When I was a child I had an obsession with my hair. It had to be perfect, not a bump in sight and tight enough so that I grew a receding hairline and had a free face lift. If it didn't give me a headache I knew it wasn't tight enough. I had a ritual where I first used the spray bottle to drown it with water, next was the gel for all the whispy bits, the bun contained at least 50 pins and consisted of 20 or more attempts to make it perfect and then hairspray galore to complete it . If there was a bump, out it came and I tried again otherwise something bad might happen .My best friend bore witness to my craziness when I did my bun and began a flustered anxiety attack about the bump.. she told me it couldn't be more perfect but still the rage grew and tears were coming and before I knew I grabbed my bun screaming and ripped it out. There had been many red flags but I think this was the point my parents knew i was kind of crazy and something had to be done .
My father suffers from mental health issues so anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder were no unknown territory to our family. From a young age I watched him battle with himself , with us, the drama that accidently mixing the wrong medication delivers and the times it became all too much . I guess I was predisposed genetically to picking up these traits and my parents knew I might be on the road myself when perfectionism became my all time goal as did constant panic attacks. I would rip pages out at school if they were messy and not just one, but the entire thing and rewrite every page with an all consuming fear and disgust boiling over me, I would count the lines on the pavement and some nights I spent over the toilet bowl because life became too much.
I am so grateful that I have a family where honesty and talking out loud is super important. We didn't pretend Dad was ok or that my actions were normal. If Dad wasn't having a good day it was explained to us, if I was fixating over things and making myself sick from it they spoke to me as to why I was feeling like that , Dad sat next to my bed countless nights and took me through breathing exercises and when they saw I was heading towards a dark road they found a 3 month anxiety clinic being held by Macquarie university psychology PHD students and enrolled me in it . I didn't have to be dragged there, I actually looked forward to hearing that I wasn't the only crazy child and receiving some help to hush out the demons.
The next three months I realized my main fear was ( and still is !) people's perception of me especially when it comes to image - aah that's why I want to vomit when I walk through the school gates and the older girls are standing around but I'm convinced they are looking at my legs thinking I'm a weirdo and now I must convince mum to let me wax. Other leaders of my anxiety were my necessity to be on time, my need to be liked...by everyone, and life to basically be perfect . A goal which we all know we are kidding ourselves of.
Hearing the other children speak of their fears let me know I wasn't alone in this , there was nothing more comforting to my little soul. We learnt endless exercises and I cherished my giant folder, but the one that helped me the most was the "what ifs" detective work- an exercise where we would write down 10 bad things that would happen if our fear came true- then we would work through each event and in the end see that even the worst possible response wasn't as tragic as we envisioned it . It allowed me to be logical and see that yes one day i might run late to dance but it didn't mean that my mother would die. On the last day we faced our fears , for me this included walking into a bookshop with my hair in a teased mess and asking for a hairdressing book- yep you guessed it the bitch laughed at me (didn't she know I was a little anxious ticking time bomb ?!) but I used my exercises, breathed and realized it wasn't all that bad - actually it was pretty hilarious.
This exercise changed my life. Mum would run me through it every time I was about to combust into thin air and she actually still does it to this day. When anxiety kicks in all logic and rational thinking flies out the door for me and it is replaced by intense fear, panic, dread and usually fantasies of how the situation could turn out. This exercise allows me to see that the world is not about to come crumbling down, I will not die , the worst possible scenario is not near as life threatening as I imagine it . Yes it may hurt the ego, my feelings, or create an unwanted situation but there is usually always a solution.
That clinic improved my anxiety ten fold - daily melt downs turned to monthly instances . All until an event when I was 15, ( to be shared one day) my anxiety hit an all time high again. I couldn't sleep and would lie awake imagining scenarios and the different ways it could play out and would actually live in fantasies of my brain almost convincing myself at times that's how it happened or would turn out. Soon it was hard to decipher between reality and the dark vortex that my mind would spin when the lights went out. I didn't want to be on this earth any longer , and that was when I first met the monster called depression . If it wasn't for my therapist, my parents love and openness to accept life and let it help me grow into a warrior and my close friends I know I would not be here and I would not be who I am today.
It got better again, but that's the thing with anxiety - it never goes away .No matter how hard you work at it you aren't "cured" so to say . Its still a daily thing. I still wait in line to audition holding back the vomit and wanting to bash my head against a wall. Lets not even begin on the anxiety after I didn't get the job. A few years ago I used a paper bag to breath for my first full blown panic attack in years when I was late to a performance of grease and even though I had plenty of time to get ready , I was dying on the inside . I had failed and terrible things were awaiting me, I will be fired right here right now. Thank you Shan and Karla for calming me and helping me see through my over reaction. Now not every friend will know how to deal with your anxiety and moments, some are amazing like Lauren who was patient with me and helped me through a moment in Melbourne the other day , and some just see you as "crazy", a "drama queen" , over reactor and will be annoyed constantly and want out of your friendship. I've had plenty of those but I'm better off without them , not everyone will understand you and that's okay :) The main thing is that you love and understand yourself.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this blog, I think I just felt like sharing my own experiences to show people - if anyone even reads these things- that they aren't alone and that some people understand :) I think I seem quite outgoing and bubbly and like i am confident but my secret is that on the inside I'm wishing I could fall off a cliff. Social situations sometimes make me numb with fear and I am processing and thinking way too much about every eye, body movement and word. I fear phone calls and even saying hello to people I know on the street- "will they think I'm a loser?" "Its going to be awkward" "They will definitely ignore me". I also never realized how much confidence I lacked in dance class until a teacher in LA brought it up and made me dance by myself- I thought holy shit I have been hiding this so well, even to myself !!!
Even though I wish my brain wasn't overloaded with anxious thoughts and In turn sending my body into havoc... I think my anxiety has helped me ! It has made me constantly work hard to achieve the best of myself, be loyal, get things done and go out of my comfort zone . If you suffer from anxiety and are reading this I hope you have endless love and support around you and that you find some positives in it also !