Anxiety — ‘a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’
“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths”
~Charles Haddon Spurgeon
And yet anxiety persists throughout the human race, undaunted by logic or rationale. Our fears continue to grow proactively encouraged by the media and our natural tendency towards drama — ironically a survival technique required for our fight or flight instinct.
Anxiety flourishes, fed by fear and social norms, created to allow us to grow in an organised fashion but resulting in a one-dimensional model that leaves many on the outside looking in.
This is the narrative that sometimes goes on inside my head when anxiety comes to visit.
I see that my daughter’s iPad charging cable has a tear in it. I dare not leave the iPad on charge in case it catches fire, burns down the hotel we are staying at and kills innocent people. I will spend the rest of my life in jail for manslaughter, never see my children again and have the death of others on my conscience forever.
I see the terrible news of the collapse of a bridge in Italy a week before we are due to go there on holiday. We pick up the car from the airport, I daren’t look as we cross the bridges en-route to our destination in case that bridge collapses too.
We arrive at our villa, there is no fire alarm — I wake hourly just in case there is a fire.
I message a friend, I hear nothing back — I assume I have done something to piss them off and rack my brain as to what it could be.
I check my facebook group numbers, they have gone down. I wonder if I should close the group as people do not like the content and are leaving.
I lose my patience with the children as their appetite for my attention is insatiable. I wonder if that is all they will remember as they grow up and how much emotional damage I have caused them.
I groan inwardly at being asked to play with the children again because all I really want to do is read my book, write an article or have a nap. I dare not admit this as a) I do not want them to feel unwanted b) we are constantly told to make the most of our children and c) everyone thinks that parents are always on their phones ignoring their children and that social media is ruining the world. My books and articles are on my phone but I don’t want to be judged, cast outside of the norm and by definition, become a crap parent. I compromise and use the laptop instead — is that more acceptable?
I look at a photo of myself and see how much larger I am than I used to be. I wonder if people see a fat, middle-aged, unfit woman who can’t be arsed to look after herself anymore — because that’s what the magazines tell us when they post pictures of famous middle-aged women who look nothing like me.
I crawl into bed exhausted and sleep. I wake up exhausted and cry. I can’t stop crying. I have no reason. I berate myself for feeling sorry for myself, being spoilt and not jumping for joy at all that I have in my life. Because the self-help books and motivational speakers tell us that we are in control and it is up to us to choose how we respond to life. I wonder if they included depression and hormones in their deliberations?
The children fight. They are being unreasonable, I just want to tell them to shut the fuck up. I don’t because that’s considered really bad parenting and apparently that’s what happens at this age, as their brains are not fully developed therefore it is normal. I try to facilitate the argument. I fail. They want me to take sides. I can’t. Instead, I leave them to it or just tell them to stop, as I simply do not know the answer. I tell myself ‘that’s another shit parenting moment’, of which there are so many compared to the ‘norm’ of how parenting should be done.
I make a pack-up for the children’s school lunch — I realise later on that I didn’t taste the ham to make sure it was ok, despite it being in date. So, I go to school with a ridiculous excuse to replace the pack up.
I cook tea for the kids — I have reheated meat, I’m nervous I will poison them. I call my sister for advice as she is a cook. She tells me the temperature to ensure the meat is at. I get the thermometer out and check. The children moan that the meat is over-cooked and dry.
I write a lot about compassion, kindness, and respect. I then analyse my own actions each day and constantly find myself lacking against the standards I think are acceptable. I wonder if people are just not telling me what a hypocrite I am, as they are being kind.
I lock up the house, drive 100 metres down the road. I stop and return — have I turned the grill off? Have I got all of the dogs in? Have I closed the windows? The list is endless. It takes 15 mins to leave the house.
On holiday, we hire a pedalo and go out on to the lake. I think of the terrible accident where a family hired a speedboat — it went wrong and the father and a child were killed. I spend my time watching out for boats on the lake just in case they come near us and trying to remember the details of the accident to avoid it happening to us.
Anxiety is exhausting.
Most of it is actually driven by the desire to belong, a fear of being found out and therefore judged, a need to be liked and caring so deeply you cannot bear the thought of your actions harming others. Therefore, creating the ability to ‘dine alone rather than in bad company’, be truthful about your strengths and failings therefore cutting guilt and shame out of the equation, and accepting your sensitivity as part of who you are is really the only way to put the strength back into today and deal with tomorrow when it comes.