Sunday, September 21

out of the fire, into the frying pan

Spring came. I cannot believe it arrived. I know in my head: spring after winter, but I still cry when it comes and I physically make my way out of my dank glandular ridden dungeon. I cry because of the contrast; it makes me squint. I long for metaphorical spring to stay once seasonal spring has ended. Even my jaw which has been painfully locked for six months came loose to my shock, and I could have celebrated my improvements by eating something raw and crunchy, but I went for daffodils on my table and excitement.

In this too-good-to-be-true state, something familiar and unwelcome loomed over my joy. Anxiety. People wonder if that means I begin to feel worried about things, normal or irrational, but that would be too simple. I feel no fear, no worry. It’s hard to reason with a mind that knows no reason for all of this. Years ago when it began, I had no idea it was a mental state. I very seriously told my mum I was concerned about my lungs because I couldn’t breathe properly at school.

I go around to catch up with my family, the people I am happiest around, and my body trembles uncontrollably as I ‘relax’ on their couch. It’s my seventh year of driving a car, but my autonomic ability to breathe is lost as I struggle to inhale and exhale, keep my vision from blacking out, ignore my racing heart, and actually steer. I revert to wanting to tear ALL my hair out because it’s soothing at that moment, and I am teary when something miniscule goes wrong. I’m all taut and snappable in my heart when before I felt stable and unflappable. When I’m asleep, I am captured in the high attic I am hiding in. I’ve been here, done this, don’t like this. On my fridge is my star chart entitled, HAIR IS BETTER, a rational concept for an irrational desire. My self control is rewarded with fabric paint, which is obviously extremely motivating. On my knitting needles is a new project to occupy my hands. In my calendar, an appointment with my counsellor and psychiatrist.

When it came back after its long absence, I started thinking of myself as a mess. Messy, tangled, confused, brittle and guilty for needing help again. It struck me that I don’t feel guilt about CFS or POTS, and anxiety is no more my choice than they are. While I advocate for mental health struggles to be as stigma free as physical health struggles, I am ashamed that my mind is out of my control. Subconsciously, I hold the view that I should be able to switch off mental discomfort quickly, but accept that I may need help with physical discomfort. I have to drop the belief that it is a personal failing if I struggle in mind, but not in my body. As I write this, I am not content with the terms ‘body and ‘mind’ because the two interact so completely. My being and journey have lead to this meaningful uncomfortable response, and that is not crazy but rather indicative of how intricate I am.

As a courageous woman who hears voices says in her TED talk, the important question of psychiatry shouldn’t be,
“What’s wrong with you?”
But rather, the more compassionate,
“What’s happened to you?”


  1. this is inspiring Dee, Eleanor's story. I'm pondering this today, both your reminder earlier to never judge a book..... , and to ask whats happened to you instead of whats wrong (including to myself).

    1. It's this graciousness astounding? Applying that grace to others is one thing, but applying it to ourselves when we know all the 'crazy' things we do is another. It's healing just to feel less hostile to myself and my story. I love getting to know you and your story xx