I’ve got to the stage with the anxiety that I don’t live there all the time. In terms of quality of life, that’s huge. It’s mostly due to knowing that my bloke can stay in the country, and knowing that I can keep my child – having both of those in doubt for a number of years was making me very ill. It means that on a calm, unstressy day I am now a passably function human being. I forget, all too easily, how many panic buttons there are and how easily they are pressed, so if I do ok for a couple of weeks I’m badly thrown by the panic when it comes. Of course life is not stress free.
There are some kinds of stress that I can handle, and I’m building a picture of what it is that tears my body up and makes me not just emotionally messy, but physically ill. That which I have no control over is a significant issue. If I have scope to act in a way that can fix, offset or avoid, then even really stress things are bearable. Things where it’s out of my hands – as it felt like with Tom’s application to stay, are really hard.
But why? In part because I assume the world is hostile towards me. I assume that the more I want something, the higher the risk that I am going to be punished simply for daring to want. I get very anxious around things I need that are awkward and inconvenient. I am afraid of answers roughly shaped ’you cannot get there from here.’ My logical mind knows that mostly, there are ways, and that ‘you can’t get there from here’ does not exist in many sane and functional systems. It probably doesn’t help that not all systems are as sane and functional as I would like them to be. What underpins it is too long in contact with people who were not reasonable, or fair, or I sometimes think, terribly sane. It’s been an odd sort of life…
And there it is, the thing I want, and the challenge to overcome before getting it (yet another evil and terrifying form, of course, and bureaucracy always makes me a tad queasy.) I want this enough to be terrified. Then the racing pulse, the stomach cramps, the sleeplessness. The speed at which I move from emotional response to bodily distress still surprises me. It shouldn’t, I’ve lived with it for years.
I’ve found it helps to pick apart the fear, and name it. Nameless dreads are always worse than the ones you can pin down. Where possible I give mine names like Bob and Geoff, Nigel, and Justin, because that makes them a tad more manageable. I’ve learned not to try and shut down my mind in escapist ways, but to walk into whatever the heart of the fear is, trying to face it and name it. I can’t say this helps with the getting to sleep, but it gives me tools. In the short term, emotion and body fail are far more potent and immediate than logic. However, every time I throw my rational mind at the fear, I make some small bit of headway.
“You are not a nameless dread, you’re a snorting application form.”
“Snort,” said the application form.
A lot of people live with fear. Being open about it has brought me a lot of heart breaking stories from fellow travellers (feel free to keep them coming, because it helps to acknowledge this stuff). Fear is easy to hide. It doesn’t show up in bright purple blotches across your face. No one else can hear that your heart is racing, or feel your gut tying itself into dysfunctional knots. It’s hard to explain. People who are not afraid look at the apparently small thing that is crushing you to death and see how small it looks to them and think you are being melodramatic. It’s just because they do not realise that to you this thing has manifested as an elephant, or a landslide of mud and that it really is squashing the life out of you.
To those of you who do not understand, be grateful. It is a precious gift in life to live without terror.