Transition.

This last week I was at my therapists and I hadn’t seen her in a fortnight because I had to cancel last week with the flu. She asked how I had been. And I was like, “Well the first week was good. I went to lunch to my partner and we went out to dinner. But then I backslid badly last week and didn’t cope so well. I barely slept on the weekend and it was hard to eat.”

We start the EMDR therapy and when we do that she asks me to think about that morning where I couldn’t sleep. And then she brings me out and asks what comes up before starting the machine again. We do that again and again until I sort of break through to the root of the issue and that day I just BREAK DOWN. I’m a crying mess and I’m telling her I’m just sick of my BRAIN and I don’t know what to do about this because am I supposed to keep trying to be well? Am I suppose to just accept this is ALWAYS going to be hard? Like, what the fuck, even?

I cry until I’m calm and the room is quiet with nothing but the low hum of the paddles vibrating in my hands and after awhile she says softly, “And what comes up now?” And I take a deep breath and say, “Well. I suppose I just have to get better. There is no way through it but through it.”

It’s kind of like, when you are in labour to begin with it doesn’t feel so bad. You breathe through the contractions and sometimes you can muster a little smile for whomever is supporting you through it. You walk around. You take a shower. I’ve been in labour and resetting a Tamagotchi for my three year old at 8cms dilated.

Then something changes.

The contractions pick you up and wring you out. You finish one and barely have time to recover before the next one is descending. You tire. There are no more smiles. It’s hard work. At that point I sent my three year old and six year old to their room with a movie so I could focus on the business of birthing. Even then though you still remember why you are here. Good grief, but this is hard work but I’m having a baby and this will end.

And then.

Transition.

Transition is when women give up. It’s when you feel like you cannot possibly go on. There is sometimes a lull in contractions at this point but you are still rocking from what has been and cannot imagine you can survive their return. For me they space right out. But the intensity of them when I am so exhausted just leaves me in despair. This is the point when I look into my midwife’s eyes and confess I don’t think I’m strong enough. That it has never hurt this badly. That I will surely not survive this. I look to her for help. I want her to take over and take this from me because I don’t believe in myself anymore.

I can’t do this.

You can.

I can’t.

You can. You are. You must.

There is no way through it but through it.

At some point in the next few minutes I will rally. At some point I will grit my teeth and realise that *I* am the ONLY one in the room with the power here. That it is only ME. In the space of seconds I will turn from despair and towards the goal and think, “Then let us do this.” And then I push.

Transition.

Transition hurts. The shadow of lost hope washes over you. But there is no way through it but through it.

Then let us do this.

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Today.

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Today I did the four hour round trip to drop my kids off to their dad and his partner. (Don’t stress, this photo isn’t for them who I am fond of). On the way back I was alone for the first time in a long time. Like, completely alone. I sang loudly to Christina Anu about stepping out in my deadly red shoes. I drank soft drinks. I nibbled at a donut. I made weird popping noises with my mouth because when you’re driving along at 100ks for two hours and there is nothing but fields and cows for company you get kind of bored and start doing weird shit. I talked to myself. I paid attention to tiny details and wished there was somewhere I could safely stop to photograph the echidna that emerged from the grass to snuffle at the dirt, a falling down fence, a large tree stump that I would have liked to sit on, the way the light dappled across the mountain to my right which was just the shadows of the clouds but knowing that couldn’t strip it’s magic.

I take the scenic route when I drive out there, I like to look at the trees that emerge from the water in this one spot. I like the way the grass is so green and reaches out to the water like fingers. I like the bridge that only one car can travel at once so you have to stop and wait. I like the cows grazing by the water’s edge. I like the strange pyramid house. I took my camera and drove slowly along it on my way home and pulled over so other cars could move past me.

And then I was alone.

