“Whenever I write about my own anxiety, I tend to do so with perspective and distance. The way we discuss mental health is such that we’re happy to let people talk about it as long as they seem out of the woods” – Daisy Buchanan
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and in a spectacular demonstration of sod’s law, Wanda (my inner voice) has chosen this week to jump off the sanity ledge and into the abyss. Consequently, I’m not producing my best words and I don’t feel much like saying “hey guys, let’s have a positive conversation about mental health”. Yet, I find myself coming back to the above quote by a fellow anxiety sufferer and thinking – “…well…I have very little perspective or distance right now because I am literally in it…so maybe this is the best time to raise awareness. Because this SUCKS”.
Well here goes nothing…
I feel like death. It’s just a cold. Not even a particularly bad one. But it’s stopping me from sleeping. I just need to sleep. I stumble out of the bedroom, my eyes so dry I can’t properly open them. Which gives the guy hiding behind the kitchen door an opportunity to grab me. He doesn’t because he’s either biding his time or he doesn’t exist. He might be waiting for me to go into the bathroom so he can go and kill my boyfriend. Which I won’t hear because of the shower. And because I’m half asleep. Hopefully he doesn’t exist. I’m in the bathroom and push the shower curtain back in case he’s actually hiding in there. He’s not.
I’m at a conference and I would rather be anywhere else. I don’t know these people. I haven’t spoken to any of them because I hate networking and I know they’re judging me for not being smart enough (mentally or sartorially). I should be better at this. I’m supposed to be a grown-up. Grown-ups network. It’s a thing.
What if I have a sneezing fit in the middle of someone’s speech? I want to leave so badly. Can I just leave? I sit on the end of a table so there’s an escape route. My chest feels tight. Other people sit at my table and talk to each other. They don’t talk to me. Probably because I’m resolutely not looking at them. Now I’ve missed my window and I can’t just spontaneously introduce myself. They’ll think I’m the weird loner who’s really a bit too young to possess any relevant experience. Plus she’s spectacularly fat. And wearing jeans that don’t really fit.
My heart’s beating and I’m simultaneously hot and cold. Now someone’s giving a presentation about Millennials. When will people stop obsessing about Millennials? We have NO MONEY. I’m a Millennial. I’m not old enough to be here. I also have no money. I’m going to lose my job and have no savings to fall back on and probably end up homeless. Wanda’s buzzing around, fizzy with panic.
I left early. Just walked out. I want cake. Chocolate. Anything sweet. Wanda keeps saying “SUUUGAAARRR!, come on, just a bite. Fuck the diet, macaroons are DELICIOUS”. I go shopping for a swimming costume instead. Nothing fits. Well there’s a surprise. God forbid I be adequately clothed while trying to improve myself. I go to the gym for an “Introduction to Personal Training” and consider the irony of it being cheaper to stuff my face than to have a gym membership and/or a personal trainer, but I need to do something. My head is going to explode, only you won’t be able to tell because it’s hidden underneath several layers of fat. I come out exhausted, my cold feeling worse, but I feel strong. I am strong. I’m spectacularly unfit, but I didn’t give up. Never give up.
While I’m waiting for Boyf to come home, I try out that new TV show, The Magicians. I love stories about magic, it’s like escapism. It seems kind of dark but it might be okay, I wasn’t exactly expecting Tinkerbell. A bit like Heroes, we liked that, it had an edge of mysterious man scalping people and stealing brains, but we never had nightmares about it.
A creepy smiley face just appeared in a mirror. Okay, that’s not ideal. Maybe it’s going to be a benevolent creepy demon thing. Wanda’s not convinced. It’s fine, we watched the Mentalist from start to finish and we totally got over that.
Now there’s a creepy man emerging from the mirror surrounded in moths. He’s dancing around to creepy music. He just pulled the headmaster’s eyes out and used them to make a smiley face on a pupil’s desk. This may have been a mistake.
I’m awake. My head hurts and my throat is dry. Fuck this cold, why do the cold and flu pills do nothing?! This is the third or fourth night of bad sleep, it’s making me crazy. I have to recover some sleep. I have to shut my brain down.
The wardrobe door is ajar – was it like that when we went to bed? Well we have a lot of shit, there’s not really any room for someone to hide in there. But it’s open. Boyf would have left it open, it’s his side of the wardrobe. But he gets annoyed when I leave drawers open. So maybe he didn’t leave it open. Of course he left it open. Get a grip you freak.
A car drives past. It’s definitely speeding and the headlights flash through the flimsy curtains, creating new shadows. There’s someone standing outside our window. I can’t breathe. If I lie still he won’t realise I’m there. He’s probably just some hobo hanging out. I close my eyes for a fraction of a second before they snap open – if my eyes are closed, he could do anything and I wouldn’t know. He doesn’t exist. There is no one there. But he’s there. There is no one there. Boyf is asleep. He needs to stay asleep. If I wake him up, it means there’s really something to worry about. Which there ISN’T, because I am just crazy.
The car drives past again, is it just driving round and round the block? It must be drug dealers. There must be a crack den somewhere on our road. Young men high on drugs with no inhibitions. They will come in and kill me. I try to cuddle up to Boyf without waking him. The warmth from his body starts to relax my breathing, but I realise I’m not looking at the window so someone could be trying to get in and I wouldn’t know.
I need the toilet. The wardrobe door is ajar. I’m not breathing. I don’t think there’s anyone outside the window, but the creepy man with the moths is outside our bedroom door. I can hear the music in my head and see him dancing up and down the hall. If I move he’ll come in. My body is rigid, my bladder is starting to ache. I stare at the curtains and the flowers become moths that are coming alive, springing off the pale blue fabric and flying towards me. I shrink under the duvet.
I’m hallucinating. I need the toilet. I pull back the cover and venture a leg off the bed. No, he’ll be lying at the foot of the bed waiting to grab it. Back under the duvet. Under the duvet is safe. My bladder aches. I try again, sit up and pull the duvet off my legs. No back, back, quickly. I’m trapped.
I need the toilet. I can’t go out there. Maybe if I don’t move and don’t drink anything else I can push through. It’s dawn in a few hours. Close your eyes, try and sleep. You have a bladder of STEEL. Or IRON. Or any really STRONG FUCKING METAL. The main thing is, if you go out there, you’ll definitely die. There’s no two ways about it.
I start to shake and then I start to cry. Keep quiet. Keep quiet. Don’t wake Boyf. He wakes anyway to find me sobbing silently, staring at the ceiling. He pulls me close and asks what’s wrong and I mumble something about needing the toilet but the wardrobe’s open and the man from The Magicians is outside the door and there are things coming off the curtains and there’s a car driving round in circles. The insanity of this makes me cry even more.
He switches on the light, takes my hand and gently escorts me the three paces from the bedroom door to the toilet and waits outside. I forget to check if there’s anyone behind the shower curtain. There probably is but I’m too exhausted to care.