i hope that it’s true

by elizestrydom

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The day we took this little trip up the coast I was a stressed out wreck. Hitting the open road, exploring a tiny coastal hamlet, drinking one of Dan’s coffees, swimming at a deserted beach with sand so white we could barely keep our eyes open, lighting a campfire, making s’mores for goodness sake – nothing could ease my mind or calm my spirit. I kept saying ‘I’m so glad we’re here!’ and I meant it but I couldn’t seem to convince my pounding heart. Anxiety has been something I’ve struggled with for two years now. I’m still working out why it decided to show up but I definitely remember when. I was reading the triple j news headlines in the studio with presenters Tom and Alex at 6:30am when suddenly I found it hard to breathe. That’s weird, I thought. Then my heart started to beat real fast and I felt light headed. Um, what is happening? Please stop happening! I panicked. I thought I was going to pass out and it was as if I was watching the scene play out from above. Somehow I kept speaking, kept reading the words on the page in front of me, but my voice was shaky and I didn’t have enough air in my lungs to finish each sentence. I wanted to run run run out of the studio and keep going until I was safe in my room at home but I was live on-air so that wasn’t really an option. Tom asked if I was okay and I made some joke about choking on the muesli I’d eaten for breakfast. I shuffled back to my desk and collapsed into my chair feeling weak and exhausted. Somehow I made it through the rest of the shift. I sat on my bus, staring out the window, confused and angry: What was that? Why did that happen? And then the fear crept in and set up shop: I hope that doesn’t ever happen again. What if it happens again? Oh no, it probably WILL happen again. And it did. It’s happened about 15 times since then. Always on-air, primarily during the headlines and once during a top-of-the-hour bulletin. Many many times I’ve opened my mouth to read the news and felt the panic rise but I’ve been able to internally talk it down, breathe through it.

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During 2012 there were weeks where I felt fine and strong followed by weeks where I felt so afraid and helpless. I didn’t really tell anyone; I reasoned that acknowledging the anxiety would only give it more power over me. And I worried I’d lose my job. About six months ago the ‘what if’ fear started to barge in where it was most definitely not welcome: on my weekends, as I switched off the bedside lamp and put my head on the pillow at night, as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, half an hour before every bulletin. Last weekend I reached the end of my tether: I clenched my fists and shed hot tears. I am DONE with this anxiety, I cried. I’ve been seeing an amazing psychologist, practising yoga, having massages, praying, exercising, juicing and yet this thing is winning, I thought. And now, a week later, a weight has lifted. I can’t tell you exactly how or why. I went to Laneway Festival and had fun. I spoke to my boss and felt heard and respected. I had a series of revelations as to what was going on in me two years ago around the time of that first attack. My mum came to visit and I felt safe. I don’t know what it is, but I hope that it’s true and that it stays and grows; crowds out the fear and worry. All of this has reinforced that idea of letting go that I talked about a few posts ago. It has become so clear that I can’t get through this in my own strength. I cannot go it alone and put my trust in my own abilities or skills. I need help and guidance and support and family and God and community. And if that’s the lesson in all of this then I’ll gladly accept it.

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^^ The day I realised I was dating a pyro, ha! I kinda feel like the heaviness of my words is dragging down the light summery-ness of these images but perhaps they balance each other out?

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