot. I was really nervous about going, as I knew very little people there. I knew it was going to be busy, loud and no doubt something I couldn’t cope with. What did I do? Yup, I sought out to get drunk. I drank a large wine, to every one of my husband’s pints. I think over the course of 5 hours, I’d had 10 large glasses of wine, of which I think works out to be 3 – 4 bottles. Needless to say, I went home, and I was very very ill. It was at this point I realised I wasn’t coping, and things needed to change.
There are people close to me who drink a lot, pretty much every night. I could see that I wasn’t far from them, and did I really want to end up like them? Did I want to become reliant on something like alcohol to get me through a week? It was at the point where I was using a Friday as an excuse to ‘celebrate’, so would buy wine on my way home from work. Even typing that, it just sounds so ridiculous. I don’t want to be that person, I don’t want to rely on anything but myself to get through these difficult situations, and I certainly don’t want to end up like those close me either.
Since my sister-in-laws wedding, I have never really looked at alcohol the same. I barely drink at all now. I’ve even been called boring, and been told I’ve changed, by some of my friends. I’m ok with this, I’m glad to be boring and to have changed. I don’t go out as much socially anymore, this is a choice I’ve made, as I don’t want to feel like I must drink to get me through the night. I can, and have, been out for a little bit, where I’ve had maybe one or two drinks that I’ve nursed over the evening. It’s enough to make me feel like I’m being social when in a pub, but little enough for me to feel completely in control and to avoid the beer fear the next day.
Do you drink to forget? Have you been guilty of using alcohol or other substances to help you with your mental illness? I found an interesting article about the effects of alcohol on your moods and mental health that I think would be of benefit to some, it will help you see that whilst it may feel like it’s helping you in the moment, you’re actually doing more harm than good in the long run.
If you have a story similar to mine, would be good to hear from you and how you have dealt/dealing with it.