There is absolutely nothing I can write about anxiety that hasn’t been written before. Even that thought – that I can’t even write anything new – makes me anxious. There really is no rest bite, a relentless, never-ending journey into self-torment and punishment.
I’m currently in the middle of a pretty severe bout of anxiety. I don’t really know where it’s come from. It seems to have built up slowly, making its presence known bit by bit; a wave building, nagging, falling, crashing, into bouts of self-loathing and unanswered questions.
So, in response, I sit here writing, trying to make sense of why I’m once again in the middle of constant impending doom. Waiting, legs shaking, for something absolutely horrendous to happen. I know it won’t but I can’t seem to control the urge for my brain to ignore that fact and instead have me look like one of those people you try to avoid on the train.
It’s hard to describe the sheer presence of it. I’ve often wrote in the past about being ‘riddled’ with anxiety – like I can almost feel it seeping out of my pores like a noxious gas or garlic. I know it’s in my mind but sometimes the physical symptoms trick me into thinking I’ve actually got a cold or the flu, you know – something tangible that someone can look at and go, ‘oh yeh, he’s got a cold’.
I think it’s something I never really understood – that the physical signs: the constantly shaking legs, the butterflies in the stomach, the tight chest and difficulty breathing – this is my MIND that is doing this. Not an infection I’ve picked up or some god awful crossbreed of bacteria that Archie, my son, has given me from nursery. This is my mind. My own punishing mind distorting my own sense of reality.
The most frustrating aspect about anxiety – or at least the kind that I intermittently suffer from – is the absolute randomness of it all. I’m sat here, I’m not thinking about anything in particular; I have no major worries so to speak – yet out of nowhere I can feel it building. A presence. Pure darkness.
Most people are now well-versed in the black dog analogy, but for me it’s like going for a swim in the sea on a warm day.
You are confident, you are enjoying the beach and the sun on your back; the general frivolity of life. You decide to go for a swim, you enjoy it, but you soon notice the current start to change dramatically. You struggle to find the energy to swim back to shore and before you know it you find yourself floating out to sea.
It’s a frightening analogy. Nevertheless, I think it fits. You see by talking to people, by opening up about what you are dealing with – that’s the ability to swim – to find the energy and the mental capacity to find yourself back to shore.
However, to ignore that, to carry on fighting these things alone is to drift hopelessly out to sea. Until you reach the point where you are too tired to keep on kicking your legs, and the prospect of not having to battle anymore becomes increasingly tempting. I’ve never got to that stage, nor, I hope, will I ever, but I’ve come to realise how talking to people about these things is so incredibly important. However, for some fellas, many thousands, it’s just not a possibility. We still have no much work to do in this area. It’s a few years ago now and mental health awareness has certainly kicked up a gear or two over the past decade, but what happened with Gary Speed still plays heavily on my mind. It can happen to anyone.
For me the worst part about these periods of darkness is the guilt complex that comes with it. The feeling that my privileged existence isn’t enough for me. That all of those people in the world who are in the sheer desperation of war, famine and poverty have real issues and that me, sat here with a roof over my head, employment with my family by my side... I’m just an imposter, a soft lad. A snowflake. An indulgent illness for the indulged generation. For me that is the worst. An added punishment for telling myself I have no reason to be going through these things.
But I suppose that is the thing, to beat anxiety is to beat our modern existence. We are now a world defined by division. Brexiter or remainer, left or right, for or against. The right to inhabit the middle ground, to see the grey between the black and the white is to be weak. It is no wonder that more and more people are seeking medical help for mental health issues.
And so, for me, on it goes. It’s taken me a couple of days to write this. Thankfully I feel better than yesterday – with the hope that tomorrow feels better than today – and so on. When I started writing yesterday I could barely concentrate for two seconds - the sense of dread suffocating. And now, at the end, I can see a few green shoots for the first time in a week. A week that has slipped by without any memory to recall. It will be an ongoing fight.