I didn’t think I’d ever be here. Right now.
I’ve been so focused on moving house, and getting the Small Small started at school, I didn’t really think about afterwards.
And here I am, staring down at the rest of my life from a precipice because I literally never envisaged a point beyond this one, and I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of a void.
I’ve been so stressed for so long and getting through and getting by that I literally can’t come to a dead halt.
And I’m worried that’s what’s going to tip me over…
Anxiety, you see, isn’t a straight line. Stress doesn’t have a neat beginning, middle and end. It’s more like one of those mad squiggle scribble drawings kids do, when you then colour in the spaces.
Red for rage. Green for fear. Blue for despair. Yellow for madness. Don’t let the colours touch, because if you do, doom…
The bit that SHOULD be the scribbliest bit is the bit when it’s happening, whatever the IT is that is the stress epicentre or focus of your anxiety.
But it’s not. It’s afterwards.
When you can’t come down or calm down. When your body is still in fight or flight at high alert but with nothing left to tackle or run from but ghosts, and too much in the tank to stop, and all for too long so it’s starting to take a physical effect on your sleep, and breathing, and hearing, and vision, and concentration, and weird aches and pains and blank patches as everything shuts down because it can’t keep going like that, but you can’t remember what normal operation looks or feels like anymore.
And you’re on the other side in theory but there’s nowhere to go, and nowhere to put it all.
You have to go from ‘Oh God, what NOW?’ To just, ‘….what now?’
And the unplanned nothingness is as vast and scary as all the vast and scary things real and imaginary you’ve been fighting and everything inside of you is still coiled but the enemy has changed, and might be inside of you too.
The thing with those scribble pictures is that no child has EVER FINISHED ONE. Have you ever noticed that? They are always discarded half done, and amongst the mountains of artistic offerings slipped furtively into the recycling by beleaguered parents.
I think if you’ve been living with that sort of mad-scribble anxiety or stress it doesn’t get finished, or unscrambled. You don’t get to follow a straight line again straight away, possibly ever. I think over time and with age you learn to make the loops bigger and easier to manage and fill in.
And maybe you remember, from childhood, that the next blank piece of paper is an opportunity for more prolific artwork, and not just a terrifying abyss.
I hope so, anyway.