*And there it is, just like that. After weeks of equilibrium and relative calm, normal is replaced with a knot in my chest. The first rung on the ladder of anxiety. The knot sits there obstructing my breath, a physical reminder that fluidity is temporarily interrupted. My tummy clenches in a troubled way as if even that can sense danger. And my mind – ha-ha, my mind – becomes ground zero for this fun-fair of emotions as my thoughts race and panic sets in. The anxiety secures a foothold and it battles with my rational mind making me witness to a full-scale tug of war. I am surprised no-one can hear it, but my face remains securely impassive. A padded sound chamber housing a cacophony of chaos.
Sometimes the mental tug-of-war merely hums along on in the background mid-frequency. I am aware of it but not overwhelmed by it. I wash up to the tune of it. I get ready for work swallowing it back down whilst mentally calculating if I’m dealing with choppy waters or a full-scale tsunami this time. Today, the riot threatens to become louder and to take up more space, more space than my head can offer so more of it tips out over into the rest of my being. The knot gets larger, the battle gets louder, the stomach flips, the breath gets ragged and the knot gets larger again. Obstructively large. But still I carry on getting ready for work; my face locked in concentration on preparing for the day. The only visible indicator is me whispering counsel: motivational messages; the breathy sound of breathing exercises. Still trying to figure out if today is going to be the day. All the while still getting my daughter ready for school or making packed lunch because you know you don’t get to pause the day just because your mental state is interrupted.
Somehow, I know that today is not the day when this thing will arrest me, when I will have to pull over in the car to cry or when I sit stock still because I can’t breathe. Those times when anxiety fully overwhelms me have thankfully been few and far between. Those times are scary, but they do come with an ending like bursting a balloon. Days like today just fester with no visible end where I sit amongst my feelings aggravated and annoyed and I snap at my daughter and I hate myself for it. Some days when it’s like this I wish for the crescendo of a panic attack so as to experience the after calm. Nope, today is a grey day. Where the gnawing sense of unease will sit and weigh heavily, akin to the feeling of prolonged tension. It reminds me of the scary moment in a film when everything slows down, and you are fully focused on the moment and you await the bad thing to happen. My body holds its breath at a time when it most needs the fluid normal in and out of calm. Everything tips on its axes and the stress is real but no tsunami comes.
Whilst battling the grey, today, I write. And getting it out on paper worked; it acted as distraction enough. An outlet for the chaos and whilst I still feel edgy, there’s more balance. The feelings subside. Maybe I am realising I need more of an outlet during days like this to break the habit of getting cross with myself. My body’s temptation is to eat more, drink more, shy away from exercise, get sucked into social media. Consume, consume, consume. Fill that void. Logical but illogical. I’ve got a lot to learn, some reorienting to do, and some habits to break. This isn’t a perfect description of anxiety and there is so much more I could say but I record this in its vomited state. Before I tweak it to make it into a presentation of its former self. If I am honest it’s seeking perfection that’s partly got me into this mess in the first place, so let’s let that shit go. It is what it is.
I will be OK.
And tomorrow is another day.
*I wrote this one day in May 2019. I have had days like this since, and no doubt there will be more, but today I am well. If you are reading this and feeling like today is too much to bare, please reach out to your local services for support. The world is a better place for you in it.