I was standing by the side of the road and it the silence was so loud that when a bee went past me it’s hum reverberated in my ear so intensely I wondered if I had ever really heard a bee’s hum before. I stood by the side of the road and watched the water below – you can’t walk down because it’s private property – but I wished I was down there lying on that marshy grass, I wished I was part of that scene so still and yet impermanent. And I thought, fuck you. Fuck you to my anxiety that told me I would never get out of that house. Fuck you to the inner voice that says I’m not good enough or pretty enough or clever enough or strong enough. Fuck you to the shadow that stalks me and whispers fears into my ears. Fuck you, because I am here and it is beautiful and I am enough.

You will never be able to leave the house.

Fuck you.

You will never be well.

Fuck you.

You aren’t good enough.

Fuck you. I am still here.

ps. It’s really hard to give the finger to yourself.

Ambidextrous.

At the beginning of the year I set myself some tasks. And they seemed realistic but we are halfway through and I still have most down as ‘in progress’. I was badly waylaid by my mental health and most things slid while I worked solidly on improving my headspace and cleared funds to pay for therapy. It would have been cheaper to pay for pills but when I tried that I got serotonin syndrome and I like being alive so I took comfort in the statistics that research showed six months of therapy had the same success rate as medication for anxiety and plowed ahead.

I’m three months in and I’ve gotten a lot better. I’m sleeping through the night. I’m not having severe panic attacks every day. My list of trigger foods is diminishing. I can accomplish leaving the house for errands and on rare occasions for pleasure. I’m managing my work. As far as where I am now compared to three months ago? I’m going to go with an 80% improvement. I guess what I wanted was a complete fix though. You know those people that just leave the house without analysing everything about the leaving?

Do I have my water bottle?

Do I have an anti-emetic in case?

Who will I see?

Will I have to eat?

What could happen?

Will I freak out while I’m out?

What is my escape plan if I do freak out?

It’s exhausting. I just want to be one of those people that eats and leaves the house and does normal things and instead I have this brain. I worry it’s so altered from half a lifetime of this behaviour that I’ve permanently rewired it into what it is now. That I will never be ‘normal’. That this is the best I can hope for. The worst part of that is the frustration I feel from having done this to myself. These fears? They aren’t real. I know that. And I’m a smart person. I know they aren’t real. I know it’s just a lie. My brain reacts as though the outside world is a place of peril. I could cope with this if it WERE a place of peril. But it’s not. And despite all this evidence that I can safely go to lunch with my partner and nothing will happen except I’ll eat a salad and maybe get kissed by him (definitely get kissed by him) I still overanalyse as though instead of us walking into Grill’d we are heading to a battlefield.

My brain.

Why?

And maybe this is as good as it gets for me. Maybe that’s true. Maybe the outside world will always be a struggle. Maybe I’ll always come home exhausted from interacting with people. Maybe I’m just easily stimulated and sensitive. Maybe this is who I am.

Maybe it’s like, if I had a medical issue and I suddenly had to lose my right arm, my life would be different. And for years I’ve denied that it’s lost. I’ve pretended it was there. And occasionally I’ve reached for a glass with that arm and the glass has fallen through the air and smashed on the ground. And at those times when it’s undeniable that I’m different now I’ve collapsed under the weight of that knowledge because it shattered my delusion that this was a temporary situation. The arm will come back, right? If I take this pill? If I deep breath from my belly? If I pray? If I think positive? Those times of shattered glass I survey the shards and go, “All is lost. I have no arm. I’m ruined.” And so on until the denial kicks in again. Maybe what I need to do is move into acceptance. “Okay. You have no arm. And it fucking sucks and it sure would be easier if you had an arm like all those other folks, but you don’t. So what DO you have?” Maybe it’s like, I need to get better at using a spoon with my left hand. I need to get fitted for a prosthesis and learn how to use that. And it won’t be easy and it will be harder. But the loss of the arm doesn’t need to mean the end of my life.

I am good. I am kind. I love hard. I have fairness coming out my ears. I’m empathetic. I’m smart. I’m beautiful. I am creative. I’m an agoraphobic anorexic with social anxiety and emetophobia. Big fucking deal. Get the fuck up. Learn to use your left hand.

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Underdog.

