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 Six: Cold Showers

Today’s shivery suggestion is brought to you by my very happy, healthy and confident little brother. In a family zoom call recently he talked about how great he was feeling since he completed his three day fast a couple of weeks ago. We were fascinated by his experience, as he described the physical and mental benefits of a complete cleanse and reset. While not at all tempted to follow that example, the conversation went on to the similar benefits of cold showers, which everyone sort of nodded in agreement to. I didn’t realise the extent to which immersion in freezing water was of recognised benefit to health, and looked it up.

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Day Five: Breathing techniques

5.30pm. The more astute of you will notice I’m a day late with this one. But instead of beating myself up about it, I accepted that on a day when my part-time job (that is supposed to require three hours per weekday) ends up taking eight hours, then I am allowed to roll my wellness hours over and catch up at the weekend.

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Day Three: Art Therapy

I know absolutely zero about this subject, except that I love the process of making art, and I even often love the results too. I have very little space for creativity right now, in our little flat, and all my art stuff is boxed up in storage, so my indoor expression has been limited to felt pen doodles on cards for birthdays, while outdoors I have been arranging bits of the countryside into hearts for whoever wanders by before the squirrels get there. I know that making, drawing and painting make me happy and calm my mind. But I’ve never known why. Today’s lesson is to understand it and then excitingly to do a bit of it.

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Day Two: Affirmations

I started writing affirmations months ago at the start of Lockdown. Having read Hal Elrods’s Miracle Morning, in which affirmations serve as one of his recommended daily practices, I made a list of lots of positive things I wanted to affirm.

‘I am strong. I am creative. I exercise every day.’ and so on.

I took heed of Hal’s advice that they be positive, present tense and possible, and I wrote out several lists of goals and dreams as if I were already living them.

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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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He bought me a weighted blanket!

What an absolute gesture of love. He must have ordered it last weekend, when I was really unwell, and other than hugs and hot drinks he didn’t know what to do to help. He’s a very capable confident man, but when his girlfriend is a shaky mess of anxious nightmares he feels a bit helpless. I didn’t know such a thing existed but a weighted blanket is good for anxiety and other issues as it serves as a full body calming device. It arrived a couple of days ago, and as I delightedly opened up the weighty package, he said, ‘you know, for when I’m not here and I can’t hug you.’

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On not having Children

I’ve been thinking that I’d address this issue one day in the future, but after a chat with my mum just now in which she asked me if I really am OK without children, I think that day is now.

Four years ago, after a string of unsuccessful relationships, and nowhere near my prescribed ideal of having a family, I decided that by the end of the year (my 38th) I would find the father of my two yet to be born children. I needed two, of course, as that was natural and pragmatic, and I needed to start soon because I was nearly forty. My friends gave me advice and support, excited for my imminent motherhood. In April, a lovely man who I met at a community theatre fundraiser – I did the flowers, he was one of the actors – asked me out. By June I was in love. We had the talk about a possible future together which was when we realised I wanted kids and he didn’t. We broke up, I cried for really many more weeks than I expected, and I tried to find the next possible father of my children.

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Will you sell your soul?

So yesterday, talking to my sister, we made the connection between my writing and my panic attacks. Yes there are all sorts of other anxieties but we can’t ignore the fact that on Saturday I printed off and read through the first 100 pages of my early memories, and on Sunday I was a wretching shivering mess of panic.

I have been writing about snippets of my childhood on and off for years, a loosely connected set of stories of my life growing up in the Moonies. I started this year with a plan to compile it into a concise piece of writing, and after an excellent course by Cara Jones on Untethering My Voice, I’m at the stage where I’ve nearly got a first draft.

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