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.