So, a few home truths about SWB. You will have deduced already that I’m a bit of a ‘handle with care’ case, slightly on the fragile side. I love a whinge and a whine, and I’m equally happy to see the joyous side of life when it manifests itself, but truth be told, I find life very, very trying. I have the utmost admiration for folk who cope with the daily grind of jobs, children, housework and global terrorism, and somehow manage to make it to eight in the evening without having imbibed half a bottle of wine and fallen into a depression the size of Mongolia. I tend to get very down indeed, especially when it comes to keeping a stiff upper lip when atrocities assail us from every which way, and you think to yourself, for fuck’s sake, whatever next?
I used to think life was hard enough before I met and married LSB and then fired out the two minis in quick succession. I’m telling you, having the family I’d always wanted has ratcheted the anxiety up something shocking. I can turn the prospect of a happy event into Armageddon in a few seconds flat. Take the notion of a girly weekend to go away and recharge. Here’s the inner monologue. “Oh fab! Where? When? Book it before I change my mind! Madrid? Excellent, let’s go and get tore into the vino tinto and paella”. Then, five minutes later… “What if something happens to me and kids are left motherless, all because I fancied some frivolity?” I’ll lie awake at night ruminating over my options: should I just cancel the trip? If so will my friends still speak to me for buggering them about? The torment grows, along with a seething resentment for people who can just get on a plane without having an existential crisis first. The bottom line is, I still go and generally have a lovely time. But the inner turmoil prior to the event does detract somewhat from the experience.
A plane doesn’t have to be involved to set me off. Oh no, closer to home there’s still a chance of disaster! What if LSB and I set off to the Manor House in Fermanagh and get taken out by a wayward lorry on the M1? Fucking hell. Children left orphaned because we fancied some romance? Or, Dear God Almighty, if the wee ones got sick or mown down or blown up: just how exactly does a buddy claw their way back from that? Jesus, I think I need a drink just writing that.
So to cope with this rehabilitating fearfulness, I have to put a few strategies in place: otherwise life gets pretty grim for all concerned.
1) If you suffer from acute anxiety, as my doctor helpfully pointed out that I did, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if they prescribe you some antidepressants. I used to have a colleague who smoked half a joint before heading to work in a local restaurant of a Saturday evening, ‘just to take the edge off’. She was a brilliant waitress, (maybe I ought to have followed suit, it may have made for a more agreeable experience). I think of the tablets like that, they just get you over a hump in the road, and who doesn’t need a leg up every so often?
2) Talk to people. The more open and honest we can be about our mental health the better, and you discover pretty quickly that you’re not alone: there’s lots of us nut jobs out there. (And, in my humble opinion, some of the worst ones are those who think they don’t have any issues. They’re often the ones to watch).
3) Keep active: whether it be yoga, running, (my own two favourites) or whatever helps divert activity away from the hamster wheel in your head droning on about miserable stuff. Plus you’ll look and feel better too, so every ones a winner.
4) Drink less. Now there’s a tough one, as I think we’ve ascertained that I love a glass of wine, or a G&T, or a craft beer for that matter. I’m loving some of the citrusy ones they’ve had on in Brewbot of late. But, and sorry to be a didactic old git but there’s the teacher in me, any more than three of an evening out and I feel dire. It’s not worth it, as all the negative, self-flagellation and paranoia return with gusto, and all good-feeling from the night before bites the dust. So pace yourselves and all will be well.
5) Limit your exposure to the news. I had a bad accident many years ago now and the hospital chaplain, who quickly deduced that I was a fretful sort of a person long before I came a cropper, gave me this advice: “Listen to the news once a day, on the radio. You don’t need the graphic visuals on the TV to accompany the horror.” Now this is hard to achieve as it’s now on our phones and FB feeds, but I got LSB to disable the news app on my phone and I try just to tune in once in the morning so I know what’s going on, and leave it at that. This may even be too much for some, and I get that. It was LSB’s idea that I write a bit about anxiety and depression after last week’s atrocity in Manchester. He heard about it first while I was still asleep and came in and gently told me before it came on 6 Music while I was dishing out the breakfast. Being married to someone who understands your neurosis is definitely a big help to me.
I could write on here ad infinitum about things that I find useful. Here are the essentials: the value of ‘me-time’, spending more time outdoors and of course, reading. My very favourite author at the moment is Annie Lamott. I find her work to be earthy, insightful honest and funny. If you didn’t laugh guys, well it would be jus shite altogether, wouldn’t it?
(For the past twenty minutes as I’ve been chuntering on, two wee brown, unexceptional looking butterflies have been freewheeling round in circles, like a pair of dervishes. They’re having a quare auld time. Maybe we all need to be more butterfly-ish).