I’m Emma. I’m 24. I am a worrier. Like a modern day superhero with the indefatigable ability to irrationalise absolutely everything.
I have decided to write about my anxiety, and all the joys it brings me, because it’s definitely the biggest dilemma in my life and it seems pretty weird to have glossed over it so far.
If you’ve read from the start of this blog you’ll know I want and need to make bbbbiiiiggggg changes to my life before I turn 25. I don’t just want any old life – I want it to kick serious ass. So I need to do better. And writing it down means I’m gonna make it happen.
(This isn’t just me getting overly emotional because my ice lollies don’t freeze properly in this bastard country, although that is another issue I’m dealing with right now.)
I have quite a tough time when it comes to worrying and yesterday I wrote all of this down for the first time when it got a bit too much and have chosen to get over myself and share it for two reasons –
a) so any screenwriters out there can begin turning it into a film, obviously.
b) more importantly, so that if anyone else with anxiety stumbles upon this we can maybe share the love a little bit.
Please accept my sincerest apologies if I’ve now completely changed the meaning of what used to be such a funny, light-hearted blog. If it means anything I think it can definitely be both! And this isn’t just a token #mentalhealth post to try and up my views either. If I wanted more views I would have uploaded a naked photo. What’s actually quite funny is that WordPress won’t even let me have a profile photo because I accidentally clicked R-rated on its description. So it might as well have been a naked one.
I’m having a wonderful time in Australia. I’ve come here for the fringe and to visit my friends but also to escape London and the woes it was bringing me and to try and piece together how I want to move forward. To become a better person not only for me but for everybody around me who has to pick me up from time to time.
I am so grateful for being in the sun in February, meeting new people, seeing new places and having the opportunity to get away and sort my life out. Unlike London, I don’t walk home late by myself worrying incessantly about being mugged, or becoming the unlucky victim of a ten year old’s gang initiation, perhaps involving fireworks and discarded bicycle wheels, nor do I worry about being attacked by a pitbull and/or a pigeon. I feel safe here, obviously with the exception of every single toxic animal, and I’m in amazing company. I know I’m lucky.
But my anxiety has genuinely gone through the roof. I’m waking up most mornings feeling like my head will explode, my stomach is sinking, I don’t have a lot of energy and I can’t really focus on anything. I’m crying more than I thought I would, and not just about the spiders. So I’m getting really frustrated with myself as I don’t want all of this to get on top of me, to ruin or take away from all the amazing things on this trip, to make the months I worked so hard to pay for it all totally pointless, to irritate my friends, my family, my boyfriend for not making the most of it.
Just realised I probably should have started at the beginning…
Anxiety’s been bothering me for a few years now and it baffles me I’ve let it go on so long. Quite often I find it difficult to locate exactly why I feel so overwhelmed, and what it is that’s making me panic so much, which doesn’t help. I tried to get some doctor’s advice but the first time I went to see anyone he told me crying was not beautiful and my best course of action was getting married and settling down because being single was bad for my health.
Yes, that was an actual conversation. My local health centre, unsurprisingly excelling in mental health advice which apparently hasn’t changed since the 1950s.
In the meantime I began to try and figure out by myself what it is that upsets me so regularly. Is it really the fact I’m a Wednesday’s child? Is it because no one can ever decide on the colour of my hair, resulting in a massive identity crisis? Was it the glorious members of the opposite sex who royally screwed me over one too many times? The surprise allergic reaction that wiped me out one summer that made me expect the worse every day? Is it the school I went to right across puberty that stripped me of my self-esteem so that I still can’t look people in the eye if I’m having a bad skin day? Is it because I feel super sensitive to the emotions of the people I love most so that their worries are always my worries? Is it because I chose to go into an industry where I simply don’t get paid enough so I’m constantly scraping by? Why can’t I shake a sense of guilt when I know deep down I haven’t done anything wrong? Perhaps I’m just naturally a bit vain, a bit sensitive, a bit jealous and am lucky enough to have time to dwell on it and turn it into a big deal. Who knows? Judge all you like, at least eat a croissant and toast me while you do.
So it wasn’t until about two years after my encounter with THAT clever little doctor that I built up the courage to go again and try and make someone take me seriously. Coincidentally, I do now have a boyfriend. He’s the absolute love of my life but I do still have IBS, constant butterflies and worry about choosing a cereal under pressure. He’s my boyfriend, not a wizard.
This new doctor prescribed me some anti-depressants immediately, like a bartender enthusiastically recommending the cocktail of the day, and put me on a waiting list (still on it – five months and counting) for some CBT. It’s probably my own fault for telling them (honestly) I wasn’t suicidal; my worries were on a slightly smaller scale, like what if I’ve forgotten to lock the car door? What if I don’t get enough sleep tonight? Did I defrost soup for lunch? Do my toddlers know their songs about winter? What if biting my nails so much means my kidneys can’t filter me properly? If I ever get married can my wedding dress have a pocket for my lip balm? How on earth am I going to afford that trip, that present, that hen night, that meal, RENT!, and what if I let everyone down?
However seemingly mundane (FYI that list is the edited version, so I can hold on to a scrap of dignity), constant worrying was and still is massively affecting my quality of life, and it took a while to appreciate that.
I didn’t take the drugs, mainly because I was in and out of the doctors in under 3 minutes and genuinely don’t believe someone can safely and knowingly prescribe you medication in less time than it takes to make an omelette. I came off the pill (“Sorry Eduardo, things are gonna get risky!”) in case hormones were to blame, simultaneously adding pregnancy to my list of dreads, and went home for a bit. I visited Monkey World by myself to see some animals who’d been through a lot more than me and still came out on top, just to put things into perspective. It worked. Then I booked flights to Australia and went back to London to work my socks off until I flew and felt much better about everything. I have Ed to thank for a lot of it because without him I wouldn’t have taken any of these steps and would probably still be curled up in my bed wishing I was in Grey’s Anatomy.
Fast forward 3 months and here I am.
I’m on my trip of self-discovery and potential self-healing and I’m not doing brilliantly. THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN. I feel very fragile and my hypochondria has reached a new low. I watched one of the best pieces of theatre ever last night but half way through felt like my toes were numb and began to convince myself it was the onset of some kind of muscular degenerative disease. I can laugh at it now, as I know I’m ridiculous, but it’s quite hard to describe how all-consuming these worries can be sometimes without looking like a massive drama queen.
The show was so inspiring and I felt and still do feel a deep desire and ambition to do something with my life that is really powerful and meaningful. But it also made me feel doubly lost and totally powerless as I don’t know where or how to begin and how little old me can make a difference. I really believe this sense of hopelessness is a massive issue in our generation for so many reasons that seem out of our control. But I can’t just accept that. It isn’t just me, but this is my story. I’ve written it down to get it out of my head so I can breathe a bit more. So that I make a real commitment to making the most of the rest of my trip, taking risks, thinking logically and remembering my dreams (cue music). But I’m also determined to apply this to the rest of my life. I so desperately DON’T want to have wasted mine worrying. So this is one step of many I’m taking to make sure I don’t. You can hold me to it.
I feel much better now. If you made it this far, thanks for reading 🙂
All the love xxxxxxxxx