Day Nine: Exercise

Oh my God I should have started with this one. It’s so flipping essential. I know this, why have I let it slip?

About twenty years ago I was in such a religious bubble that I didn’t know how to speak to real people and was painfully shy in all secular social settings. I happened to go for a run with a non-church friend one day, and I found that afterwards, I could chat and laugh with my friend with zero inhibitions. I decided running would be my way to overcome social uncertainty, and tried to fit in a run before any stressful social event.

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Bonus chapter: surprise panic attack!

And on a day when I have done so many of my mental health practices – exercise, meditation, cold flipping shower, walk in nature, and an hour of breathing techniques. It still flipping got me.

It was creeping up on me all day, minor trembles, a couple of visits to the loo, and then it hit in earnest just after my love went to work for his night shift. So much wretching I thought this time there would be actual vomit, but no, just the empty hollow lurch of my entire self over the loo, accompanied by the usual rush of hot and then cold, and the lightheaded dizziness of not being able to breathe properly.

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Day One: understanding where anxiety comes from

I woke up at six am, proper excited about day one of my new course! And sat there in the dark for nearly an hour wondering where exactly I was going to start. It’s like I had promised a curriculum of 21 lessons and my single student (me) arrived at class and we’re both delighted with the clean blackboard and new notebooks but we haven’t actually got a lesson plan.

So the first hour was spent brainstorming all my ideas, so that I now have a neatly alphabetised direction to follow for the next three weeks – packed with a diverse range of subjects including Gratitude, Cold Showers and Radical Forgiveness – but before delving in, today will start with the question of what is actually going on in my brain and why it keeps doing what it so masterfully does to keep me in fear.

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Twenty one studies in emotional strength

It has come to the point where it’s time for me to try another 21 day project to strengthen my troubled little brain. I have done this sort of thing before but not told anyone, and as a result, didn’t manage to keep the commitment. So I’m letting you know about this one in the hope that having an audience will oblige me to stick to it.

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Do not subscribe to those thoughts

So in an effort to still my scrambling mind, I turned to YouTube, my old friend and advisor, who knows me so well. Even the adverts he shows me are about wellness and meditation. And tonight YouTube tells me to watch this interview with Mooji. Yes I think I need to get a bit transcendental today.

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In and out of darkness

It has got to the point where I can write again. The stomach wrenching anxiety has settled into an exhausted sort of headachy weariness, from which I can face the words that describe what has been happening. So much anxiety. My sister asked me yesterday how do I measure my levels. I suppose there’s a scale of 1 to 10. I’m mostly at around 5 or 6, which is when I am aware there is something beautiful, but I can’t see it. Yesterday morning, I could see that there was a beautiful sunrise, I knew that the delicate gold light rippling through the emerald green of the trees was beautiful, but I couldn’t see it. Anxiety sort of clouds over every thought with a dull grey blanket of engulfing dread. You don’t breathe properly, can’t really talk, can’t cope with complex emails or loud noises… It is just crippling. I have had a few days on and off recently, with small breaks in the darkness where I can eat, smile and breathe properly, till it returns. And while I’m in the grey space, I understand why some people just can’t cope with life. If you were in a constant haze of anxiety or depression how could you even be polite to people, let alone proactively thoughtful and kind? It’s just not possible. When I’m anxious I have zero ability to care about others. I feel bad for wasting peoples time or making errors while I’m in a bad way, but I don’t have love or compassion, just a different flavour of fear and dread.

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I may have mentioned that we watch lovely Helm De Vegas perform three times a week on a Facebook livestream from the corner of his house on the piano. Following a Queen Night, Eagles Night, Boy Band night and a 90s night, among others, a lot of us regular viewers have asked him to do a Pink Floyd Night, which he has said he would love to do, but not sure it would be for everyone. So tonight he got out his guitar and said, ‘This is for all of those who would love a Pink Floyd Night. I know Mr M is one.’

Mr M next to me, waves excitedly at the screen.

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Thank you, Doctor

5.13pm. So grateful. Trembly. God I love the NHS. I phoned at about 2.50. Doctor called back for a phone appointment at 3.30. Explained chest pains and heart palpitations, she said you’d better come in then for a check. Real life appointment at 4.50. ECG was so quick, so brilliant, friendly lovely nurse, talked about the dilemma of what bra to wear for an ECG as she stuck stickers and wires on my chest and ankles.

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Fucking Anxiety: how it started this time

Here’s what was scribbled in my notebook for Saturday.

10 p.m. I have just spent 6 hours writing! It feels so good. I thought I wouldn’t do well with him working nights but I am really enjoying my evening routine. Very focused time to do my reading, writing, meditating – all the evening practices, with the Moana soundtrack why not.

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Fucking Anxiety: Update

So I tried to go for a walk. Made it as far as the churchyard and sat down. Tried to meditate/plan/visualise but just felt weak and dizzy. Tried to enjoy the warm evening breeze and the cool grass between my fingers, but was too exhausted to sit up anymore. I was also annoyed that all through Lockdown I hadn’t sat in the churchyard. There’s noone there and it’s so lovely. Not when you’re weighed down by a wierd worried sadness though. The walk back was slow and heavy. What has happened to my energy? Just feel totally wiped out.

Back at the flat I tried to write a report, but to provide some happy background noise I YouTubed Eddie Izzard, which led on to a string of comedy clips, so that now, at 11pm, I have the beginnings of a report on winter flowers but I have a brain that’s been pumped with three hours of comedy. And I feel better. Thank you. Instead of the nurturing nourishing advice about positive chakra cleansing, I have Sarah Millican asking me if ‘severed cock was champion was it?’ and ‘bit of a slag are we, pet?’

I’m going to fall asleep to her gorgeous giggly northern tones instead of Paul Mckenna’s soporific sleep CD.

5.50am. I slept through the night! Thank you so much. And I just woke up smiling. Still feel punched in the chest exhausted, but the heavy sadness has gone. Hold on to this please, and maybe add a daily dose of comedy to your wellness routine.