Today I was sitting up at 6:30 in the morning reading up on statistics on youth crime and birth rates because I needed to engage in an argument on the Internet. I have no idea why I do this. It’s bizarre. I think it stems from my need to forever be backing the Underdog and someone made a sweeping statement about poor people and I immediately jumped to the defence of poor people everywhere because – Underdog. Anyway, I read her statement and thought it couldn’t be right and it was absolutely poverty shaming but I can’t ever just speak my mind unless I’ve verified it with studies or statistics because on top of this irrational need to engage in arguments where I back the Underdog I also have this irrational love of statistics and studies.

Alright, so I am awake at 6:30 in the morning researching so I can make a backed up argument in defence of those in a low socioeconomic bracket….

I can’t remember where I was going with this story.

Let’s skip ahead.

Okay, so I’m in my therapist’s office and we are discussing this because, you might remember, I had a real issue with my Tolerance Card and this need to research is all part of my Curiosity Card (although in this instance it leached over into my Fairness Card because I felt poor people were being treated unfairly).

Wait!

I just remembered where I was taking this story. Right. So while I was thinking about the Underdog and poverty I was remembering a journal entry I wrote ages ago about how poverty is paralysing. It seemed really poignant and I thought I might be able to cheat and use some of it to blog because I’ve been struck by the worst case of writer’s block of all time. So I was trawling through my old journal trying to find it and slipped down the rabbit hole into my own brain space a year ago and was like Ho-ly Shiiiiit. Because – damn if I wasn’t depressed a year ago and also – my god, have I come a long way. Even when I was good I was still pretty bad. I was blaming a lot of outside forces for my mental decline because see, I’m so sensitive and delicate. I just can’t take much of a pummelling. And, you guys, I was totally having my ass kicked. But that’s not the outside forces fault, they were just being themselves. It was me who couldn’t take the whipping. (So you know what? If you have found this blog and you know who you are, fuck it, I forgive you, okay? You were a world class bitch but hot damn if you weren’t good at it).

Anyway, back to it. Or back to where we skipped ahead. I’m in my therapists office and she thinks I’ve made outstanding progress on my Curiosity and Tolerance Cards. So we begin to work on Gratitude.

And I’m like, “Why are we working on strengths? I mean, aren’t they already strengths? Shouldn’t we be working on the stack of cards I didn’t choose?”

And she responds with, “Sometimes there are little flaws in the strengths. You don’t realise it at first but if you try to build with them and there is a tiny crack the whole structure comes down. First we explore the strengths and then we get to the part where we add in strengths you didn’t know you had.”

That seemed like fairly solid advice. So this week for homework I need to think about Gratitude. This one is easy. Just while I’ve been writing this I’ve had the opportunity to be grateful for a smashing sunset, for the black cat curled by my feet, for the smell of woodsmoke, for my son’s chatter inside. I am grateful for the fact I am getting well. I am so grateful for not quitting. But then again it’s unsurprising I backed myself.

I always did like the Underdog.

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Cheerleader.

In the morning or evening when everyone is inside I sit under the sky and I write. I do it on my phone, on the laptop, sometimes I scrawl it along pages in a worn notebook. The more I write, the more I see a theme emerging. The more I write, the more I see that my words are me attempting to cheerlead myself on. I’m standing outside myself looking at a crumpled me on the floor and shaking my own shoulders, whispering words of encouragement into my own ear, spooning bits of hope into my own mouth and hoping I will stand up again. I pull out memories of the past and show them to myself, offering them up like jewels and wait to see which one will spark determination in my eyes.

This hopeful me, she is like a mother – fierce and gentle at once. She refuses to give up and let me rot away in defeat. Her words are gifts to me. I am equally shocked by how broken I am as by how determined I am to fix myself. I am awed by the part of myself that diligently drives to therapy every week and walks through my fears while my eyes follow the lights on the EMDR machine. That pushes to eat another mouthful. That says, “Get up. What else are you going to do?” That opens the door and steps out. At first I was horrified and ashamed by my own fragility. More and more I am aware of my own strength and bravery. And every time I write, every bit of hope I swallow down, I get to know her better.

