I am a very lucky person. Not necessarily in the way most people would think. I’m not rich, don’t drive a fancy car, live in a biggish house but one which is soon to get much smaller. My career has never really taken off, I’ve not taken any ‘bucket list’ holidays and I’m on my second divorce. However my lucky resides in my ability to see ‘silver linings’ in virtually every situation. Obviously there are limits to this; and thank fuck I’ve never been tested in that regard. But I see myself as extremely lucky. I would give myself a 7 for looks; a good 8 when I’ve put in the effort for a night out (with a good wind behind me and at the most fortuitous time of the month). My body has never really let me down. It’s housed and nourished four babies, never required long-term medication and despite several diversions into ‘Anxiety Avenue’ I’ve managed to come through it with positivity and hope. Most of this I put down to ‘silver linings’.
When something goes wrong (not talking terminal illness or accidental death here…) there is always a ‘silver lining’; even if it’s simply a lesson learned. When fully ensconced in a two-year period of anxiety; where my body was literally taken over with a myriad of unpleasant and scary symptoms my silver lining was ‘but I’m thin’! I literally couldn’t eat; my throat was so constricted I found it difficult to swallow. I was hungry; I wanted to feed my body, I would then spend hours upon end, looking at a buttered piece of bread with the few tiny bites I’d managed with both sadness and fear. However I looked hot as hell in my skinny jeans! I was devoid of muffin top, my tummy flat, toned and my waist whittled down beautifully. That was my silver lining. Now pipe down any anorexics of bulemic’s, I understand and respect that your problem is different to mine but frankly I’ll not allow my story to be censored by every other mental health experience.
When I struggled to go out with the children; fear of extreme vertigo which would take me over at any given time I stayed in. We made a den with furniture and blankets and I’d go under there with them and play. I used focusing solely on them, in that moment to work through palpitations, muscle twitching and extreme fatigue. This was my silver lining. Each and every night of those two years was spent reading every self-help book the library could provide and sleeping. I was rested and well read; silver lining?!!!
As my journey progressed and I considered my progress to ‘solve my problem’ slow I upped the anti; taking up a Reiki course. During this I received free Reiki (silver lining…normally 30 quid-ish a pop!) and sat amongst and befriended people I would never usually come into contact with. I heard their experiences; refined my empathy and compassion whilst essentially still remaining me; light-hearted, irreverent and mischevious. I was empowered through taking this time to heal myself, learning a new skill and inviting in the Universal Life Force that runs through every single living thing. This course proved to be a marker in substantial improvement in my symptoms. To-date I still lay hands upon my heart and solar plexus chakra’s before sleep and recite the Reiki mantra as I remember it:
“Just for today; do not worry. Just for today; do not anger, Honour your parents, teachers and elders, Earn your living honestly and Show respect for every single living thing…”
A sterling psalm to live a good life by.
A turning point was also investing time to study Homeopathy, Bach Flower remedies and even Health Kinesiology. I say ‘study’ in fact I just paid to see several practitioners who proffered their expertise; for a fee! Of these I can now confirm that Homeopathy is a giant pile of poo. Though the old chap I saw for many years and paid heartily to landscape his back garden including a very handsome Pergola was extremely kind and caring. However the tiny ‘pillules’ I took with such reverence did absolutely fuck all. Healthy Kinesiology was if nothing else, extremely funny. Well, apart from the 35 quid I forked out. And to be told I was ‘sensitive’ to Cod, Raspberries and a whole list of other weird and wonderful things, by a woman with a questionable hairstyle as she touched both a box of vile’s and a pulse-point under my knee. Yeah; totally not falling for that shit; and no I won’t pay to have your window seat upholstered in Laura Ashley fabric. Bach Flower’s the jury’s still out on. I’ll still turn to Rescue Remedy during times of stress to ‘comfort and reassure’; yes I know it’s probably just the drop of brandy…
I was nearly 18 months down the line and whilst the physical symptoms had practically gone I was left with something much worse. Intrusive thoughts. A particularly insidious and emotionally damaging pitter-patter of fear-based worry. Negative scenarios played out in glorious HD and at full volume in your head. Prescriptive fear; carefully cultivated to affect you most. I mean you thought of it; you know what will cut the deepest. Mine was death. Illness, both my own and more particularly my children’s. I only had to hear a news story that fitted. Or be told of another’s symptoms and my very clever body would immediately join the party. My Father being diagnosed with MND was particularly difficult in more ways than one. So I once more had to search for a different source of help. This time I turned to counselling. Yeah, this didn’t work for me; and I tried more than one. In fact I can honestly say I ended up judging the person sitting in front of me and thinking I could advise myself better than they could. I felt that way each time; not entirely sure what that says about me! Silver lining, I saved money and gained personal empowerment!
