I’m tired today. I didn’t sleep last night. My old enemy, Anxiety, is banging on my door. Trying to force his way into my head.
He slips under my skin and creeps into my bones. I try and ignore him. I breathe. I read. I toss and turn. But he knocks loud, it's more like a pounding fist. It’s incessant and hard to turn away from.
Today I don’t feel strong enough to fight him off. I open the door a little and let the darkness seep in.
Once through the threshold he surrounds me, clogs the circulation in my veins and replaces my blood with a thick sludge. He soaks up my joy and envelops positivity. This dense gunk makes my heart malfunction. It beats hard as if struggling, resisting the take-over.
He is always with me, this beast. Fear is always here. Waiting to be ignited. He sits dormant, waiting for a time to show himself. He lurks in the shadows until I’m weak. Then makes his grand entrance.
Hangovers used to be his chance. I was an easy target when alcohol was wearing off and the shame of my behaviour was rearing its ugly head. I left myself wide open for attack. A week immune system combined with a sugary, hateful come down were symptoms that panic leapt upon and then devoured.
It’s lived inside me ever since my first bout of panic attacks. Fear consumed me in the late 90’s. Too many nights out ruined me. I didn’t take care of my health. The party girl over did it. Ecstasy and other recreational drugs damaged my mental equilibrium. I had to move home and admit to my parents that my mind wasn’t right, a fear was inhabiting me. I was confused and didn’t know who I was anymore.
I said to my mum,
‘I’m not well, I’ve taken to many e’s?’
‘I think I’ve gone mental’
She wasn’t angry. She didn’t know what to do. Neither did I.
She put the kettle on.
I got through it. It took time but I won. I learnt skills, ways to tame the beast. I had cognitive behavioural therapy. I steered my broken mind towards friendlier thoughts. I learned how to shake off negativity. I took medication and got better. It took a year.
He didn’t come knocking again for quite a while. I had the tools to stamp out the fear. Fend him off before it got serious.
Then kids came, those unexpected consequences to my drinking. The panic returned. Alcohol had invited the beast in, and he was sat in my kitchen tapping a packet of anti-depressants on the wooden table with an evil grin. He came back into my life and again I was in need of help.
I stopped drinking and he left.
I thought by not drinking, not taking drugs and generally taking care of my body would kick that fickle bastard to the curb! But he’s near. Waiting, I can almost touch him.
I hear the door handle rattling in the background of my life, like a murderer trying to get into my house, trying to break down that door.
Tiredness makes me vulnerable. Today I am exposed.
I forgot to lock him out. I’m clumsy and allow him to take advantage of me.
I lay in bed trying to sleep. I’m mentally leaning my shoulder hard against the door, squeezing it shut. He’s pushing against me. It’s a war.
I squeeze my eyes shut and remember some CBT techniques and breathe, imagine my happy place... I’m swinging in a hammock with the waves lapping beneath me and a soft wind in the palm leaves above.
In through the nose out through the mouth.
Then nothing is pushing back. He’s gone.
The fear, the beast, the panic, the anxiety. All residents of my brain. Lodging there waiting for moments of weakness.
Taking care of myself, getting enough sleep and being mentally healthy are my only weapons. Days like today are a battle, especially when kids are demanding, and patience is negligible.
I got on with the day with a bar of light escaping under the door. His presence is unavoidable, but I get up and I carry on. There are no other options. I eat some hot cross buns and sit down at my computer.
Writing this blog is so therapeutic. It reminds me of what I have dealt with in the past and how this day is simply a tired day. Not the beginning of the end. Not the start of a downhill turn. It’s a blip.
A tired blip that I didn’t drink through.
The door is closed.