Anxiety hit me in the gut today. After a long weekend of feeling relatively at ease and at peace with life, I was once again reminded how fragile we as humans can be. How our emotions can go from one extreme to the next, often with very little warning. And with no regard for time or the carefully controlled systems we have put place. The ones we were certain would prevent us from getting to this point in the first place. Anxiety, It comes around like a rubbish truck on a dark winter’s morning, with no real warning. And like a punch to the gut, it winds us before we have even properly woken, sleep still in our eyes.
I hate anxiety the most, for this very reason. It comes without warning. You just never know when it might rear its ugly head. Anxiety, if you are familiar with it at all, doesn’t keep a track record or remember past transgressions. For no two bouts of anxiety are ever really the same. Making it hard to understand or try make sense of or keep control over.
Lockdown has no doubt brought waves of anxiety into the hearts, minds and homes of many people, and understandably so. We are living through such unprecedented, uncertain times. Nobody was prepared to be facing what we are facing right now. But for someone who suffers from anxiety on any given day, in normal circumstances, I think these feelings of uncertainly and stress are only heightened. They are literally exaggerated and amplified in every way possible.
The most frustrating part and often the thing that leads to MORE anxiety is not being able to verbalise these feelings or even make sense of them in my own head. I feel the uneasiness creep in, I feel the all too familiar sense of trepidation and fear begin to emerge. I always know what’s about to go down. I know the feeling, the way I know my child’s favourite lullaby, it’s that familiar knowing set int he default of your brain. However, I don’t want to accept it, I don’t want it to be real. So I ignore it for while thinking that if do, maybe, just maybe it might go away.
And then, one day like an angry uninvited guest, whose been ignored for too long, it bangs the door down and demands my attention. It wants no distractions, it wants me to look it in the eyes. Acknowledge its presence.
And all of sudden I can”t look away, I can’t avoid it. I can barely catch my breath. It hits me and I realise : It’s happening. There’s no way around it. I feel my arms go wet but just before they go limp, I surrender my white flag.
And then the days begin to unravel and start to look like this: I know what I need to do. I have it all carefully thought out in my head. It becomes almost obsessive. I know what I need to do, I can see it, I can think it, I can feel the panic. I picture myself doing it, ticking each task off my to do list, before I have even sat up in my bed. I already feel that overwhelming sense of panic before the day has even begun. I need to get up, I need to do everything in my power to stop the panic from settling in, making its home in my mind. I need to start now, do something, anything to control the storm . I need to do something, fast, before I fail and allow it to consume me. Before my children see me crying. Before my husband finds me sitting on the bathroom floor with tears running down my face, shaking in despair.
I need to do something before it rules me to the point where I can’t get out of bed. Before I need a doctor, before I need to get back on my meds. Before I lose all sense of who I am and what I am made of.
I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, heavy and fast. My head begins to get fuzzy, my breath becomes a little shorter. My chest gets tight, my arms feel tingly, like little ants are biting the sides of my hands. My head feels heavy and cloudy, like a dream in which I cannot wake up. And then I hear the voices. The ones whispering quietly to me “You’re not strong enough, You’re not good enough. You will never have control of your life” The voices start off quiet, gentle almost, but we all know it will always end in a volatile shouting match. Although let’s be honest, I seldom have the nerve to shout back. Unless I’m agitated by something, then I’m like a dragon whose fire needs to escape.
I hate that anxiety reduces me to something to pathetic. So weak. So hard to crack. I hate it even more that I have no idea how long it plans to stick around.
“Shake it off”, I hear them say, “Pray to God and ask him to take away these feelings of worry and uncertainly”, “Talk to someone who understands.” “Shake it off” I hear you say.
But this is the reality of what it’s so often like. This is what I have come to know, and might have to accept. Though it may not define me, it’s part of who I am. Thought I will not let it break me or rule over me, I may have to accept that it may always be there, waiting for me, wanting a part of me to make home in.
I am fully aware of how dark this all sounds sounds, but I am even more aware of how many others feel the same way. And the more people who talk about these feelings, the less alone we may feel.
So if you’re in a dark place too, I see you. I see you sitting there in your living room immobilised with fear, I see you at the kitchen sink losing track of time as the hot water runs over your hands, barely able to breath, I see you in the middle of the night feeding your baby unable to sleep, I see you trying to juggle all this lockdown stuff and struggling to keep up because your anxiety seems to make it all that much harder. I see you.