Openly showing vulnerability is scary- it’s not easy to look someone in the eye and say ‘I’m scared’, ‘I’m sad’ or ‘I’m hurting’ (I’m metaphorically looking you in the eye as I write these words). As living creatures our natural instinct is to protect ourselves from anything that might hurt- I don’t know about you, but I like to put my pyjamas on, curl up with the dog and cocoon myself in my cosy little home, buying stuff off of Ebay and Amazon… and, erm, you know, setting up posh magazine subscriptions and eating chocolate. What is it that you do to soothe your soul when it’s crying? We all have something that brings comfort and familiarity, something that will keep us ‘safe’ from the things that might cause pain. I think, perversely, it’s why I write so openly about my life. Although my impulse is to hide away, I also instinctively know that talking about it will make me feel better. And not just me- you too. If you read my words and it makes you feel less alone then I’ve done something right.
There’s often a moment when you’re talking to a new acquaintance, an almost imperceptible moment when you share a tiny part of your secret self with each other and you both physically soften. Your shoulders relax, your voice slows, tension evaporates. It's like a tiny bit of the weight you were carrying is shared and it feels infinitely better. It’s the breakthrough moment when you feel like this person could be a friend. That is the feeling that comes from talking about our worries. And it’s a good feeling. It happened to me recently actually- I made a new friend and the conversation inevitably turned to what I do for a living- I get it, I’m a difficult one to figure out. Outwardly I look alright, I come across as pretty confident and I’m usually doing something- walking dogs, writing, making stars and things for Deer and Fawn, running St Leonards-by-the-Sea and other busy stuff like that. I’m a bit of a mystery if you don’t know me very well. My new friend and I were heading into the Kino at the time, on a jaunt to watch Downton Abbey and I was ‘saved’ from having to answer the question by my other friend greeting us at the door… yet, despite the film being quite diverting in the way only a sumptuous English costume drama can be, my mind kept wandering back to the question and how I was to answer it. What do I do? What’s my purpose? Who even am I these days? I was scared that by opening up to her she may judge me and not want to be my friend anymore. (She didn’t judge me and just now we were in the park with our dogs, having a conversation about confidence, ironically).
I’ve written about my struggles with anxiety extensively over the years, in this blog, my previous one and as a guest writer for other peoples’ blogs and websites. I’ve also spoken about living with chronic migraine, infertility, early menopause, Fibromyalgia and M.E. and about the jobs (and confidence) I’ve lost due to having these illnesses (here's one that sums it all up). I’ve written about having to claim Universal Credit and the nightmare of applying for Disability Allowance and PIP as well as my struggles with money and living on the breadline. It’s not been an easy ride, that’s for sure and it’s something I find incredibly difficult to talk about- it makes me feel vulnerable and scared and sick and gross and just, well, ashamed. I know that’s a strong word to use- but that’s how I feel about myself. Ashamed. Of being ill so often. Of not being able to hold down a normal, 9-5 job. Of breaking promises and arrangements. Of having very little confidence left. Of not being able to have children. Of having very little money (Ebay, Amazon and posh magazine subscriptions come out of my bills or food money... I know, I know).
The thing about anxiety is that it’s often based on irrational fears and things that haven’t actually happened, but might, if everything goes wrong… I haven’t felt very good physically or mentally since my last migraine. Going out has been a struggle. Speaking to people has been difficult… not just emotionally, I mean actually speaking… I haven’t been able to remember words, simple words and my brain has been foggy and slow… in fact, everything about me has been slow. It’s exhausting having to pick myself up from every bout of illness. I feel as if I’m constantly starting over. I’m tired. I went to the beach earlier, which is always a tonic and I feel a lot better than I did, so hopefully I’m on the mend at last. Fingers crossed. I don’t like being a sad sack.
Two things though guys, before I finish. If you’re feeling down, or sad, or worried, or anxious, you are absolutely not alone. Not in the slightest. Scratch the surface with most people and we will pour our scared little hearts out. And secondly, get, or borrow a dog. My Polly is the reason I’ve gotten up every day during this dark spell- she’s accompanied me for little walks around the block for some fresh air, snuggled up with me every evening and has been my warm and furry little friend through everything. Never underestimate the power of having another beating heart in your home.