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Fear. When I close my eyes and imagine what it looks like I see a huge ball of black mála. Right at the top of my chest. When I eat, food has to make its way around it and I have to breathe extra hard just so the air can get to my lungs.

I used to wake up with the fear. No, not the ‘I-was-so-pissed-last-night-I-can’t-remember-what-I-said-to-who-fear. More the ‘I-can’t-get-out-of-bed-I’m-in-a-hole- sorta-fear’. I’m sure the glass of wine the night before didn’t help, but it was never anything in particular that would bring it on, that would make me feel like I was going to spontaneously combust.

I’m great craic. I love my life. I have a brilliant job, an amazing family, lots of sound mates and a boyfriend who’s mad about me. The fear doesn’t really care about that, though. It makes you feel alone, scared and it makes you feel like nobody else gives a shit, that you could stand in the middle of the departures lounge at Dublin airport screaming at the top of your voice ‘Help!’ or ‘Fix me!’ and that nobody would bat an eyelid.

Not that I could have made it to the airport, even with a promise of a trip to Timbuktu. You see, the fear makes you ‘take to the bed’, sometimes for a few days or a week even. Sometimes it still does. And no, my fear isn’t some of ladytime PMT sort of thing, I just suffer with my nerves. I’m not depressed, bipolar or suicidal. I am human.

I used to wonder if I was the only one who ever felt like this, if everyone walked around with a sad and heavy heart? In the end I had to ask for help. I couldn’t be in my own head anymore. I had forgotten who ‘Rois’ was.

So I started going for “the chats”.  And I chatted about everything and I cried about everything and about nothing too. In fact, I bawled. And Boy, did it feel good!  I cried about not having tax on my car, about my roommate drinking all the milk that morning. I bawled about something horrible my boss had said that day. Silly little things, that were all very important to me.

“The Chats” were my empty page, my empty canvas. I could throw what I liked at it and it stuck, right there for all to see – my thoughts, my fears, my anxieties. On the canvas I could see them clearly too and work through them. In my mind they were a nightmare, on the canvas they were beautiful. So each week I would go and meet this lady, who I knew from Adam, and together I started to find myself and finally I started to feel safe.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back it’s hard to remember why it was so hard to ask for help, but it was. When I’m sick I go to the doctor. So why is it so different when I have a sad heart? One in four of us will feel overwhelmed by ‘our nerves’ at some point in our lives. What’s worse is that no one wants to talk about it. It’s embarrassing, mortifying. It’s not the done thing. I had cancer once and remember the hush of the c-word when people asked how I was feeling. With mental health and the huge stigma associated with it, there isn’t even that hush. All there is, is silence. Having cancer is scary, talking about it is scarier still but having anxiety  or depression is worse. And talking about it? Well, that’s in a whole league of it’s own. Trust me.

I don’t know of any quick fixes or instant cures for the ‘nerves’ Believe me, I’ve asked.  But what I do know is this.  There is lots and lots of help out there. People genuinely give a shit. They want you to get better. They want you to feel happy. It’s only when you start to talk about it and start to understand it in your own head that you can begin to realize that nothing is ever that bad. It can still be bad. But on those bad days I’ll wake up and the first thing I do is try to be kind to me. I stop giving out to myself. I take a few deep breaths and remember that tomorrow will be better.


  1. Well done Roisalicious… Talking really does help 🙂

    • Thanks Róisín,
      I hear you on radio and thought you hit the nail on the head – the Fear! physically unable to move, blocked by your mental state. And the reason? Everything and nothing. My wife asks “what’s wrong?” And I dont know – nor do i know what anyone can do…Lots of mental activity but no desire to leave the bed..
      One good thing – it DOES pass, eventually.
      medication can help, and walking can certainly help – but how do you get up to go walking?/?.
      I hope the incidents reduce in number and you can feel FEARLESS for the future.

  2. Inspirational! You are a survivor of the highest order!

  3. Amazballs!

  4. Lovely post, really courageous and honest.

    My partner suffers similar ‘fears’, we’re trying to work through them at the moment but it’s not easy. Any chance you could post some links to places where one can go to talk about such ‘fears’?

    Thanks a million.

  5. Very well written piece, tapping in to how a lot of people are feeling especially at this time of year.

  6. Im at the early , hard part of these feelings.. thanks for making me feel semi normal with an incentive to look forward to feeling ik again!

  7. Rois,

    I absolutely Loved your writing. So honest and heartfelt!
    I identify. God, I identify. When the thoughts are running and racing around my head with no where to go, they become monsters! And the monster’s get bigger and more scary. I compound the thoughts and the FEAR jumps in with a Big Oul Bang! So, I think its time for therapy. I’ve started to write the last two mornings, just realms and pages of nonsense. Whatever is in my head and it has helped.
    The Nightmare’s don’t appear so threatening then, they don’t own me. Don’t get me wrong, they can creep back during the day. Reality becomes so far removed when I go up there into my head, when left to dwell. Perhaps, there’s a macabre element in me that likes to dwell in the morass of self pity. I like to scare myself. Well, I don’t really but it would appear that way!

    I totally relate to the ‘nerves’. It reminds me of the stigma attached, I would hear people in the past refer to it as’ they suffer with their nerves’ and the stigma is there still. Oh it’s there alright! Snap out of it! Get out of bed etc etc. AH GO AWAY YA DONT BLOODY UNDERSTAND!

    Anyway, rant aside, this is a great idea for raising mental awareness.

    Dee x

    • Funny thing is I woke up yesterday with the FEAR of God and I don’t know why and today I’m not much better. Its a very difficult time of year for people and for others the whole year can feel like this. If my story helped one person then I know I did the right thing by telling it. I don’t see myself as brave or inspirational as I said in my story – I am human. I am genuinely overwhelmed by all the lovely comments, messages, tweets, emails, texts and phone calls. I had to pull my car over today to cry I was so emotional. Thanks to all my family & friends for helping me & understanding. Hopefully I will see you at First Fortnight over the coming weeks – Rois 🙂 x

  8. Lovely piece, thank you for sharing. I can really relate:)

  9. Brilliant and thanks for allowing me to re-post it on my blog. well done Roisin…you are amazing

  10. Thank you for writing this piece. I was recently hospitalised due to this. I cannot return to my job in the immediate future. People really don’t understand why iam not fit for work. There’s a shame and guilt in not being able to get dressed. Noone wants me to say I have mental health issues because of the stigma.
    I believe through awareness, understanding and maybe prevention can occur.
    Keep well

  11. Brave and brilliant as the truth always is.

  12. Top class article Ro, “The Chats” seem to have beaten ‘The Fears”.. and better on that canvas than inside. Im sure it wil inspire and engage many others with similar issues and secret unknown fears. Inspiring and keep it up. looking forward to the next issue.. x

  13. @Roisalicious, you are a real hero! Keep writing.

  14. Really insightful and articulate. Glad you are talking about it and thanks for sharing.

  15. […] when I stumbled upon a blog from an old friend of mine, Róisín Whelan. In her brave blog entitled “Don’t be Scared” Róisín talks honestly and openly about how she suffered with her nerves in the past. She wasn’t […]

  16. […] Read the blog post (beautifully entitled ‘Don’t be scared’) and reactions here: […]

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