I know what you’re thinking… Another blog about anxiety… “12 Steps to blah blah”. *eye roll*.
Well, it is another blog about anxiety, but I can’t give you 12 Steps to anything. Because when you’re in the midst of a paralysing anxiety attack (that could last an hour or 5 days), your ability to remember even 1 step to anything, let alone 12 steps to something, flies straight out the bloody window.
For the longest time (actually since I was about 10 years old), I have suffered from some form of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, you name it. All ranging from mild to chronic, depending on my environment (and often the abuse I've experienced), my relationships and in more recent years, my job and my lifestyle.
Depression has definitely hit me the hardest and most often throughout the years and my rock bottom was nothing short of brutal. Not just for me, but for my friends and family, who like anyone standing on the sidelines, felt helpless.
I was 16 years old and I wanted to die. I wanted to die more than anything else in the world and I was completely ok with it. I couldn't remember the last time I felt safe, secure, or loved, let alone confident or happy. Or even normal. This was my life.
I had no idea what depression was but I just knew I couldn't take another day on this earth if it meant living in this deep, heavy, lonely darkness that had become me.
I was about 2 months into term 1, in Year 11, when I decided to quit school. I told my teachers and my friends and my family, that I was quitting so I that I could attend TAFE and eventually travel the world, but I was really planning on killing myself and I didn’t want to be placed at the centre of attention within my school after I did.
I didn’t want pity. I just wanted to go out in peace, without anyone noticing. My friends & family, had no idea.
Leaving school was the first phase of my very calculated plan. Next was to figure out how.
For about 3 weeks I started stocking up on painkillers, pills, medications, anything I could get my hands on. I’d make special trips to different pharmacies and bought anything over the counter that warned drowsiness on the label. I stock piled as much as I could and hid them in my bedroom. And then I waited.
I can’t remember the date, but it was a Saturday night. I was home alone, like usual and as the night got darker, I got lonelier.
I filled two, 1 litre bottles of water and took them to my bedroom, where I overdosed on nearly 300 different pills. Of all shapes, sizes, colours and consequences. Handful after handful, through my tears, eventually, I passed out.
I woke a few days later (I think), in hospital and the first thing I thought of was “FUCK! It didn’t work and now everyone knows!”. I wanted the world to swallow me whole. You cannot even begin to imagine the embarrassment, the shame, the exposure!
In the years since, I have searched high and low for myself. For my self worth, for love, for answers, for perspective, for purpose. I have never come that close to darkness since, but it definitely hasn’t been easy. Especially lately. I mean, if I'm being honest, losing Link has seen me dancing around the idea a few times, but then again, my baby died, so can you blame me?
Over the years, overwhelmingly, my main challenge has been to overcome depression. To overcome the demons of my past and detach myself from the meaning of the traumatic and stressful experiences in my life.
But more recently, the insidious, manipulative and all encompassing anxiety, has reared her ugly head. And let me tell you, she’s fucking scary.
When you lose the ability to breathe in, breathe out or swallow properly, not getting out of bed for the day seems like small fry.
When I fell pregnant with Link, my anxiety levels went through the roof! I wanted desperately for my baby to be ok (yet nothing had happened to suggest that he wouldn’t be) and I felt so protective and responsible for his safety that I just stressed out over every little thing. I stressed about what I ate, I stressed about how much I couldn't exercise, I stressed about driving, I stressed about work, I stressed about stress!
More recently when I started my business, the anxiety became so bad that I became paralysed. I had so many things on my to do list, yet the only thing I could muster was an 8 episode binge of Suits.
I couldn't face my marriage, I wanted to give up on my business before it even began and I couldn’t deal with my life. I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on.
WHY is my body responding like i’m about to be eaten by a fucking tiger? And what the HELL can I do to stop it!?
With the help of a good friend, Emma, we unpacked my paralysis and discovered that it all came down to this.
I am fucking resilient.
I have learnt to adapt and evolve in the face of many challenges. My mental fortitude is solid AF from the years and years and yeeeaaarrrrrs of practice. My tests and lessons have taken on many different forms and here I am, still standing.
But never before had I been struck so physically by mental illness. Just let that sink in.
What I'm trying to say is, somewhere deep down in my subconscious, I still believe those old stories. I still don’t quite believe that I am enough. That I'm worthy, that I am loveable and I that I deserve happiness or success.
Of course consciously & rationally I do and I worked my fucking arse off to get to that point, but deep, I mean reeeeeal deep, in the deepest fibres of my being, it’s imbedded. And I believe, like Emma helped me uncover, that the physical manifestation of anxiety is my stupid ego’s last ditched attempt to bring me down.
You know why?
Because the ego HATES change!
My ego didn’t want to let go of the comfort it finds in an easy and predictable life. My ego didn't want to let go of my old stories. Those old stories that have helped me survive this life.
It sees me on the brink of a change so huge, a transformation so epic and it wants to hold me back, because it’s job is to protect me from harm and itself from change.
So there I was, having an outer physiological response to an inner mental turmoil.
It definitely hasn't been as bad since, or lasted as long, but still to this day (I mean, literally right now as I write this blog) it hits me out of nowhere and I forget everything i’ve learnt and all that seems to matter is trying to breathe deep enough for air to actually enter my lungs.
Am I fearful of being vulnerable & exposed by the word vomit I'm sharing with strangers on the internet? Ah huh!
Am I comparing myself to all the other successful biz mums on Insta? Yup.
Is social media making it worse? You betcha.
Am I crumbling under pressure because I’ve taken too much on board? Highly likely.
Am I worried about the dishes not being done because the expectations I put on myself I somehow think my husband does too, yet all he cares about is whether or not I've had a peaceful day? I’m fucking crazy, but yes!
But for all my craziness, there’s one thing that i’m sure of and that is this; that my anxiety is my compass. My fear response is there for a reason and it’s because something is just not right. Something is yet to be uncovered, or there’s a truth that is yet to be spoken.
Maybe I haven't quite mastered self love yet, but I can almost guarantee that when I do, me and anxiety, will no longer be friends.
If you’re in the Newcastle area and would like to attend a workshop on mental health, please join me as a fellow student, at The Love Me Mission’s, An Evening with Em.
This event will see Emma (my aforementioned saviour), lead a two-hour workshop where together we can shine a light on what for many is crippling darkness, and most importantly; so that together we can contribute to the solution.
Three of the key topics explored during this workshop include:
1. What it means to be truly "resilient".
2. How to "De-Stress" simplified.
3. Why human connection is at the heart of all healing.
Date: Thursday 22nd June, 2017
Where: The Ballroom, upstairs at Longworth House (129 Scott Street, Newcastle).
Time: Doors open at 5:30pm with drinks being served for a 6pm start.
Included with your workshop ticket: Champagne / wine, canapes and antipasto.
Get your tickets HERE.
All proceeds go towards The Love Me Mission in-school programs. The purchase of your ticket assists young people in our community to gain access to invaluable empowerment and well-being education.