The final leg of my journey involved two things. A book which changed my life. And a lady Hypnotherapist I saw only twice. The book is by Dr Claire Weekes; Self-help For Your Nerves. In desperate times if provides a wealth of practical advice and guidance. When not so desperate; many a giggle at it’s war-time sensibility. “Do not startle a sensitive woman. If this occurs remedy with sugary tea and smelling salts…” Okay that’s heavily fabricated but you get the idea. Do not be put off. It’s an incredible book and her teachings regarding anxiety are invaluable and DO work. A chance conversation whilst washing my hands in a public convenience led me to contact a female Hypnotherapist and two sessions with her and I finally had an understanding of what triggered everything off. I can’t speak with any authority about Hypnotherapy only that I was relieved to be told I wouldn’t actually be hypnotised (I literally feared being coerced into humping her hearth rug then appearing on You Tube). Instead I sat comfortably on a chair and listened to her voice and she took me on a journey. During this journey she asked me questions and I answered with the first thing that came into my head. Don’t get me wrong whilst trying desperately to concentrate only on her voice my mind was still wandering and I constantly questioned if I was ‘doing it properly’.
Whilst on this journey from birth to the present day I became aware of many points in my life which were traumatic to me. Small things to others perhaps, but pertinent to me and the type of person I am. Little things blew me off course. Bigger things took me in different directions to those that might have been better suited to me. And so life goes on. We deal with each chunk at a time. We assume it’s done and dusted. We shelve trauma, file away little upsets and are unaware that at some point our messy cupboard of life experience will need a clear out. Perhaps anxiety is a way of doing that. We’re drifting too far off course. A tidal wave will then sweep in and toss us off the tranquil boat we were sailing on and we must battle to get back on board and trust that we’re now travelling in the best direction for us.
The ultimate silver lining to Anxiety; certainly in my experience, is that an ‘episode’ usually precedes an exciting life change and positive movement toward something better. As if the brain has to shake up the mind and body; toss in some upheaval, instability, fear and reawaken you in preparation for the next phase of life. I have learned to never turn Anxiety away; instead I welcome it in, see it as a meaningful test of my mettle and relax into it’s ‘trial by symptom’. With each and every Anxiety examination that I endure and pass fear has dwindled and what I came to realise was that Anxiety without fuel (fear) is merely a transient unpleasant bodily sensation or sudden intrusive thought. It’s ironic how since I’ve unlocked my secret to dealing with Anxiety; the knowledge that it’s an irksome irritation to be dealt with periodically, as opposed to a hideous monster of doom, that it seems to bother me less and less.
Though I can recall instantly my first encounters and how my desperation to rid myself of it played straight into the depths of Anxiety hell. For Anxiety is a slippery fish; you’ll feel the need to deal with each and every symptom separately; a battle to be won. And with each victory, a new adversary will present itself, always playing upon your worst fears and so it will begin again. Another symptom to be fought and defeated. My secret is this. Remove fear. Invite it in. Surrender yourself to the heart attack and untimely death you fear, goad it, stand up tall and say ‘come on then, hurry the fuck up I’m bored of waiting so get on with it, I’m ready, bring it on!’. With those words the fuel is removed. A fire cannot keep burning without fuel. Our bodies cannot function without fuel. And Anxiety cannot overtake us without fuel. Remove the fear.
I have no medical knowledge, my words will not resonate with everyone’s experiences. I’m simply sharing mine. Thanks for reading.