After two weeks of shamelessly #livingmybestlife on holiday (but mostly on Instagram, let’s be honest), I am home. And I am riddled with anxiety.
Up until recently, the feelings of anxiousness that blighted my life for so long have somewhat dwindled and I have been silently celebrating my apparent recovery from a condition I thought would follow me around forever.
Although there are generalised anxieties that exist still in my day-to-day-life, I am able, for the most part, to pass these off as just some of the odd quirks that make me, me.
Hahaha, almost every time I leave the house I convince myself that it has burned down, my dog has died and all my world possessions are now nothing but dust, aren’t I charming!
The big stuff though, the crippling feelings of anxiety that have previously affected me, they’ve been so almost non-existent that for a while I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog post on what it feels like to be cured.
What’s that they say about pride coming before a fall?
Yes, well they were right, because it would seem I’ve fallen.
Forgotten but so utterly familiar, feelings of anxiety have rushed back into my life like the waves I was so freely frolicking in last week, filling my entire body to the extent that I am scared to open my mouth should the weight in my stomach force it’s way out. Butterflies are escaping down into my finger tips and frightened tears sit, heavy, at the bottom of my face so that I can’t quite be sure that they won’t just fall out of my chin.
I am well rested, I look fantastic, though I say so myself and I should be floating around London with the renewed sense of optimism that you’re supposed to bring home from your holiday with you.
The dog that, the day before I left, shat on every single step in the house, should now be able to do no wrong. The alcoholic neighbour that likes to lean on my doorbell for thirty minutes at a time when he fancies a chat should now be appreciated as treasured part of the community. The council tax bills, parking permits, unpaid invoices, gas meter readings, vet bills, and 629 unread emails: all now part of the fun, and a small price to pay for the lovely life I get to live.
Home ought now to be looking to me like the beach at sunset and I should flop around it like the newly flimsy rubber band I am, rather than having to unceremoniously ping from room to room, trying not to snap as was my life before I went away.
And yet, despite the fact that by the end of the holiday both Alex and I were not only relaxed but itching to get home to work and to our own bed and to our lovely dog (shit on every single step of the carpeted house or not), now I’m here, if anything, I feel more tightly strung than I did before I left.
Which is a double whammy on the annoyance factor, for me because it feels like a waste of two bloody marvellous weeks doing as close to fuck all as is humanly possible, and to anyone who follows me because the fact that I have the audacity to complain after the dream vay-cay (that I made everyone jealous of at the time) is about as big an Instagram faux-pas as there is.
But here we are, and to deny it not only doesn’t do me any favours, but it does nothing to help those for whom Instagram is detrimental to their mental health. So much as to say, for me to only share the highs is irresponsible and plays into this idea that my life is perfect just because my Instagram is, and that’s not the one.
So, in the interest of transparency, I’ll be honest: I’ve returned from my holiday so crippled by anxiety that I want nothing more than to flee my life.
Where will I go? Well I can’t tell you that, because I don’t know, and ironically enough, the idea of making plans right now is about as anxiety-inducing an activity as I can think of.
In truth I would like nothing more than to get into my bed and to hide from the world. To eat shit food and watch shit on TV and cuddle the dog and neglect all of my responsibilities. I want to sack off the marathon I said I would run and tell all of my friends that I can’t be arsed and call the people at Deliveroo and ask if they could just deliver me something delicious at 11am every day and then again at 7pm, but not to charge me or make me think, or to talk to them at all.
I’d like to escape it all… much like I just did. Only this time I will do it alone and with no good books or delicious food or glamorous Instagram shots or justification that I’m allowed to do what I want because I’m on holiday and holiday is all about indulgence.
I would like to get under the covers and wait until the world feels safe again.
But obviously that’s not an option. And not just because I need to reply to my emails and get some work and earn some money. Or because if I don’t pay my bills or chase my invoices then I will probably end up homeless. Or because I have friends who need me and a dog who, despite that one episode, mostly likes to shit outside.
It’s not an option because I have been down this road before, many a time, and I know that the answer is never, ever to hide from the fear. I know that the answer, for me at least, isn’t the one that my body is crying for, it isn’t the thing that I think I want, the only place that I perceive to be safe when feelings of fear take over my life. No. The answer for me is not to hide.
Instead I will tackle the feelings of anxiety plaguing me as I have tackled those that have plagued me in the past. I will make an effort with my appearance. I will exercise. I will get outside. I will divide my work into manageable chunks. I will make plans. Even the ones I don’t want to make. I will tell people what I am going through. I will seek out things that I am grateful for. I will light candles. I will drink tea. I will eat well. I will probably eat some shit too. I will drink lots of water. I will remind myself again how lucky I am. I will wait. Because it will pass. I have to have faith that it will pass.
Using jet lag as an excuse I probably could have got home from the holiday, recognised the feelings of anxiety and cuddled up on the sofa eating biscuits and watching television.
I could probably have done that for a couple of days, no doubt talking myself into the notion that this was good for me, that this is what my body needs, that we should ignore the fact that I’ve literally spent the last two weeks horizontal in the Caribbean and indulge this ridiculous notion that I need to rest.
And all the while the emails would have mounted up, the unopened post pile would transformed in my peripheral vision so that by the time I stood up it would no longer resemble some relatively harmless sheets of A5 paper, rather a mound of eventual doom. The streets of London, now basking the in the apres-holiday glow that will ware off all too soon will became darker and more daunting for every episode of Drag Race I watch so that when the time comes for me to finally brave the outside world, I’ll feel as if it will swallow me up.
And above it all I would have felt feelings of guilt and shame.
Guilt that even after a holiday that I was so desperately lucky to have gone on in the first place, I had the audacity to moan, to feel less than brilliant, to be tired and sad and overwhelmed. Shame that I couldn’t follow through on all of the brilliant light bulb moments I’d had as my brain finally unwound to allow creativity back in as a I lay on the beach and that I wasn’t harnessing all of this energy and doing something good with it.
I feel grateful to have recognised these feelings sooner rather than later, and that I’ve done this enough times to know roughly how to help myself now that they are here…. (I say roughly because if I knew anymore than that, I probably wouldn’t be in this position in the first place…).
And I feel good for talking about it too. I didn’t think I was supposed to. I thought I should take the extraordinary privilege that my holiday afforded me and stfu. I didn’t feel that I had any right to moan at all.
But that’s not really the way that mental health works to be honest.
It doesn’t actually give a fuck about your privilege. Or your holidays. Or how much work you have to do or how many times your dog has shit on the carpet or the work you have to do or the plans you’ve made.
Anxiety does whatever the fuck it wants.
And for whatever reason, it’s decided that now would be a good time to worm it’s way back into my fantastically suntanned body and wreak havoc. Bloody bastard that it is.
I’m not thrilled about it, but I’m dealing with it, and I wanted to be honest about it. Because I’m sure that I’m not the only person to have felt like this after a bit of time away.
So yes, there you have it. I’m feeling very anxious. And not just because I can’t work out how to replace my Out Of Office with an I-Am-Back-In-The-Office-But-Anxiety-Being-A-Bit-Of-A-Twat-So-Gimmie-A-Minute.