Coming to terms with anxiety

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I like to be busy. Well I say that, I’ve only ever known… manic I suppose. I had about of year of utter laziness in my teens and that was great! But apart from that, yep pretty bloody mental.   You may have read my other blog- the autistic diaries which was about my son Oscar. Oscar is now nine and living in the residential part of his school full time. We have had quite the journey. He is flourishing and I couldn’t be prouder. Even if I do live with a permanent rain cloud of guilt, showering over my thoughts; knowing that he is not with me, the way a child should be. Sometimes one has to put pride aside I guess, and do what they believe is best for everyone in their family. That is what I’ve done, I hope.   I have three other children.   Susannah is three on valentines day. Being born into a household that (at that time) was hugely dominated by her brother’s needs, has given her a naturally helpful manner and heart full of compassion. Her understanding of other’s emotions and needs surprise me every day. Don’t be fooled though, the girl has confidence. She is wholly observant, yet also manages somehow, to keep all eyes fixed on her. A winning combination.   Then there are my twin daughters- Rosie and Berry. They are just over a year old. They are identical and fascinate me constantly. Within their first weeks on this Earth, their differences in character were evident. Yet somehow, they are completely and perfectly the same. They are perceptive, dainty and careful. With a cheeky glint of something extra.   I truly am the happiest I have ever been. There is so much love in my life it overwhelms me.   I live in a strange panic about my daily contentment. My children are all so fantastic. I have the most supportive, kind and idiotic (in a good way) partner who I share this glorious life with. My friends and family are so very beautiful, talented, interesting and giving. We have a modest and messy home that is warm and is ours. Yet I can’t shake the reality that it is all temporary. I feel like all the birds of paradise have chosen to live on my roof and sing me the worlds best music everyday, with plans to one day move on forever without looking back- leaving me utterly alone in my silence.   Most new parents will relate to these feelings. When you watch your tiny, innocent and thoroughly vulnerable newborn sleeping, it hits you- nothing else matters now, without this person, life is no longer worth living. And then you check every 30 seconds to make sure they are still breathing. No parent can prepare for this kind of love. It consumes you and alters you in ways that are absolutely out of your control. I think it is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a person. But the underlying angst that comes with it is hard to bear and in my case, impossible to cast aside.   I’ve have been ‘anxious’ since my teens. When I was eighteen it was really bad. I was obsessed with the world ending. I used to imagine Milton Keynes glass shards soaring for miles and chopping everyone in half. My breathing and heart would accelerate so much that I then thought I was going to have a heart attack. Then there was the addition of how odd I was being. I would have to count my footsteps all the way home to deter my thoughts from obsessing on death but when I arrived home to safety, I would then be tormented with the concerns that what I kept doing was abnormal and that maybe I was going mad. This was (and still is) an easy conclusion to jump to as my family has a history of mental health problems of many kinds. That for me is the most terrifying thing that could ever happen. Losing my mind. Losing everything because I’ve lost my mind. Then I discovered alcohol. This took the edge off. I could quite easily have let that deplete me.   I didn’t know about panic attacks at this point. It was thanks to a good friend that I learnt about these. Tessa was staying at my house when she was  awoken by me making a phone call. I was in a hysterical mess on the bathroom floor telling NHS direct that I thought I was dying. I am still always in awe of Tessa’s knowledge and experience. At this young age, she knew exactly what was going on and what to do. After calmly taking the phone from my hand and hanging up, she held my hands, looked into my eyes and told me I was having a panic attack and that everything was going to be OK. Everything was OK after that.   I mostly learnt to anticipate and curb the attacks from thereon.   As an adult I have mastered how to avoid the majority of the scenarios that trigger my anxiety (without out the use of alcohol). Though one cannot control everything. Every few years, something will happen that will set it off to a point where I don’t want to interact with the outside world. During these times, my skin will hurt, my heart will feel offbeat and jumpy, sometimes I shake, I will cry in strange unpredictable outbursts, something large will manifest in my throat and won’t go away and indigestion takes over my insides so I find it hard to eat. I even break out in spots. Then there are the thoughts, the maddening voices that haunt every minute of those times: “You are going to lose everything.” “You are crazy already and soon everyone will leave you.”   I have however trained myself to make music and/or exercise when I’m cemented in this dark place. After a few weeks, it usually subsides. I have not yet needed medication as my life balance has not been too affected at this point. If I thought it was necessary though, I would not say no to giving it a go . Especially if I knew I was making my loved ones miserable.   Strangely, I believe existing with anxiety has many positive attributes to offer to life as well. It fills me with a constant need to  ‘live for today’. People think I’m nuts because I express so much love all the time, because I need them to know, right now how I feel about them. It’s an urge so strong and passionate, I can’t shake it. This love is overpowering and exquisite and I feel so lucky to have it there reminding me how beautiful people are all the time. And without the intention of sounding cheesy, it’s the hideousness in the world that highlights this beauty. Which somehow makes even the most unseemly situations appear alluring. Like the people that make sandwiches for their neighbours after an earthquake. That’s human nature, or part of it. That sort of kindness is hidden in our usual everyday hustle and bustle. It’s the horror of the earthquake that brought these simple but tender actions to the surface. Living with anxiety, makes me feel like an earthquake is always about to occur, so I guess that makes me aspire to be the type of person that would indeed display that sort of kindness regardless of whether the earthquake actually takes place. As well as take pride in the graciousness of anyone I spot doing something extraordinary. These things make me uncontrollably happy! This must be a good thing?   I also think dread should make us give people the benefit of the doubt each and every single time someone screws up. (I am not talking about evil here- that is another topic altogether. I am speaking about unfavourable actions that people take, or even characteristics that they maintain and why it should not define their entirety.) When you know the world is ultimately going to end, it is of course terrifying but at the same time it could help us refrain from seeing only ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ in most daily situations. Fear is a powerful motivator. It can help us put things into perspective. If we viewed everything as a stretch of  very limited time we might be able to evaluate multiple options of outcomes for certain scenarios. When some of the options are positive, we could place all our energy into realising as long as there is hope, it’s not the end for anyone. If we as a majority held on to that, fewer people would give up on themselves I think. We all need people to believe in us. So if someone lies, steals, hurts or falls so low it’s hard to imagine them in a good place, perhaps believing in forgiveness, fresh starts and practising compassion will give the people around us a chance to redeem themselves. The opportunity to reflect, learn and grow, and most importantly, to want to do those things. I certainly would like those chances from people when I fuck up. I don’t want there to be a limit to them. I truly believe we can love anything better. I also believe, within certain circumstances, we are all capable of most wrongdoings. Therefore, no-one is better than anyone else. I conclude from my experiences so far that most people are good and everyone is shit sometimes, sometimes more often than not. But that is not all they are. I think we could all use a constant reminder that loss of any kind trumps (pretty much) anything else when it comes to hardship. Then we might all learn to value the love we share. We could all live a ‘Richard Curtis’ kind of life. That would be the best.   So (in perhaps a rather accidentally self-righteous kind of way- Let me assure you, these are just random thoughts that occurred to me recently and I do not think myself any kind of guru, far from it), I’m just trying to say, with every bad there has to be a good. Every time I think about loss, I am reminded of how much I love. Anxiety fills me with the constant fear of loss, therefore I feel this hugely emphasised and unbelievable pang of love all the time. And love is better than anything. It’s what connects us with others and makes life beautiful. So I am actually grateful for this strange condition.

