It started in the car on the way home from exchanging Christmas presents that didn’t fit. We had battled the shops, which were filled with grumpy men, frustrated women and bored children, charging their way from shop to shop, annoyed that of the many lovely things they were holding in their hands, none of them was right.
I stood back and tried to block it out. The music was too loud, the shops were too hot, there were too many people, but we had things to do and that meant leaving the house to do them. When I’m like this, I don’t like leaving the house. I don’t like seeing anyone and pretending that everything is ok. Everything outside of my house feels too MUCH, and instead of feeling jolly and festive I feel overwhelmed, scared and depressed. This Christmas break has been one of those times.
It started because Nick mentioned we were going to have to film our “What’s on this week” for our website when we got home. I looked out the window, staring at Christmas lights flashing aggressively outside someone’s house. It was enough to induce some kind of attack, there was nothing twinklingly festive about it; it was like shouting “Merry Christmas!” while baring fangs.
“What are we going to be saying?” I asked him.
“What we’ve been up to over Christmas, what new articles we’ve got, and wishing everyone a happy new year – that kind of thing.”
I paused for a while.
“Can we do it tomorrow?”
“It needs to go up tonight.”
“Because it’s Sunday. We always put them up on a Sunday.”
“It’s Christmas break, no one knows what day it is. Can’t we do it tomorrow?”
“Why don’t you want to do it tonight?”
How did I tell him?
Because I couldn’t fake being happy tonight? Switching on the bright, cheery smile that everyone expects from me, saying I hoped they’d all had a fantastic Christmas, and wasn’t it fun over-indulging and going out and spending time with friends and family and I hoped everyone had a FANTASTIC New Year’s Eve and made incredible resolutions and next year is going to be AWESOME!!
Most of the time, I believe in the glass half full. I truly believe that if you want something, and you dream about it work your butt off for it, you create the energy and momentum that carries you towards your dream. I feel it inside me as a warm glow of positivity, and it drives me on, over obstacles and around them. I see endless possibilities, and while parts of my road are bumpy, I am strong enough to absorb the jolts and I keep moving forwards.
But other times, and it seems to always happen towards the end of one year and the start of another, when it is dark and cold there doesn’t ever seem to be enough light in the sky, my glass empties. Maybe it’s because this is when I stop for a while, and have the time to think about what I’d hoped for this year? Or maybe it’s because it’s the time when we are all supposed to be having so much fun? I don’t know. But once Christmas Day has gone, and the children have had their joy, mine seems to evaporate into the air.
It doesn’t happen every year; last year was one of the happiest Christmases I have ever had – I had just got married to the man who has brought me so much love and understanding. I truly feel that I have met my soulmate, and I am so grateful for him. I am healthy. My children are normal kids; with all the ups, downs, highs and lows that teens and pre-teens bring to a household. I am lucky. I am loved. I have much to be thankful for and I am thankful for all of it.
So why do I feel like this? How can I describe it?
It feels like drowning on dry land.
It’s like I’m hearing things under water; it’s muffled and unclear and I feel detached from everyone else, separated somehow, even though I am in the room and you can see me, I’m not really there.
It’s like death by paper cuts.
Sometimes I feel too much; everything is too loud, too intense. Every small, inconsequential thing severs a nerve. Every word hurts, every look stings. My head gets full.
It is not one big thing, it is a billion tiny things. It is all too much, and I am not enough.
The strange thing is, if one of my dear friends told me they were feeling like this, I would be full of sympathy and understanding. I would encourage them to do whatever they felt they needed to do to get better; get professional help, speak to a doctor, exercise, watch what they eat, do yoga, meditate, write it all down, get it all out… whatever it took. I know all of these things. I do all of these things, but sometimes it doesn’t work and I just want it to GO AWAY and LEAVE ME ALONE.
Nick wasn’t sure I should write this. He said: “You’ll just open the floodgates with people saying ‘It’s alright for you, what have you got to be depressed, anxious and stressed about?’” He said this out of concern and love, not because he thinks this of me, but because he was worried that if I said these things out loud, people would attack me, and it would hurt, and it would make me worse.
He’s right of course.
But we talked about it, and one of the things that we take great pride in This Girl Is On Fire is our honesty. I believe in everythingI say and do on this site; I believe in people, and I want to champion all of us to be our best possible selves. But there are some dark days when I don’t believe in it for me. And I feel like such a failure for saying it out loud; like I am letting so many people down, because how am I supposed to inspire and lead the way, when I don’t always feel like I can do it myself?
And then I remembered an interview I did a few weeks ago for a podcast. It is a podcast that I believe in so hard, and have worked for and pushed for and I have finally done a pilot for and I now have my fingers, toes, eyes and any other part of me that can be crossed that it will get commissioned and will get the go-ahead. For the pilot I interviewed the wonderful Bryony Gordon. Now, I have a very large place in my heart for Bryony because she is everything I wish I could be. She’s super-smart, funny, articulate and most of all HONEST. She has shown herself to the world, flaws and all, and said “Do you know what? This is me, this is who I am, and it’d be great if you like it, but if you don’t then suit yourself.” Or words to that effect. I asked to interview her because I think she’s “On Fire”, something she, surprisingly to me, doesn’t think. We talked about her achievements, of which there are many, but then it got down to why I think she’s so great. For me, it isn’t down to the times when she achieves great things, it’s the fact that when she falls down she always gets back up again. In essence, it’s her ability to openly speak out and say she needs to stop for a while, to admit that she is struggling, and then somehow get back on her feet and keep moving forward. Anyone can keep moving forward if that’s something they find easy. What takes real strength is say you need to stop and regroup, then stand up again and put one foot in front of the other.
I realised tonight that this is something I don’t ever allow myself to do. I am harder on myself than I would ever be on a friend, a loved one or my children. Why do I see feeling these things as normal and understandable in other people but as a failing in myself? I should just “pull myself together and stop being such an attention-seeker”. The voice inside my head sneers: “You’re embarrassing and weak, and you disgust me. Get up, and get on with it…”
My list of crises and issues I have dealt with in my life are longer than some and shorter than others. Some you will know about; many you won’t. Some are easy to discuss openly because they are things that people experience every day in their own way. Others are not and I choose to keep them to myself. All of them, large and small, in their shades of grey to darkest black, are part of the jigsaw that make up me.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace, love and good will to all. I may be a little late this year, but from tonight, I am going to start by extending that good will to myself, as well as those I love. It’s ok to not be ok sometimes. This is just one of those times. As Nick says to me: “You’re just having a moment”. That’s all this is. “This too shall pass” is one of my favourite sayings in life, and right now, I just need to focus on that. This moment isn’t forever; I got through last week, I got through yesterday, I got through today, I can get through tomorrow.
Tomorrow we will film our “What’s on this week” for you, and I will mean it when I wish you all a happy new year. I will say it honestly, because that’s what we do here. This Girl Is On Fire is our kitchen table where we talk openly and honestly about ourselves, including the dark stuff as well as the light. That’s what makes all of us “on fire”.
With much love,
Anxiety comes in varying forms, causes many different symptoms – but there are small things you can do to help yourself, starting today…