10 November, 2015
I think when someone has anxiety they know they have it but they don't like to admit it. Or at least they don't want to be defined by it. For me personally, my anxiety manifested in a way where I was constantly searching for answers... even though I already had them.
I think I have come to realise that anxiety doesn't just happen. It's not something that you wake up with one day. It’s usually something that has happened to you many years before that awakens the beast. For me looking back on my childhood I didn't have a lot to complain about. But to say it was uneventful would be a lie.
I have a mum, a dad, a big sister… aunties, uncles, grandparents… all the usual suspects. But my upbringing was nothing short of complicated. My parents got divorced when I was young enough that I don’t remember living under the same roof with them both. My grandfather, my nonno, became a prominent father figure. That’s not to say my dad was out of the equation… for me he never was. But my nonno did the typical fatherly duties… picked me up from school, gave me 2 squares of Old Gold Dark chocolate of an afternoon (god bless your soul) and he’d tell us stories and care for us like no one else could. So when he died it kind of ripped me in two. It was the first family death I have ever experienced. The first person close to me to leave. I was 15. I wish I could say that his time had come… but it hadn’t. He died far to young, far to healthy. He passed way from an aneurism. He must of had it his whole life and never knew. It lay there dormant in his brain and one day it couldn’t hold the pressure any more.
I often think about the timing of all this… it’s a weird thing to consider but it plays a huge role. My mum changed jobs, my sister just got her driver's license; meaning he no longer had to do the school pick up or be on call if mum was stuck at work. It's almost like the universe was preparing us to be strong enough to carry on without him, before we even knew he was leaving us.
The day he died was probably more traumatic then I care to admit. I think, until now, I use to down play the entire situation. I don’t think I ever took a moment to go… hang on, that was actually really fucked up. To cut a long story short, I found my nonno, my dear nonno, unconscious on his kitchen floor. I was the first to walk into the room and the shriek that came out of me alerted my mum and sister to what might lie ahead. I don’t remember much, but I’ll probably never forget that.
When the ambulance arrived they told us things to keep us calm, to stop us from worrying. At the time, I bought in to it. I wanted to believe that he was going to be ok. I knew deep down that he wasn’t. No one lays on the floor unconscious with no blood flow to the brain for several hours and comes out the other side. I feel like we let him down by not being there early that afternoon, but unfortunately, you can’t rewrite history.
I feel like this was a defining moment for me. It changed me. I become afraid. I know death is inevitable, but after this it seemed possible, real. The aneurism my nonno had was in a place in his brain that meant it could be hereditary. My mum and aunties got tested… they were all clear. At the time my sister and I were too young to comprehend what that all meant. Knowing mum was fine meant we were most likely fine.
I don’t remember when specifically but some time after his passing, many many years after, I experienced chronic headaches. Every day I’d wake with a dull numb pain at the base of my neck. It would stay with me all day until I closed my eyes at night, and even then the thought of allowing myself to relax and fall asleep scared the life out of me. I feared, every night that I’d pass away in my sleep from an aneurism just like my nonno. It kept me awake each night until I became so exhausted with worry that I had no other option than to close my eyes and let life takes it course. I fear the idea of death more than it itself. I don’t and never did want to leave my life behind… I don’t think any one does. So it’s natural to fear it in some way. But maybe not like this. For about 3 months I lived with this headache. Some days it was worse than others, some days I forgot about it all together. The stress of it all got the better of me and I finally did the CT scan to check for the aneurism. I was clear. I felt relieved but not free.
One day I reached breaking point. I couldn’t handle it anymore… it was getting the better of me. I was sick of taking painkillers; sick of trying to pretend that this was something I would just have to live with. I forgot what life was like before the headaches. Just writing all this down, its frightening the number comparisons I can draw to my current situation. When I had just about enough of all this, a colleague of mine at the time suggested I go and get a massage… her simplistic logic was that I could be holding some tension in my muscles. Sounded ridiculous but I was just about out of options. Within the first five minutes of the massage the masseuse said my back was riddled with knots and that it was the worst he has seen in his career. Immediately after I felt relief. No more headaches. I never thought the day would come.
These last few weeks, as I open my life to this notion of anxiety, I’ve taken the time to look back and see how these things might have shaped me… made me who I am, for good or for bad. I never thought the death of my nonno could still be impacting me to this day. But like many other things I think its just another piece to the puzzle.
I think for me my life has been a puzzle. I think most people can view their life in that way. Hindsight is a funny thing, regardless of the situation. You have to go through something from start to end, through the hardest and most challenging times and the more exciting and liberating times, to be able to see it as a complete picture. Right now I feel like there is a huge chunk of my picture still missing… an incomplete puzzle. Sometime I wish I could describe how I'm feeling, but I can't and sometimes it feels bigger than that, bigger than a feeling.
I want to seek help. And I'm not afraid to say that. To me the mind is just as strong as your arm or leg... And we have more power over it then we realise… But sometimes we don't have the tools to strengthen it, to heal it. I started nourishing annalise because of dietary changes I was navigating my way through… I never thought I’d need to heal my mind in the process.