Anxiety; its still such a taboo topic, but I don’t understand why.
To me, anxiety is like a handbag, you carry it around all the time, it’s glued to your side (in my case anyway, I’d get too anxious if I let it out of my sight… ironic huh.) sometimes it’s light, only a few things in it, and you barely notice it’s there. That’s most of the time for me.
Other times, it’s full to the brim of things I’ve collected for weeks and weeks, old receipts, tissues, 3 half-drunk bottles of water, even a sock, and it gets heavy, the straps cut into my shoulder, the bulk of the bag keeps knocking my side. But I need to keep holding it. I shuffle it around, redistribute the weight, even swap shoulders, but these are only quick fixes, and soon enough the straps are hurting me, the weight is pulling me down. Friends tell me just to put the bag down for a minute – but I can’t it’s a necessity to have it on me at all times.
I can alleviate the sharp pain a little, by shuffling the weight from one side to the other, but the dull ache is there. The quicker I get home, back to my safe place, the quicker it’s ok for me to put the bag down, its safe for my valuables to be in a different room in my own home.
That’s the only way I can describe it. It’s not always playing up, making itself known, but it is always there. Small insignificant things, like a receipt or a half-drunk bottle of water collect gradually until it becomes noticeably heavier.
All it takes is one interaction, one extra packet of chewing gum, to tip the weight over the edge of bearable to too much. Its not something I can anticipate, some days I’m stronger than others and I can carry my bag with my head held high, others I’m weaker and what I could handle the day before, seems overwhelming and impossible. Sometimes, when I get home, I can unload some of the extra weight in my bag, I can deal with it quickly and get back to normal, other days I can’t. I can’t bring myself to look in the bag at the mess I’ve been carrying around, I’m ashamed of the crumpled up shopping lists, empty bottles of perfume and used tissues that litter the bottom of my bag.
Sometimes, I’m afraid to pick the bag up and leave my home. What if I can’t carry it? What if it’s too heavy?
Sometimes those fears win.
But sometimes, I force myself to push through. I pick up that bag, swing it over my shoulder and do my very best to ignore the crippling weight pulling me back. Even if I only get one thing done outside of the house, that’s a win.
Its hard. I’m not going to lie. My brain tells me that the bag is bad, and not to go near it, that staying home will make it go away, but I know that I have to leave the house, I’ll have to deal with the bag, and its contents at some point. I can put it off, but sooner or later, I’ll need to go to work, to earn money, or to the supermarket, to get food so I don’t starve.
I don’t believe this is something that has to define me. I’m fully aware of the fact that it has prevented me from participating in certain things, which fills me with sadness, but it is important for me, and anyone else who has ever felt like this, to remember to celebrate the little victories, and not let anyone take those away from you.
Its not something that will go away over night, its not something that a 2 week course of antibiotics can fix, its something that needs to be built up over time, gradually. Like building muscles at the gym, you can’t walk in once, have a quick test of the machines and then expect to be ripped, it requires hard work, but gradually what once seemed heavy and impossible is actually bearable.
Its a climb, but the view at the top is worth the scrapes and bumps along the way.
P.S: Sometimes, the best medicine is a bit of fresh air. A chance to breathe, and for a few minutes, forget what’s weighing you down. It can be a push to get outside, but it does make me feel a little better.
Photos taken at Tile Wood, a beautiful nature reserve minutes from my parents house