Tuesday, September 8, 2015

:: :: :: Four Birthdays, One Wedding and an Anxiety Attack :: :: :: {or One Hundred & Two Days}

Well.  I can't say I don't know myself.  102.  Quite a big number.  That's the number of days since my last post.  And I've spent a little bit of time beating myself up about that.  Even wondering if that was it.  Maybe I'd never post here again.  The end of One Small Life?  But something, a little niggle, a little itch, couldn't let that happen.

Can't say I don't know myself though.  I knew when I stopped blogging weekly there would be a crash.  I knew that, despite what other people said, despite that maybe it made no sense.  I knew it.

I'm not a good multi-tasker.  And to be sure, I don't want to be.  I don't want to add things to my life that I can do while not really looking at them, while doing other things.  I want my life to be about focus and presence and peace.  Not about pace and distraction and spinning plates.

But here's something I know about myself, I'm quite hot and cold, a bit all or nothing.  I'm either jumping off the pier into the winter water or I'm back at the beach house by the fire drinking red wine.  I'm not saying I like this about myself.  Or that I don't.  I'm just saying I know it.

So I knew, I just knew that when I told myself that I didn't have to post here every single week that I would run from that commitment like a cheeky school girl wagging maths to go down the milk bar with her mates.

I don't know what that is, or what it says about me, what it means or what causes it.  I guess it just is. And that's okay.

For me these things come in cycles.  My creativity ebbs and flows.  And I swing wildly between discipline and abandon.  I was worried for a moment there.  I thought, "Huh.  Maybe that's it."  But then, slowly, slowly as my energy returned and my life slowed down there was a timid little knock at the door.  Softly, like the hand of a child.  A little idea here, a thought there, a sparkle that led to a daydream that made me think it was time to come back.

And here I am.  One hundred and two days later.  But whose counting, right?  Not me.

It's been a time.

When I last posted I was feeling stressed out, distracted and anxious.  Now I feel more relaxed, somewhat focused and a little bit calm.

Here's what's been happening in my life the last one hundred and two days.

At the end of May I had a car accident.  Nothing in it, just a bingle.  But it was a marker.  Because I cannot tell you how stressed out I felt that day.  How rushed, under pressure and sort of like I had targets I had to hit.  I felt like I did back in my working days.  Most projects I worked on would have a time, about a day and a half before everything came together and the whole thing just worked, that it felt like nothing would.  The plates were still spinning, but at any moment they could all come crashing down.  And if you could get yourself through this bit, like sailing through the storm, you knew you'd see day break and calm waters.  It was all just around the corner.  In my work life, this didn't even feel bad.  It sort of felt good.  Worthwhile somehow.  Purposeful.

But it was weird to be feeling this way in my non-working life.  Because seriously, what am I stressing out about?  Getting the kids to kinder and school on time and not forgetting free dress day?  I was aware that my stress levels were disproportionate to the reality of my circumstances which were actually pretty cruisey.

It was having this little accident that made me realise that.  Made me clock that really, I was a bit wigged out over nothing.  Ok.  Point noted.  But life goes on right?  So I'm aware now that I'm a bit irrationally stressy, but I'm not really sure what to do about that.  So I pare things back.  I take the pressure off myself by relinquishing any unessential commitments, like this blog.  Also my snail mail group (Hello people I owe letters to. *waves energetically* I'll get to them. I promise!)

I focused instead on the other, essential things going on in my life like my kids birthday parties, school holidays, two milestone birthdays in the family and an interstate wedding.  Then something strange happens.

Then I have an anxiety attack.  At least I think that's what it was.  I'm not a Doctor, and it wasn't diagnosed and I'm certainly no expert.  But that's the best way I can describe it.  That's how it felt to me.  And it's not the first time this has happened.  But this one seemed weirder, because with the first  I felt like I could justify it, like there were some slightly stressy things going on that could account for me having a moment.  Sick child, partner overseas....  It sort of seemed like, "Ok.  That was a bit full on but I'm obviously worried about my kid."

When I was overcome with anxiety this time precisely nothing was going on.  I was folding washing one minute.  The next I was pacing from room to room not getting anything done my mind racing at a gazillionty miles an hour and my heart beating out of my chest.  And the breathing.  It's all in the breathing and that wicked sense that you can't catch your breath even while you are standing perfectly still.

Fortunately I was able to recognise what was happening within a minute or so and once I could do that I could consciously slow down my breathing, slow down my thoughts and talk myself down.  Freaky though.  And freakishly similar to the last time.