This last week was a good one for me. For the last three months I had been waking hours before sunrise, nauseated with anxiety, trying to gag down a banana (I could tolerate very few foods) and reading to try to put my mind anywhere but in my own body. My brain wouldn’t shut down, it felt like an old Rolodex flicking through thoughts rapidly, never settling on a single thing. Sometimes I would physically be sick. By the time four hours had passed, the sun had risen and I had pulled myself together enough to wake the children and get them ready for school, faking the morning until I dropped them off and could retreat back to my room and my books until I needed to fake the pick up. I felt physically and emotionally fragile. I never really understood that word until that time, when I had absolutely no mental strength at all. I went no where. I mean – NO where. I literally went only to the school for pick ups and drop offs and therapy. I didn’t go to shops or see family or even for a walk around the block. Nothing.

Last week, after hours of therapy it was like I suddenly woke up. I got up one morning and said, “I’m going to clean the car.” I drove several suburbs away and vacuumed and shampooed the carpets. I went to the shops and bought new mats. The next day I drove 400kms to drop off the kids to their dads. The next day I took my second eldest daughter to lunch. The day after that I took the teenagers to the plant nursery and we bought herbs and house plants. I visited with my grandparents the day after that. I ate food sometimes without even thinking about what I was eating. One night I looked down and realised I had finished my entire dinner. I got seconds. I challenged myself to eat ‘trigger foods’. “Eat the ice cream, it’s therapy, just do it.”

I woke up one morning happy and realised I hadn’t actually been happy in months. It was as though all those months of cheerleading myself on had finally come to fruition.

Part of me is terrified of relapse. I worry I will wake up and find I have flicked the switch back to survival mode. I know there will probably be steps back sometimes, that it’s expected. But this little glimpse through the looking glass of what recovery feels like is so amazing in it’s brilliance that I’m hoping I can carry it’s light through the darkness if the sun goes behind a cloud.

This is what I want to tell myself if that happens, I’m going to write it here so I can read it if I need to:

Recovery exists. Magic exists. Happiness is real. You have worked so damn hard for this and you can feel ‘well’. You are brave and you are strong even if you feel fragile. Underneath that delicate exterior you are a fighter. Don’t listen to the lies your fears tell you. They’re not real. I am real. And I am telling you – you got this.

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Independence Day.

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On the 4th of July two years ago I had my very own Independence Day. That was the day I left my house in the country and drove 200kms away blasting a playlist I had created called, “I’m coming home.”

I don’t know what I expected when I came down here because at the time I was mostly just fleeing where I was. Basically at that point the plan was to just get here and then decide. And I’ve sort of done nothing except fall apart. Actually, that’s bullshit and I need to change that internal dialogue because it’s unhelpful.

I went away for the first time in my adult life. I met friends who I had never seen in person and some who I had been conversing with over the Internet for a decade. Do you know how surreal it is to wrap your arms around someone who you have shared the most intimate parts of your life with but never seen in the flesh? I fell hopelessly in love. I bought furniture that I liked without asking if anyone else did. I watched fireworks light up the city on New Years Eve. I bought handspun and hand knitted gloves from a market in Salamanca and drank tea made with water from the Huon River. I went to the movies with my friend. I ate birthday cake with my family. I shaved my brothers head at 4am one morning. I stood in the snow in a lace gown while my friend took photos of me. I read hundreds of books. I wrote poetry and prose – thousands of words to make sense of all my sparkle and all my fault lines. I picked shells along a beach in Tasmania and laughed when the ocean ran into my shoes and soaked my pants even though it meant I had to make the drive home in my underwear. I shot photos. I made love. I built fires. I listened to music. I danced. I sang. I swore. I cried. I laughed until my cheeks hurt.

Fuck it.

I lived.

Dawn.

The Facebook memories feature is one of my favourite things. It delights me to see where I was on that day years ago. Oh look, here I was worrying because my newborn wasn’t letting me put her down completely oblivious to the fact that five years later I would practically have to bribe her for a cuddle she was so full of vibrant energy and couldn’t stay still.