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2 thoughts on “Coming to terms with anxiety

  1. I always like to read a piece of writing or a poem several times – allowing a certain passage of time before making a contributory comment. This is what I have learned to do from my writer’s group in Cheltenham. You reach your conclusion beautifully and swiftly. It almost takes the reader by surprise. Recognising anxiety as an attribute is a powerful survival strategy. It is also a mark of intelligence. The very process of creativity itself is an anxious journey. But is also the prompt which spurs on self-expression. You are right to view hope as an ultimate goal. This ties in with the notion of perseverence. We all make mistakes, because this is the human condition. It is working through mistakes that builds strength of character. I am familiar with panic attacks, and the need to breathe evenly. The breathing exercises I was taught in singing lessons helped this to a certain extent. It is also possible to chant a mantra, to get through an attack. Just repeating a simple phrase in your head, to slow down the breathing. These days, I am able to relax a lot more easily – – only through years of experience. You are clearly a creative artist. Both a writer and a musician. Am I allowed to share your blogs with my facebook friends? Or do you prefer privacy? I wouldn’t do anything without your personal consent. Thank-you for allowing me to share your inner life. I feel like I’m getting to know my daughter properly, for the first time. To paraphrase some of your terminology, I am ‘bombed out’ with emotion.!

  2. I always like to read a piece of writing or a poem several times – allowing a certain passage of time before making a contributory comment. This is what I have learned to do from my writer’s group in Cheltenham. You reach your conclusion beautifully and swiftly. It almost takes the reader by surprise. Recognising anxiety as an attribute is a powerful survival strategy. It is also a mark of intelligence. The very process of creativity itself is an anxious journey. But is also the prompt which spurs on self-expression. You are right to view hope as an ultimate goal. This ties in with the notion of perseverence. We all make mistakes, because this is the human condition. It is working through mistakes that builds strength of character. I am familiar with panic attacks, and the need to breathe evenly. The breathing exercises I was taught in singing lessons helped this to a certain extent. It is also possible to chant a mantra, to get through an attack. Just repeating a simple phrase in your head, to slow down the breathing. These days, I am able to relax a lot more easily – – only through years of experience. You are clearly a creative artist. Both a writer and a musician. Am I allowed to share your blogs with my facebook friends? Or do you prefer privacy? I wouldn’t do anything without your personal consent. Thank-you for allowing me to share your inner life. I feel like I’m getting to know my daughter properly, for the first time. To paraphrase some of your terminology, I am ‘bombed out’ with emotion.!

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