Real Life: Anxiety & Me

Most recently, I have been enduring weeks of being riddled with anxiety. It’s been almost crippling, especially in the face of the need to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and not let my children know that all is not well.

At one point, I was thinking the anxiety was a product of being peri-menopausal, as I am 45 year old chin hair harvester, and on the cusp of menopause; but instead I think it was created by a sense of ‘lack of control.’ I am normally emotionally repressed. My son and I call it my ‘inner steel bitch’ as I don’t cry very often. I can’t help it. Years of pushing those bad boys down means that they don’t bubble up in me like they do in other more emotional humans.

I think so long spent living in the shadow of the military, having worked for Help For Heroes, and having met so many others inspirational families with very demanding and challenging life changing situations, it makes me feel like any trauma that I have encountered in my life is not acknowledgeable by comparison. Yet, what I have subsequently learned is that whilst my rational brain may reprimand my emotional self for not being able to gather perspective on a situation that makes me feel that life is spiralling out of control, I still have to endure the anxiety this lack of control creates, presenting an actual physical response.

The anxiety grips me in my jaw, in my stomach and creates a inner turmoil that no amount of ‘giving myself a good talking to’ can dissipate. As a freelancer I juggle my work life situation and I was waiting on news of a pending project that felt critical to my very being. The outcome did not come within the allotted agreed timeframe and it put me in a state of limbo. All I had to do was wait not knowing the outcome. It was the waiting that triggered the anxiety. Without the outcome I couldn’t move left or right. It was literally a waiting game and the longer I waited the larger the Sword of Damocles grew in my head. The greater the anxiety. It was as if the serotonin was being extracted from my body and the fun juice had completely gone. I had to put mechanisms in place to ensure that whilst I was bubbling with turmoil inside life continued on for everyone else. The children were fed, the chores were done and somehow there was fun. I was lucky to be supported by some very empathetic people, who propped me up as I battled the inner black buzz that gripped me.

In the midst of this turmoil I was thrown curve ball, after curve ball, as boilers broke and bees invaded my world on an unusual scale. The anxiety engulfed me but I didn’t have the luxury of stopping so I carried the heavy load and gritted my teeth and soldiered on.

Eventually, I received an outcome which enabled me to leave limbo and make decisive actions that made me feel less anxious. The anxiety left my body like pus leaving a boil. It’s not completely gone as I’m still being thrown the curve balls but it’s not as bad. However, I have discovered that waiting, whilst not knowing, on decisions that have huge implications for my life, triggers anxiety in me, over which I have no control. This anxiety is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and whilst the past stress to which I can attribute this is not as bad as some have experienced, it’s still bad enough to trigger a reaction in me. I have had to accept this. I am human and I have no control.

Clare Macnaughton; a modern military mother; a feminist, British military spouse, and lifestyle journalist, writing about real life adventures.

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