Written by an anonymous source with full permission, this is a personal real life account of how it feels to have anxiety.
“Blimey, you’ve had a lot to deal with over the last year!” said Long Lost Friend. I only mentioned I’d been single for nine months. And there was no request for tiny violins to be played either; just a factual business update. And then it hit me. Maybe such things ARE a lot to deal with? Do other people get bogged down with such minutia of life??
I did not mention to him that in the last three years my mother died after being discovered (said the paramedics) in the worst case of alcoholic squalor they’d ever seen (she’d gone green), or that my Nana also died, or that I bought my first house, changed jobs, split with long term partner who had serious psychological problems, sympathetically tolerated a barrage of emotional and physical abuse from said partner, broke four ribs, sustained a head injury, pulverised my forearm and fractured my collarbone (the latter because said ex strangled me half to death).
But I feel fine.
It’s just stuff.
We all have stuff.
Bits of emotional fluff that threaten to clog your machine if you don’t keep on top of it. Fortunately I’m made of rubbery stuff and bounce back harder than Alan Partridge.
As I see it, we are here to watch and learn and grow. If we do not pay attention in life’s great class, we will fall on our backsides and get ink splodges on our faces. As things stand, my schooling hasn’t been all that straightforward. In the collection of experiences gathered thus far, little me nursed her alcoholic single parent through several nervous breakdowns (aged 8 and 11) was on her own four days out of seven (aged 14), constantly yelled at (aged forever) and overheard a late night conversation in which Mum proclaimed she didn’t want me because I was “too much.” Harrumph.
After she threw an empty wine bottle at me for refusing to tell her boyfriend I loved him (I most certainly did not), other peoples sofas rather than my own actual bed seemed a much more attractive prospect. Saying that, I still felt a bit peeved when she finally left me (aged 16) for an alcoholic wife beater with a few bob in the bank. Just as well. I wasn’t overly keen on reading the Daily Violence, having my home set on fire by psychopathic step-father, or stealing cars at 3am to drive her to safety. Nope, it seemed that the waters were far less choppy sailing on my own thank you very much.
But for years I wasn’t alone. There was fun and people and sex and poverty and drink and drugs and drama and desperation and distraction. I had a little axe to grind on anyones head who’d get in my way. But beyond the pissed off, alone, rejected little girl there was always a hopeful, feisty, ‘let me show YOU’ warrior underneath the surface. I always felt like an observer amongst the chaos- a scientist studying the unfolding human madness as it blasts across the screen.
But like many combat soldiers who return to Civvy Street, grown up me is now totally fuckin knackered. She is hyper-aware, riddled with anxiety and experiences internal electric shocks whenever she hears a pin drop. On the plus she has reflexes of a cat and is world champion at Whack the Mole. Most people cannot react any faster that 0.12 of a second. Slow bastards I say. She can listen to five conversations at once the way Bowie watched all those tellies in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Skillz.
Her alertness, awareness, intuition and sensitivity are second to none but she rarely finds peace. Why would she? Her entire central nervous system was constructed in the midst of a war. People like us can’t just ‘chill’ anymore than you can see less of the colour green if asked. Nor can we ‘stop overthinking,’ because it’s our razor sharp faculties that kept us alive at one time. Literally.
This is our programme.
We find it hard to BE with others because we’re hard wired to equate others with danger. Even the ones we love and trust. And that bothers us. For those who are unapologetically self reliant, they will struggle to be vulnerable. They will welcome solitude with open arms because it’s the only time they can ever safely take a breath. A nice day out with friends will result in several days isolation until the Big Ben reverberations finally die down in the pit of your stomach.
Ok, so I’ve proven to MYSELF that I can achieve anything in the face of adversity, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the existential feeling. The feeling that I – like many of you- experience every day: that we’re performing seals, terrified of judgement, or failure, or not knowing.
Because to be judged or fail or fuck up has meant certain death.
No amount of rest, clean living, meditation, spirituality, positivity, peace or love can offset inbuilt psychological warfare. It is what it is. The little children raised by wild dogs will never fully be human. Their little synapses never learned to fire the way normal children’s do. They will always be different- ‘cognitively impaired’ perhaps- yet emotionally rich and raw in a way you might never understand.
“Oh come, come now!” some might say. “Face the fear and do it anyway!” Face what, mate? Life? I do. Daily. So much for your exposure therapy. My over-excitable sympathetic nervous system laughs at the concept of ‘mind over matter.’ You can soothe, but not prevent your adrenal glands from kicking in willy-nilly. They does what they does. Sure, you don’t have to ride the wave but you still feel it crash over you a gazillion times a day. I just smile. And laugh. No one sees my tidal wave.
And for the record, I do not ‘suffer’ or ‘battle’ with anxiety. I tolerate the fucker in the way a dog entertains tapeworm.
I haven’t got the answers. No one has. You could take pills to numb your frazzled nerves, but to be honest I’d prefer to see and hear the ocean rather than close my eyes and shove sand in my ears. That’s a personal preference- I know some people who are too afraid to even look out to sea, and that’s OK. It really, really is.
So when someone you know complains of being tired all the time EVEN THOUGH they live under a duvet 24/7, please go easy on them.
They probably just need a fuckin rest.