I dunno.  This one sort of baffled me more than the last one because even though they were almost identical symptomatically, this one came at a time when I feel like there was nothing going on to trigger it.  Just completely random.  It also came on the back of me taking a bunch of pressure off myself.  Sort of saying to myself, "Ok, the next couple of months there's a lot going on with the birthdays and the wedding and what-not.  So take the pressure off by having a creative hiatus, don't worry about the blog or the letter writing or any of the other stuff you've got going on and just lean in to the family stuff.  This is going to be fun.  Enjoy this!"

So I sort of felt like there was no sense in which I was over committed.  I mean how much less could I possibly do, right?  Pretty soon I'd be sitting in a room by myself staring at the walls.  That's when shit got real for me.  Because that's when I realised, just like depression is not about feeling down because your life sucks, it's about feeling down even when your life, in actuality is pretty damn good - this anxiety was not anchored in reality.  And that is a peturbing realisation.

When I discussed it with friends I described it as like looking at my life and seeing rationally that it's a lucky life, a happy life, a good life.  And I know in ten years I'm going to look back and say that these were some of the best years of my life.  But I can't really feel those feelings.  I can know them intellectually, but there's a barrier.  Like I'm looking at my own life through some sort of lens.  I can see it all, but I'm not actually in it.

It's a crazy making thing.

Since then all the birthday parties and wedding celebrations are over and I've managed to cram in a couple of sick kids, a chest infection all of my own, a recuperative girls weekend where we did so little we almost felt guilty (almost!) and I've calmed down a lot.  It's almost like the anxiety attack was popping the cork and since it happened I've felt a lot more relaxed.

Which is a good thing.  A lovely thing.  And it allowed for the trickling of thoughts, the percolating of inspiration and eventually the bubbling of desire to return to this space and to other creative pursuits.  And that feels good.

So. That's how I've spent the last one hundred and two days.  How about you?

How have the last few months been for you?

Image licensed under Creative Commons via Unsplash


  1. Good old Johnnie Farnham!
    So glad to have you back! So sorry to hear about the anxiety and how intense that is. It's scary knowing that these things aren't specifically triggered. Have you talked to your doctor about your attacks? I hope that you are okay and things are finding their space in your world. I was very pleased to hear that you had a recuperative girl's weekend! The thing is, from the outside, mothering looks cruisey, but it is just not. It is intense in a way few relationships are, there is no escaping the intensity. And then there are all the tasks, that in and of themselves are not challenging, but altogether, the lack of mental stimulation required to do them all is a stress all of it's own. I don't look back at my children's early years and think they were the best years of my life. Au contraire! I am really loving the ages they are at now though, more independent and (should I say this out loud?) more interesting to talk to! I love our dinner conversations at the moment and the entire routine is easier. They strap themselves into the car, toilet themselves, feed themselves and can even wash themselves and their own hair! Don't underestimate how huge and how intense those early years are. You're doing a big big job, they are your biggest projects ever. I think you are amazing and I am thrilled to read another One Small Life post. The time between is just that, a time. Hang in there!

    1. Haha! I know, Pressure Down. What a choice choice, right? That song just kept popping into my head when thinking about this stuff so I had to go with it. The clip though. Hilarious. Thanks so much for your gorgeous comment. I love it so much. I haven't talked to my Dr yet, but I am going to. Things have evened out a lot, and feel much less acute. However I think it's important for her to know so that if it happens again she has the background. The girls weekend was The Best. We got a hotel room and basically cocooned ourselves in there for a few days, chatting, eating, watching movies. We did very little and it was just what we all needed. I agree with all you have to say about early parenting. Interestingly I feel like I am transitioning out of that right now. My kids turned 5 & 7 recently and I really feel my youngest turning 5 has been a massive leap for me emotionally. It's possible that all this is playing into the anxiety too. He starts school next year. There is an undercurrent of pressure about returning to work (what does that even mean for me??) and around making the most of the time I have with him before all that starts, not to mention the stuff I haven't even unpacked around my littlest heading to school and my unresolved feelings around not having another baby. There's a lot of stuff going on there, none of which is easily accessed or dealt with amongst the day to day of life. But there is is. Thank you so much for reading, for commenting and for being your beautiful self. xx

  2. Oh i'm so glad I'm not the only one who has let things slide. I think it's good to prioritise things and maybe you needed a break from the blog. I've added you to my email list, in anticipation. Writing to you today. Finally. xx

    1. I totally did need a break Zoe - it was all starting to feel a bit burdensome there for a while, but now I'm getting that enthusiasm back. Next step is to find time. And keep balance. xx