Low Mood & Anxiety
Is it safe to come out yet?
Once I became alcohol free I was able to learn so much more about myself than I had anticipated. One of the key learning’s was around anxiety and low mood. Don’t get me wrong I had plenty of experience of both, but what I hadn’t realised was how much my mood and my overall levels of anxiety were skewed by imbibing regular amounts of alcohol. In the cold light of day after a session the night before my anxiety could be excruciating. Particularly if I had an important meeting or work event to attend to. I’d be over tired from poor sleep, head pounding and intrusive thoughts of regret and remorse flooding me constantly.
Why had I stayed up so late?
Why had I drank so much?
What had I said to upset someone?
Of course this would all be alleviated by going back to bed or laying off the booze, but invariably a few ‘liveners’ would usually sort me out and stop the feelings of fear and panic, the shaky feeling in my body and heavy pulse thudding through my head.
It was quite easy to join the dots. To see that my social hobby (after all it wasn’t illegal or anything!) was the cause of my extreme anxiety. This constant regrouping and building myself back up, a few days here or there practicing self care, followed by another binge that would begin the cycle all over again.
The low mood was a symptom of this pattern of behaviour or so I thought. I drank too much, I suffered a hangover that raised my anxiety, then I felt low afterwards – simple!
So how come when I stopped drinking there were still symptoms of anxiety and low mood? Well I guess the initial phase of becoming alcohol free left me quite vulnerable. It certainly took me out of my comfort zone in social situations, family parties and holidays abroad. But something else was becoming apparent. With the clarity of not drinking I could actually measure the real unaffected levels of anxiety in my mind and body. I had stopped lurching from one extreme to another, I had stopped self medicating and was now left with a real sense of how I truly felt.
It was uncomfortable but something felt different. I felt different. I was able to stop being distracted by the thoughts that alcohol was my reason for anxiety. I simply had anxiety. It wasn’t being masked but also it wasn’t out of proportion to life itself. And the associated low mood? Well it turns out on reflection I realised that long before alcohol, back to when I was a child I had experienced sadness and loneliness. I had also felt quite anxious as a child. These experiences had stayed with me into adulthood.
So when I grew up I was able to manage these feelings with alcohol. I had simply forgot that the source of my anxiety and low mood went way back.
As mad as it sounds this was a huge relief and a real breakthrough. This was the start of the journey to uncovering the adverse childhood experience and negative self beliefs that had played there part in producing the adult. I could finally start to address the core issues that had affected my behaviours for most of my life.
Anxiety is a symptom of stress, of some form of trauma, it may be mild or it may be extreme but somewhere within us lies the answers to its causes and the solutions. What are yours?