Now my Facebook memories is silent because this time last year I deactivated and took a month long break to experience my existential crisis. I had just pulled through some of the worst days of my life mingled with the best days. The fact was, the best thing in my life had opened the door to the worst thing in my life and I was struggling with reconciling those. I kept thinking, what was the point to life? Not in a totally depressed way – although that question can be completely depressing – but in a ‘is there an actual point to all this’ way. Is life literally just a series of moments until you die and there is no big pay off? In those moments I truly understood why people turned to religion because the thought that the universe is a random, chaotic place is – frankly – terrifying.

The good things were brilliant and fantastic. The bad things just HURT. I kept thinking that my whole life had basically been a lie. Because I had believed that good things happened to good people. That life was supposed to be fair. And at 33 I had been rudely awakened that life isn’t fair. That good people can have awful things happen to them for no reason. That people were sometimes hateful. That if life were a scale occasionally it tipped in favour of the cons. It just seemed so stupid. Who would want to willingly go through life expecting pain as par for the course? I read philosophy searching for answers and it depressed me. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with my life and did it even matter if I did anything at all? We are all just tiny invisible blips on an insignificant planet circling a sun in a vast universe. How could any of us feel that we mattered?

I wasn’t suicidal exactly. I just wasn’t sure it mattered whether or not I was alive.

Then I had this major epiphany that if it didn’t matter whether or not I was alive or not then I may as well live. What else was I going to do? It was less of a conviction (Yes! Choose life!) and more of a shrug towards life (Why not?).

Now is the part where you’re probably expecting me to say, “And then a remarkable thing happened and life became great!” except this isn’t a click bait article and that is exactly what DIDN’T happen. Instead life got even tougher. It felt like I was moving from crisis to crisis, putting out fires and playing catch up instead of getting ahead. Every small victory was hard won and on its heels came three times the trouble. I felt like standing under the stars and screaming at the sky, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”

The universe will constantly give you the same lesson until you’ve learnt what it’s teaching you. Trouble kept finding me because I refused to submit to its schooling. I was trying so hard to steer my own course – to be in control – the universe meanwhile working the currents that pulled me in a different direction. How many times did I need to be dashed against the rocks before I learnt to LET GO and float on the tide?

I hadn’t been having an existential crisis. I didn’t believe nothing mattered. I was despairing that perhaps EVERYTHING mattered. Despair can look a lot like apathy to the untrained eye.

Every morning for the last three months I have woken 2 hours before dawn. I sit outside in the dark under a nest of quilts and I watch the sky. The night shifts imperceptibly to morning, beginning with a lifting of the black to grey on the horizon. In the beginning the sun rises so slowly that you don’t even realise it’s happening. Forms rise from the shadows. And then – all at once – you blink and where there was a grey band there is now golden and pink light stretching out like fingertips across the sky. A sudden shift from monochromatic to colour.

I know how the sun rises. I know to watch for the little changes. A tiny hand slipping into my own. A warm cup of tea. Sunlight on my bare arms. A shutter click. A lover’s caress. The smell of rain and old books. It will steal over my sky like a thief, lightening the night.

Dawn will come.

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Rain.

The day it rained a little I had things to do. I wanted to wash some clothes, clean the house and do the groceries. But I kept thinking about my camera. I stood in front of the kitchen table I was clearing while a couple of the kids were drawing in front of me. J looks up from her phone on the couch, “Are you okay?” she asks, “You look deep in thought.”
“I have an idea forming,” I answered slowly.
I turn to B in front of me, “Can you do your make up? I’m sorry. You’re going to get wet. And I need the kitchen chair.”
J, B and S all look at me wearing identical expressions of bewilderment.
“Why?” B asked, “It’s cold!”
“It will only be for a second. I need a photo.”

J asks to do B’s make up and S gets excited because in the six months she has been living with us I haven’t shot a thing. She can’t wait to see a shoot.

Twenty minutes later I’m going out the door. I’m wearing jeans and a plaid shirt that’s old and really shouldn’t be seen in public. My hair isn’t done. My phone needs charging. The clothes need washing. The floors were half swept.

