My Day with Anxiety

They say that drowning isn’t actually like you see it in the movies. There is no thrashing, no shouting, no waving hands. Just your head above water one minute and then it slips under, never to resurface… For me, that’s what anxiety is like. It’s silent. Calm on the surface. No major “red flags” for those around me to know everything is not okay. Drowning in plain sight.

BAM! The first wave crashes over me ferociously before I am even aware that I’m standing in the water. I’m on the ground, gasping for air. I get to my knees just as the next wave comes. BAM! Down I go again. Wet, confused and disoriented.

Of course, I’m not really in the water at all. I live in Canberra. There are no oceans here. No waves to knock me off my feet. Well, at least, none that you can see. But here I am. Gasping for air where moments earlier, I was going about my day. I’m actually walking through the local shopping centre on my lunch break as it happens. I don’t know what’s caused it. One minute I’m going through my Christmas shopping list and the next I’m telling myself to “act cool” as I walk through the crowds with a silly smile on my face in an attempt to “look normal”. Whatever that looks like.

The waves keep coming. It feels a little like an asthma attack. Struggling to breathe. Unable to fill my lungs up with air. Each breath harder than the last. Wave after wave after wave. And naturally, because I know this isn’t normal, I focus on it more. “Just breathe Amy” I tell myself as I walk into the book shop.

“You’re going to be okay”…

“It will pass soon”…

I buy some books for the kids and head back to the office.

“Breathe”…

I breathe in as deep as I can, but the air continues to evade me. I sit in meetings and answer emails paying very little attention to anything that doesn’t require my utmost attention. I have more important things to worry about. Like breathing. Who knew it was so difficult? I am focused on getting through this.

Before I know it, an hour has passed. It’s not getting better. I need to retreat, so I make my apologies and leave for the day. I need to be in my nest. My safe place.

Home.

“Distract yourself Amy”, I think to myself. I make lunch, I put on a DVD. I snuggle into myself. But those waves are still there. Every breath is hard. Laboured. Noticed. I can’t escape it. It’s wet and raining outside so I can’t (or maybe I just don’t want to) go for a walk. Plus, all of a sudden it’s four o’clock. It’s time to go get the kids. Time to put my game face on. The kids need your attention and all of it. No more time for thinking about how to breathe and why you’re having trouble with such a simple task.

Time to be a Mum again Amy. If you need to, you can lose your shit later, when the kids are in bed. But for now, get your game face on girl, because it’s go time and you’re needed…

The kids are a mess. They’ve been stuck inside all day and have too much pent-up energy. There are tears, tantrums and everything else imaginable. Two adorable mini tornadoes, ripping the house apart. But you keep your cool. You have to. You have to be strong for them.

“Breathe”…

Thai Red Curry for dinner, cooked by the husband, bless him. He really is a good egg. The girls of course, don’t want to eat any of it. “It’s DISGUSTING!” Bath time is next. Water everywhere, but squeals of delight and lots of laughter.

“It will pass soon”…

Bedtime comes and the girls are asleep. Peace and quiet again. But there I am, still on my knees in the water, floundering in the sand as the next wave approaches. Unable to get on my feet and walk away. Hair stuck to my face and body exhausted from the experience. Wave after wave after wave, just waiting for it to stop.

If you want to read more and find out where and how you can access help, start here, here or here.

You’ve got this Mama and so do I.

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