IN REARVIEW // March 2018

Anxiety descends like snow storms at the beginning of March - it comes in flurries, then settles on my bones, cold and hard. It is heavy - an icy weight I have to carry - and I come to see the world through frosted eyelashes, peeking out beneath a frozen fearful cloak.

I am going on holiday early in the month - my first time travelling solo in years - and the excitement of booking has given way to reality's dread and fear. This is one of anxiety's worst traits: its ability to make monsters of beautiful things. When the 'Beast from the East' arrives in all its stormy, road-blocked glory, it seems there's a conspiracy set on ruining this for me. When my doctor comes along and prophesies relapse over me, it feels like the final straw and I almost want to give up completely. Who am I to think I can travel alone? Who am I to think I can do anything? As if. Really?

I am glad I do not listen - to the doctor or my own insecurity.

The snow storm blocks the road and grounds my plane, but I am not defeated - by weather or anxiety - and I get there eventually. Surprised by my own adaptability, I rearrange my flight, land in a different country, catch an extra train and salvage an incredible holiday.  Vienna is a fairytale - snowcapped roofs and sparkling streets; horses pulling carriages through roads of music and history. Bratislava is quick and quaint - a 24 hour dash around a pastel-coloured maze. Budapest is a dream - a city that grabs my heart with its glittering river, the buzz of its streets, its hilltop vistas and endless Hungarian treats.

I am charmed by all three cities and the countryside in between and I am sad to leave and return to normality.

I expect the anxiety to subside among home's familiarity, but it seems instead to be March's recurring theme. I come back on a bit of a high - buoyed by pride and adventure stories - but things descend again slowly. It is not the immediate slap of post-holiday blues I've experienced previously, but more an underlying sense of self-doubt and worry that increases as the month proceeds.

Things get pretty busy for a couple of weeks. They are ordinary, enjoyable things: house-sitting for my parents; playing with cats and dog-walking; volunteering in the cafe; paying a visit to the Prison Museum; a day trip to Stonehaven full of beaches and ice-cream; catching up with uncles and cousins; support sessions and Psychology appointments; brunch with family; coffee with differing groups of friends. They are good. I am grateful for the presence of so many good things. But in the midst of it all, I forget to pause and recharge my batteries. Anxiety turned up high, I find myself running in circles trying to be all things to all people and in the end there is little left in reserve for me.

I crash eventually - floored by the everyday, ordinary. I am exhausted and that feels pathetic and weak. It is my effort to do everything right that eventually makes it all go wrong. It is my desperate desire to say 'Yes!' to everything that eventually leaves me saying 'No,' to everyone. I feel like a failure as a friend and a human. I am convinced I am a burden; no use to anyone, despite trying desperately.

And so, in the end, I retreat. It seems the easiest thing to do - protecting myself and protecting everyone from me. I spend a week on the sofa hardly seeing anybody. Rather than a period of rest and restoration, it feels instead like a self-imposed segregation: a punishing silent retreat. It is miserable and the isolation only increases my anxiety. I try to go and volunteer, get overwhelmed by a wave of panic, cry and leave. It is another failure; another piece of evidence for the voice of self-judgement to use against me. I am a failure. I have nothing to offer. I am no good to anybody.

As March comes to an end, this voice is loud inside of me. But there is another voice too - one that recognises this as a cycle that can escalate so very quickly; but one that knows that I have power and a choice over where this leads. And so, as March closes, I feel anxious and weak, yet empowered by awareness and determined to break this cycle - try new things - so that April is not a repeat.   


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  1. Sorry it was such a tough month for you Laura. Hoping Aril brings Spring and a sense of peace to you xx

  2. You deserved that holiday. But you also deserve peace, if that is what your brain and body needs right now: to recover, to rebuild, and to do it all again.

    I'm so proud of you.