Anxiety is like having a spider with rollerskates controlling your mind. Your thoughts move in a fast, uncoordinated and terrifying manner as its scrawny legs shoot around your brain tripping cascades of neurotransmitters and switching your fear centres fully on. Like most people I’d experienced anxiety triggered by particular things – exams, job interviews etc – before Bea was born, but since her arrival I have endured anxiety as a mental illness. It just arrived one day and parked itself firmly in my brain, never letting me feel at ease with myself or my surroundings. At times it has left me unable to leave the house and I have swallowed pills, scribbled in a mindfulness colouring book and tried most relaxation exercises known to the internet in an attempt to rid myself of being shacked to anxiety’s interminable mental treadmill.
If you saw me during the peak of my anxiety the first thing that would strike you would be movement. I’d be the world’s biggest failure at musical statues, a jiggling, wriggling, writhing mass of motion. I would pace up and down the room, shaking out my hands as if they were dripping in anxiety and I could physically rid myself of the illness. The movement wouldn’t stop even when I tried to find some peace at the end of the day. Where once upon a time I would lounge like a lioness on the sofa indulging in some Netflix or a favoured boxset, under the influence of anxiety I would bounce my leg and tap my toes through the programme, never settling, never stopping.
My thoughts were equally agitated, flitting about like demented butterflies, never landing too long on one subject but always remaining within the confines of fear. My husband would try to logic me out of each fear, but even if he succeeded I would soon find another thing to fear. One of my biggest areas of concern was people. I worried that they were watching me, I worried they could tell I was crazy, I worried that they would see what a bad mum I was. I stopped being able to go out of the house. Worst of all was the belief that my anxiety was a symptom of utter cowardice, of an inability to cope, a feeble fear of everything life was throwing at me.
Thankfully the tide has now turned and anxiety no longer holds me in its thrall. I wouldn’t call myself normal (who would?) but I can now sit still, I don’t fear people (except clowns, yeesh) and I can think in a straight line. They may not seem like it but these are all accomplishments. I don’t know how I came out on top – psychology, pharmacology, time all probably played a part. It worries me that I don’t know exactly how I beat my anxiety because that means I’m unsure about how to keep it at bay. All I can do is keep doing the things that seem most likely to have helped me beat it. Vitally, if anxiety ever does rear its head again I’ll know to ask for help early on because I now see it for what it is – illness not weakness.