The Lump of Anxiety.

I have always been the anxious sort which is a difficult thing to admit. I often think I was carved out of anxiety, small bones scored and polished with fear whilst folded into my mothers womb. For a long time I was in denial. I didn’t want to admit I struggled for fear of being seen as weak, somewhat pathetic, a freak. 

My childhood, looking back, was the perfect accompaniment to an overactive flight or fight response and so something that perhaps may have been a predisposition became a fearful reality and it’s lived within my mind ever since. Sometimes it resides as more of a familiar friend who is a little wired and overwhelmed. A friend who can be talked down with hot cups of tea, a quiet chat, a moment of peace. Other times it feels like trying to tame a wild horse, where you could get thrown off and break your neck. 

Lately, it’s felt like anxiety has grown in strength and tenacity. When I watched a soft brown loaf rise in the oven the other day, it reminded me of how anxiety floods one system and how doughy and persistent it can be. It would be okay if it tasted good, but there is nothing delicious or appetising about living in fear. The only taste I have is permanent indigestion and an abundance of nausea.

Anxiety doesn’t ask for an invitation. It creeps into your life and takes up space meant for life. If depression is a liar, anxiety is a brilliant trickster. I remember my first panic attack. I was twenty one. The day was hot and warm, summer having arrived a few weeks before. Spring and summer never seem fitting for long bouts of melancholy or sharp splintering anxiety. These moods seem more given to dark rainy days and murky grey skies. It almost feels an affront to feel wretched when the sun dapples our days, blue skies wrap us in smiles and people slurp ice creams with relish.

paganism-is-wholesome-because-it-faces-the-facts-of-life-%e2%80%95-aleister-crowley

I am having a heart attack.

I can’t breathe.

My arm is numb.

I am having a heart attack.

My head is pounding.

I am having a stroke

I am soaked with sweat.

I can’t breathe.

Mummy?

I’m choking.

My throat doesn’t work.

Help me.

I am dying

This is what it feels like.

Mummy?

My fingers have pin and needles in them.

I am having a heart attack.

I am having a heart attack.

I can’t breathe.

Mummy?

I’m scared.

Please help me. Please.

Can’t stop crying.

Can’t stop crying.

I can’t breathe.

Everything is shifting around me.

It’s all too loud.

Where am I?

I’m lost.

I’m not safe.

I am dying.

I am dying.

My mummy…

I am having a heart attack.

I am having a heart attack.

Things have gone into slow motion.

I can’t stop this.

I want it to stop.

I am going to faint.

I am having a heart attack.

I am having a heart attack.

I am going to faint.

People are looking at me

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe.

And yet, all of us living with anxiety somehow pick ourselves up and we try again. We may not always try the next day or the day after that and sometimes anxiety will push us into hopeless places, places where we feel beaten and dejected and utterly lost. Anxiety for me feels like the relentless flutter of a birds wings inside my chest but I am the one who wants to escape. And sometimes the tips of those wings will find their way into my throat and become the perpetual lump of anxiety. A lump that never quite goes away but (and it’s this that I hold on to), sometimes whilst it simmers, life offers us a glimpse of magic. It could be a chat with a good friend or sitting in the garden or reading a book or playing an instrument. It could be a good day at college or a good day at work, a trip to the cinema, a meal out with friends or family or simply listening to music without the background noise. A peaceful nights sleep, a lessening of the stickiness of fear, a morning without the claw of terror. It could be anything and we have to hold on to these moments, they remind us that anxiety ebbs and flows and in the spaces between we find our smiles and of course, the wings of  better memories.

© Copyright Henrietta M Ross

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5 thoughts on “The Lump of Anxiety.

  1. Very good post. My first anxiety attack was when I was 19. I was living in another city and once my family dropped me off in my halls for the first time, I was alone and had an anxiety attack soon after. I didn’t know what it was at first, though more than ten years later it became worse.

    Back in 2011 I was at a music festival. It lasted three days, but I left each of the days early due to what I felt was an internal earthquake shifting tectonic plates in my psyche and perception. Even if I had a genetic Richter scale, I doubt it would have measured the shaking that weekend.

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