I drive with purpose despite the fact I haven’t shot at this location in at least 7 years. I have no idea what I’ll find. It might rain. It’s midday. What am I doing?

I lie on a towel on the banks of the creek and get wet anyway. I pull up my jeans and wade into the water, mud between my toes and the stones slipping. Cars drive past honking their horns and I don’t care because there is only me and the viewfinder and a subject and everything else falls away.

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Every shutter click I know is perfect. I’ll barely need to touch these in post.

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I line up the banks so it’s straight, I expose on instinct.

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Muscle memory.

Finally I’m ready for the last shot. I know it won’t be perfect. I know it won’t be exactly what I have in my head. But I need to shoot it anyway or I will think about it all night. “One, two, three…fall.”

Submerged.

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Fate.

I read an article that was a little bit pretentious in itself but the message still came through. Basically the woman in question was talking about how she had the perfect life because she didn’t have any expectations of what her life would be, therefore in not deliberately seeking it out she allowed it to come to her. It bothered me a little because some of that is sheer luck. And also because many of us cannot take a passive role in our own lives. I struggle constantly between my belief that fate is a true guiding force in our lives and the belief that if we want something we must get up and get it.

What I know is, things usually work out for me. I mean that as in – shit frequently goes tits up – but usually everything works out and often I can look back and think, “Thank god that didn’t work out.” I can point to specific moments in my life that when they happened it felt like they were absolutely MEANT TO HAPPEN and even if I had made a different choice that day, eventually the universe would find a way to right itself.

Sometimes though you can sit and stagnate on things for the longest time and you have to go out and find destiny or fate or whatever it is. Let’s say you want a dog. And all you can think of is how much you need that dog and how much more awesome your life would be with the dog…sitting on the couch watching Netflix while Pintresting photos of dogs isn’t going to get you a dog. You need to go to some shelters, browse rescue pages, find a registered breeder. You might be fated to have a dog but you gotta give fate a hand sometimes.

I don’t know. I’m rambling.

The point is…maybe I’m not exactly where I am meant to be. Maybe I know that. Maybe I wake up every morning and look around and realise I’m in transit. I understand that I’m fated to be elsewhere, do something different. Hell, I can even give you a checklist of exactly what needs to be done to get from point A (here) to point B (that place I’m meant to be). And it’s a lot of work and that can be disconcerting because I know it will be years. It almost causes me visceral panic where I want to bend over with my head between my knees and breathe so I don’t hyperventilate. The hardest thing for me right now is to sit back and watch the scenery because I want to DO something. I don’t often give myself enough credit that this fallow period in my journey is actually important. You cannot recover if you’re running every day. So I rail against it. I resent the journey. All I can do is sit there and feel impatient that this isn’t where I am meant to be. I spend all my time looking backwards at where I was or forwards to where I want to be and can’t see the beauty in where I am RIGHT NOW.

And there HAS to be beauty here. There has to. I will find it. I will trust that fate is working behind the scenes and wherever I am right now – it’s important to where I will end up. There is no rule that says you can’t keep pushing towards something and still enjoy where you are. They’re not mutually exclusive.

With this in mind I unclasped my camera bag and pulled out my camera which fit into my hand like it was a part of me. I got my keys and I left the house. I didn’t know where I was going and the time of day was wrong for good photos but I just drove, hoping something would catch my eye. Just one thing, I told myself. Just take one photo that you don’t hate. It doesn’t matter if it’s shit. Or that the light is bad or that you don’t have a plan. Just find something you think is beautiful here and shoot it.

Breathe in the now. Trust that the universe is unfolding how it should. How many days will you waste looking ahead instead of what is right beside you?

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Foundation.

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Anxiety is the most debilitating thing that has every happened to me.  To be fair, I have led a fairly healthy life with most of my health issues only ever arising in pregnancy (HG, SPD, GD – a little alphabet soup that spelled uncomfortable and unpleasant but in most cases not deadly).  I have been depressed before.  The kind of depressed where I lay on the floor because sitting upright felt like I was committing too much to life.  But during my worst anxiety I felt like even that numbness would have been a relief because the anxiety made me feel everything.  It was overstimulation of the highest order.

