ENTER THE ABYSS: ANXIETY
Just a girl, standing in front of her world, being open about the personal struggles that we all deal with – but never discuss.
I don’t really like talking about my feelings. It feels weak and embarrassing, because I know that for all of my great qualities, there are some equally terrifying aspects of my psyche that I’d like to keep buried.
But from a few chats I’ve had with various people, I realise that anxiety is more prevalent – dare I say normal – than I could have ever imagined.
I spent the summer loving life. I’d hit rock bottom in November and you know what they say: there’s only one way up from here, kiddo. And that’s where I went: up.
I stayed in Wollongong for a couple of months soaking up the love of my favourite people. Surrounded by family and friends, I relaxed and partied and absorbed as much goodness as I could. I then spent a month in Bali with a couple of girlfriends, living it up in paradise.
It was hands down the best time of my life to date.
But life is an eternal bell curve: what goes up, must come down.
The happiest I have ever been is not being emotionally invested
I know that love is supposed to be this incredible perk of the human condition, but it’s always been a bit of a cunt to me. This was the first time I have not been in love with a single person. I dated, I enjoyed the company of someone.
But knowing I wasn’t in love, I moved freely. Like the heaviness of emotions was lifted and my empty heart floated instead of pulling me under. There was no deep, dark abyss. There was only refreshing, shallow water and clear, cloudless blue skies.
I have anxiety, and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. Even at the age of five, my chest would suddenly get tight and I’d feel like I was drowning. I’m terrified of deep, dark, open water. And anxiety to me feels like I’m stuck in that place.
I’d have to do breathing exercises to get the tightness to leave, and that’s the second-best solution I’ve found in almost 25 years. Doctor’s sent me for chest x-rays, thinking I had asthma. But my lungs are perfect. No physical scars.
It wasn’t until January 2015 that I finally realised what I was dealing with: an anxiety attack when my heart broke (or any other rejection or stress, typically work-related). I fell in love with a bit of a shit dude and I struggled hard trying to reconcile the person he told me he was with the person he actually was. I had some Valium on hand from a past injury and, knowing it would help me sleep, I took one.
My chest opened.
The weight holding me down dissipated and I suddenly felt okay again. It simultaneously numbed my feelings as well as relieved the constriction in my chest. The shortness of breath. The lightheadedness and overwhelming tunnel vision.
I know it’s not a perfect solution. But I don’t need it too often, and it’s a lifesaver when I’m at my worst.
Being able to put a name to a debilitating and uncontrollable feeling is almost liberating. It means I can identify what I’m feeling and why, so that I can either avoid those situations or shape them to minimise the effects.
But it’s an ever-evolving learning curve; a lesson in resilience. And in an attempt to see the silver lining of these unpleasant events, I now know that this too, shall pass. Inevitably, I’ll find myself in that situation again: another heartache. Another crappy job. Another anvil, crushing my chest.
But knowing that I’ve gotten through the most painful heartbreak, the worst job, the shittest boss, is enough to know that I can get through this, too.
If you suffer from anxiety or want to chat, my inbox is always open.
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