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.
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.
^^ 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?