First, I was scared of everything. I had my first episode of severe anxiety when I was six. I remember it clearly because when you spend your whole day, from morning to night, trying to avoid things that you are certain will kill you, it imprints on your memory like no other thing. I wish I could remember happy days like the days I spent in the gym changing room at school, shaking and crying because I could smell bleach and I was certain that this would bring about my downfall. I was sure that germs could walk from things on to my hands and kill me so I washed them constantly. I thought even the smell of chemicals would kill me. I thought being in the same room as paint would kill me. I ate nothing with my hands. I don’t know what the treatments were but I don’t think it was the doctor. I remember my poor mum licking everything in the house to show me that nothing could kill me but then I just worried for her. I can’t remember how I got better. I was six.
Then came the fear of school. Obviously, the freak that was scared of everything was going to be a massive target for everyone. On top of all of this I was a total individual that was under no circumstances going to do anything just to fit in. The bullying was constant and I became scared of the building. I’m still scared of it now. Recently, I looked at it on Google maps and it still terrified me. I’m better now. I can’t remember how I got better but I know I went back.
Then I got scared of food. Terrified. I went on a diet and begun to fear myself and my lack of control even more. I know now that I am terrible at looking after myself and being good to myself. The only way I knew how was to feed myself nice things. Then I took all the niceness away from myself trying to lose weight. I had no coping mechanism at all. So, I ate but then attempted to undo the eating. I don’t know if everyone with an eating disorder thinks the same way, but I always thought that it would be borne out of some kind of desperation or being pushed into a corner. I thought about it completely rationally. If I want to feel better I need to eat this ice cream and if I want to eat this ice cream I will have to throw up afterwards. I took that decision consciously and in full knowledge of what it meant but I didn’t care. I needed to feel better. The thing is it didn’t end with the bad food. It ended up as all of the food. I asked a locum GP for help on a whim because it never occurred to me that help was something I deserved, but I hadn’t digested anything for about three weeks and I was exhausted. I spent nearly two years as a psychiatric outpatient. I got better but I wrecked my metabolism and I still wasn’t really sure how to take care of myself, but I wasn’t throwing up every day.
Then I became scared of being alone. I had left a long term relationship that took up all my time. I still had no idea about how to live my life or how to be. That sounds so odd to say now, but I had devoted all my time and energy in to keeping someone happy and I had no idea what to do with myself. This energy was put into worrying, self-loathing and really bad relationship choices. I barely slept and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I will always thank my friends for looking after me at this time of my life. They picked me up and dusted me off and showed me the world that I had been ignoring for several years. I was able to come off medication, I lived, I smiled genuinely.
Then I became scared. All of the other fear and lows paled in comparison to what was hitting me now. Days upon days of absolute alarm. I felt like Sonic the Hedgehog, back in the 90s on that level where he was underwater and you needed to find an air bubble. I felt constantly like the countdown had started. I had very few thoughts other than how I wanted to cease to exist. This is not the same as wanting to die, I want to make that explicitly clear, I just didn’t want to be. I wanted to be in a void. I wanted quiet. I wanted silence. The other thoughts were about how pathetic I was. I suffered on with this for months because I felt like going back on medication would be a failure. I cried pretty much constantly when I was alone. I was alone as little as possible because I couldn’t stand my own company. I developed IBS because of my level of stress.
What made me realise that I needed help was that I was grateful when my stomach cramped because it detracted from the pain I was feeling in my head. I started to wonder how I could cause myself pain. I realised that is no way to live or behave so I went back to my GP and started back on the anti depressants. It took a while to find the right dose but now I think we’ve got there.
Things look good for me now. My head is clearer. I laugh. I am not scared to be alone. I am not scared to tell people that I’m having a bad day because I understand now that bad days happen to everyone and that doesn’t make me weak or stupid. I treat myself well. I eat food that is good for me, I look after my body and I look after my mind. I care about myself. Everyone should find a way to look after themselves. Set a baseline. Mine is my nails. I always paint them. I decided a few years ago that I would always make sure that my nails look nice. That means that every few days I am forced to sit down and spend at least 20 minutes focusing on myself. The ritual is calming and is about nothing other than feeling good.
I am still scared of some things. I’m scared I’ll never find love. I’m scared I will always be in the same job, I’m scared people don’t really like me but these fears can be chased away. I can turn on the light and fill the darkest corners of my mind because the bulb is a lot brighter than it’s ever been. I’ve dusted the shade. I’ve cleared away a lot of the clutter and now my head is mostly a nice place to be.