It effects everyone differently, of course. For me, this is what happens…my palms sweat, my heart races, I clench my jaw, I shudder violently, I can’t sleep and the nausea…the persistent, severe nausea that was unrelieved by even the strongest of anti-emetics.  During this period at the worst of it, I would be physically ill.  And I was frustrated because I knew it was my brain making my body sick.  I wanted to get up…I couldn’t get up.  I wanted to be able to eat something…I couldn’t eat anything.  I was scared I would die…I was terrified I wouldn’t and this would be my life, day after day stretching out before me for years.  I was angry and bitter about the circumstances that led me here.  I was furious with myself for allowing them to do so.  I was guilty because I wasn’t being the best ‘me’ for my kids.  I was guilty over the patience of my lover who would watch me cry big, ugly sobs and stroke my hair and bring me flowers to attempt to coax me out of bed.  God.  I was a fucking wreck.

He drove me to the psychologists on the day after my worst day.  I wanted to go in alone but when I got in there I could barely concentrate enough to fill out the forms.  I went and hid in the toilet for ten minutes before my appointment and cried because I had just gotten my period and in my anxiety riddled state I had forgotten it was due and packed nothing in my handbag for it’s arrival.  I finally found a rogue tampon in the very depths of my bag, dusted off the wrapper and sent off a silent prayer of thanks.

When I emerged from the bathroom, she led me to a tiny room filled with toys, clearly used more frequently for small children.  It had a sandbox in the corner.  She asked me why I was there and I had to confess I was having an anxiety attack right at that minute.  This would be the first time in a long list where I would be forced to just ‘come clean’.  It makes you very vulnerable to tell people because you are already so fragile that the smallest criticism or judgement can reopen healing wounds.  Sometimes I would just tell people, “I’ve been sick lately,” and they would glance at the anti-nausea bands on my wrists and accept it.  Other times I would just come out with it.  Amazingly, people are kind.  What brought me to this place was the opposite of that, you see.  It was cruelty and senselessness.  So I didn’t really trust anyone anymore.  But when I would tell people, “I’m not in a very good emotional place right now,” or maybe I would give them the diagnosis my psychologist handed me that first day and say, “I have PTSD, I’m working on it,” people for the most part sent me support and love and understanding.  And this made me cry all over again because I felt so undeserving of this.

That day, my psychologist immediately placed tiny vibrating paddles into my hands and when I said, “I can’t talk about what I’m anxious about right now.  I can email you though,” she didn’t push me.  She walked me through breathing exercises and gave me homework and – bless her – said she thought she could fix me.  At that point I didn’t even care if she couldn’t.  She gave me hope.

I am not well.  I am still a work in progress.  I am still delicate but there is a strength in me too.  When I began my homework I would imagine myself as a landscape.  Here are the woods and here stands a house.  Or what was left of a house because it had been burnt to ashes.  I would walk through this landscape and pick at the wreckage, charred and broken. Therapy was me clearing the debris.  Therapy was me uncovering the solid foundation beneath.  It was tempting to immediately begin construction but I needed to ensure I was building on solid ground.  I would picture me sweeping off a stone floor.  Examining crack and holes.  Carefully reconstructing and renovating just the foundation.  I would make it as strong as I could.  I would not rush any part of my rebirth.

For weeks I rose hours before dawn and while my house slept I would watch the sun rise and complete breathing exercises and power affirmations and eventually worked my way to bi-lateral brain stimulation to gather energy for my day ahead.  I looked like I was doing nothing but lying there.  Inside I was healing as best as I could.  I was fighting for my life.

I am not well.  Not yet.  But I am healing.

~

For more information about anxiety please head to Beyond Blue.  Always reach out, people are kinder than you realise.

Apps that my psychologist recommended and have helped me are Breathe2Relax, ACT coach and Anxiety Release based on EMDR (this one appears to not have an iPad version but you can get it on your phone).