I had a sensation the other day of not being able to find the bottom, even on tippy toes, and I panicked.
You must know that feeling? It’s like when you are learning to swim and you push yourself to go further and further down the pool, getting less and less brave as the water laps up against first your chin and then your nostrils, and then suddenly within half a step, there’s no bottom at all and the water is up over your eyes. There’s a momentary panic where you can’t see or hear or breathe or even THINK as you thrash and splutter and cough it all out, then suddenly, your toes stretch themselves to the limit and you can find the bottom again. More than that, you find that you’re really in that deep after all and if you just stop panicking and thrashing about and just stand upright for a minute, you’re safe after all and all that happened was that your footing slipped a little and you lost contact with the bottom of the pool.
It didn’t just come out of the blue, but had been a steady build up over a couple of weeks, with general and specific anxieties and worries piling on top of each other. I have been on holiday recently, and as much as I was anticipating the break away from routine and being with my family, underneath it all I was more than a little anxious about those very same things too. Any sort of change in my routine makes me anxious these days, which I cope with by forcing myself to accept small changes and even to embrace them when I can. I don’t know why I should be anxious about things like that, but that’s me I guess. I have always been the same, even as a child. Particularly as a child.
I remember the lead up to Christmas being hell for me and the same with anticipated trips to visit my Uncle David and his family, or just before we went on holiday. It used to hit me in my stomach and I would be sick – literally – for days or weeks beforehand in anticipation of the event, and even now as an adult, I get the same way.
This summer we were due to go on holiday straight after a memorial service for the 100th anniversary of Britain’s involvement in the First World War and I had been asked to provide music in the shape of a brass band for it. This was on the Sunday and we were due to go on holiday on the Monday. The weeks leading up to both these events was torture for me if I’m honest. It’s really difficult to explain how and why, and my nerves and anxiety were spilling over into all other areas of my life. I was so bad that my friend Gill brought me a bunch of flowers on the Saturday to cheer me up.
As it happened, the rehearsal for the service went fantastically well and the service itself was really, really good. Just the one slip up (from me) but it was easily covered up and nobody knew it had happened except me and the vicar who was leading the service. Our holiday was fantastic too so my anxiety and nerves were totally unfounded and as it turned out, there was nothing to fear. This is how it usually happens, but for some reason this time I was even more anxious about being home again and resuming my normal stuff last weekend.
I was anxious about going to church on Sunday, the day after we’d arrived back home, so much so that I was physically sick before I went out. Now, come on. WHO gets sick about going to church??! We had a fun day at church this Tuesday too, but by the time that came around I was at the “foot slipped off the bottom of the pool and water lapping at my nostrils” stage as described above. The daft thing is that there is absolutely nothing to be worried about, or fearful of, or even be the slightest bit anxious about and yet time and time again I find myself tied up in stupid nervy knots about THINGS THAT ARE ENJOYABLE AND FULFILLING!!
I have to admit that the flailing about and losing my footing is not the usual outcome of a period of extended anxiety like this, but when it happens I always feel so foolish when it has passed and I realise that things weren’t as out of control as they felt during it. I may well have felt like I’d lost contact with the bottom, but it wasn’t that far away after all and if I had just stopped worrying I wouldn’t have felt myself slip in the first place.
I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who suffers from anxiety and depression like this. Does it make you feel like you’re losing control and drowning too? Do you feel foolish that when you finally regain your footing, you realise that the bottom was always there just a few millimeters beyond where you thought you could reach?