Little Miss Worry Guts: An Introduction.
Nothing quite spells out ‘anxiety problem’ like driving home from your therapist’s, racked with a worry that even she almost certainly thinks you’re a complete bore.
There’s me, paying a woman good bloody money to talk to me. To help me understand why once again my brain feels like it’s packing up and moving abroad. To listen and guide me through a time that feels like my rationale has taken a leave of absence.
And I spend the whole journey home worrying that not only do I bore her, but that she is probably judging every last thing I’ve told her, and is probably spending the whole time I’m with her wondering why she wasn’t someplace else, probably watching some paint dry.
Or worse still, I’d only get about two junctions away and worry that I wasn’t actually messed up enough to warrant therapy. That I was in fact fine and her time and resources were better off spent elsewhere with someone worse off.
That’s me down to a tee.
See, like thousands of others, I worry.
I don’t just worry about the big things. You know, the bills, or my family’s health or the fact that I forgot to buy toothpaste on the way home.
I worry about everything. I worry about how much I worry. I worry that I’ll never be able to stop worrying.
I’ve got a serious worry problem (like, it’s diagnosed), that over the years has been known to stop me in my tracks and make things hard bloody work. Not big things. Little things. Like going to work. Having a bath. Concentrating on a film.
Maybe it’s age.
Maybe it’s expensive therapy.
Maybe it’s having a series of big shit things happen that makes all the other shit things seem minor in comparison.
But I’m in a moment of clarity.
(And that’s the last preaching you’ll hear from me)
Some months you think ‘girl, check this corner out that you’re turning’.
Other months you think ‘shit son, I’m one panic attack away from a strait jacket’.
But as it stands, I have more corner-turning months than lock-me-up months and for me, that’s progress.
The thing with anxiety is that it gets you when you least expect it. It floors you. It hides for a while. It pops out in the work toilet, or half way through a date, or when you’re just walking home from work and all of a sudden out of nowhere you’re a trembling mess, you can’t breathe and you’re on the floor.
It’s the pits. And the worst thing is, you don’t feel like you can talk about it. For some reason, in a world where we share pictures of our dinner with people we used to go to school with and live tweet every stage of taking a poo, we can’t share this.
We can’t share the dark moments.
We can’t share the fear.
Because we’re worried (shocker) about how people will react. We’re worried that people will judge us or that it will hold us back. We’re worried that if we talk to those we love about it, they’ll back away through fear of being associated with a crazy person. We’re worried that if we tell work about it, it’ll be hold us back from the promotion.
So we don’t speak about it. We keep it in. We keep it quiet.
And the worry just carries on worrying.
I think that needs to change.
And that’s why I’m writing this.
In the vain hope that someone may pick this up and go ‘finally, someone gets it’ or picks it up and gives it to their loved ones to say ‘This. This, right here is how is how I’m feeling’.
In the vain hope that getting it all down on paper might mean I can print it off, lock it in a box, potentially set light to it and forget that for a period of my life I had a bit of a tough time.
See, if you were to meet me, the fact that I have had a bit of a struggle with my mind for some years would probably surprise you. Whenever I tell people, they often respond with ‘what, you?!’ or even better ‘are you taking the piss?’.
Because I’m not your archetypal mental health sufferer. Whatever that is.
I mean, I don’t walk round talking to walls, or swotting imaginary flies or dressing all in black.
I don’t sit down in dark corners and rock back and forth chanting ancient proverbs.
I’m yet to be sedated. Close on occasion. But never quite got there.
I go to work, I have friends, I am mouthy and to the outside world I am confident, outgoing and full of beans. Some people think I’m quite funny and may use the word ‘mad’ when talking about me but only in reference to the fact that I’ve spent a large proportion of my years promoting mid-week tequila and bar dancing sessions.
To them, I’m ‘mad’ in the fun sense.
Not ‘mad’ in the ‘mad’ sense.
I’m always the first to say yes to a night out, the first one to book a last minute holiday, the first to say what I think about a situation that doesn’t sit quite right with me.
I’ve done jobs that mean I have to make conversations with absolute strangers five times a day. I’ve been on blind dates. I’ve had boyfriends. I’m a daughter. I’m a mate.
You see, I’m just the girl in your office. The girl on the tube. The girl sitting next to you in the pub.
I’m your best friend. I’m your sister. Your girlfriend. The girl you want to take out to dinner.
I’m everyone else.
And just because I don’t look like I struggle. Sometimes, I feel like I’m falling apart.
And that’s what this is about. Looking beyond the lack of strait jacket and realizing that things like this happen to everyone.
And if they were to break their leg, or develop pneumonia, you’d support them and help them to get better.
Mental health is just the same. It’s a broken leg. It’s a chesty cough. It’s a spell of vertigo. And just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean we don’t need to talk about it.
So at the risk of airing my dirty, panic attack stricken laundry to the world, I’m going to try and start a conversation.
A conversation about the fact that like me, there is a world filled with people that are struggling a bit.
And we’ve got to start talking about it.
Because if there is the one thing I’ve learned since being a 15 year old girl worrying about my journey to school through to being a 27 year old woman worrying that her thighs and laugh made her un-marriable, it’s this.
So, let’s start.