Sunday, 2 February 2014

Where all this began

The other day I was looking through old photos. I found a photo that my Mum took of me during a particularly awful time in my life. Well, awful and incredible. (Mostly awful. But I'm the better for having lived through it.)

It looks like an ordinary picture. I'm eating. The thing is, I hadn't eaten in about a month. Well, not properly anyhow (look how skinny I was). I had eaten, but all of the food in my belly until that day was forced in there. I'd had no appetite (ZERO appetite), it being killed by some pretty extreme anxiety I was experiencing at the time.

Mum and I went for a drive one particularly awful day and she took me to the local shopping centre. From out of nowhere I was ravenous. Mum was so excited that I wanted hot Chinese food, so we bought me some, sat down and I started eating it. I cannot even describe to you here how lovely something as simple as appetite can be. Mum was so happy she took this photo (I barely noticed her take it). I couldn't eat more than 5 mouthfuls but it was enough.

I love looking at this photo from time to time. It's a gentle reminder of what I've done in the last 4 years. How far I've come, I suppose.

That time was awful awful awful. I was having daily panic attacks and had no motivation for even the most menial of tasks. I couldn't really talk or even manage a smile. It was terrifying and confusing and I had no idea what was happening to my body. Terrifying is the only word. I rang Lifeline a few times during that month (they're fabulous by the way if you ever need to be talked off a ledge, they'll talk you down, don't even hesitate to call if you're in crisis 13 11 14).

The great thing about looking at that photo isn't to remind myself of how awful it was. It reminds me to be grateful for my appetite, my ability to smile, and that I love life again.

I know in my heart I'll never go back to that same place. And not because I don't still have a few residual issues hanging around, but because I've done a lot of work over the past 4 years - and I actually don't think it's possible to ever go back to that terrifying and confusing time in quite the same way. Sure, I might epically breakdown again - but should that ever happen again I would have a much better understanding of the process and a much more solid sense of who I am and what I can cope with and live through - and it just wouldn't quite be the same. Not as awful.

Over the last few years I've somehow managed to find me a bucketload, truckload, full of courage. Courage is my word. And it's not that I'm not afraid from time to time. I am. It's just that now I've got courage to just sit with my anxiety. Hold it's hand. Reassure it that we'll be okay. My anxiety has soul, it has depth and it has fears too, same as me. It is me.

And when it arrives I give it a BIG ol' welcome. Spread my arms wide and yell at the top of my lungs IRASSHAIMASE!!! (Japanese for "behold, you have arrived", one of my favourite Japanese words of all time.)

And when I do that the fear abates. I feel the physical sensation and it's never as bad as the fear created by the dread of the waiting for it to arrive. It's all okay.

It's really all okay. 

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