This post was brought to you in partnership with Bupa.
It hit me as soon as I agreed to write a piece for Bupa about anxiety. That clenching knot in my stomach. That tightness in my chest. My heart started to race. My brain began to weave the lies that anxiety spins. “You can’t do this.” “Why did you say yes?” “You will let everyone down.” I stare at the blank computer screen and will it away. I could laugh at the irony, if wasn’t so crippling.
It’s a relief this time to have something tangible to blame The Fear on though. To be able to acknowledge that putting myself out there, exposing my weakness to The Fear is worthy of anxiety.
Mostly The Fear is just there. Quietly lying below the surface, niggling at every thought. It’s the “what if…” that weighs on every decision and every action I make. It’s the worst case scenario that could happen, before I can even consider it. I just know that IT is possible, even when I don’t know what IT is.
Sometimes it’s obvious, like agreeing to share a very personal side of myself on a public platform. Sometimes it is as vague as I don’t want to leave the house because I don’t know what will happen out there. Once I walk out my front door, I have no control. It feels like I’m free-falling. The Fear is lurking around every corner. What if…?
I could crash my car and seriously hurt either my family, or someone else’s. I could be attacked by a predator. On my run when I’m listening on my headphones. By the person hiding on the floor in my car after I duck in to the shops. If there is a worst case scenario, I’ll imagine it.
When I stand out the front of my daughter’s classroom at school pick-up, and The Fear says “No one is talking to you because you are stupid. You are not good enough. They don’t like you.” The anxiety twists my insides into knots, it turns my brain in to fuzz and renders me incapable of rational thought and in turn, coherent conversation. Or at least that’s how I feel. So I stand and look blindly at my phone. I build a wall around myself to hide the anxiety that I feel like is oozing from my pores.
The sound of my phone ringing causes my heart to leap in to my throat. Is this IT? Is this going to be the reason for the anxiety that has been gnawing away at me since the moment I woke up? If you were to ask me what exactly “IT” was or what I even thought it could be, I couldn’t tell you.
The Fear and IT work together. The Fear is what gives IT the power. It’s the uneasiness that shadows me every day. It’s the urge to just stay home, where it is ‘safe.’ It drives my need to only communicate via email or text, so I can consider my every word and how it may be interpreted. It shapes the image I present to others. So much easier to control online than out in the real world.
Living with anxiety at times is like having to remind your body to keep breathing. To protect it from this overwhelming desire to just STOP. To resist from hiding yourself from everything and cease to exist long enough to build up your courage. Because life doesn’t work like that, there is no ‘pause’ button. You just have to keep breathing. This, I can control. Breathe in, breath out. Repeat.
During October, it’s World Mental Health day, which aims to increase awareness of conditions like anxiety, and decrease the stigma that may be attached to them. Bupa Australia is proud to be supporting this cause, and has put together a bunch of information that might help you start a conversation about mental health. For more information visit here.