Mental Health Awareness Week – Cage fighting away anxiety
Approximately 15 years ago I was trapped in a toxic and turbulent marriage. Part of the reason that I was trapped was because of the consuming and paralysing grip of anxiety. With hindsight, if I was who I have become now, I would never have let it go on, so badly, for so long – if at all.
However, Anxiety made me do it. Anxiety made me believe that I was not worthy, that I was to blame. That I was not OK. Whispering in my ear constantly, Anxiety decided I was not enough – telling me I couldn’t cope on my own and reminding me how inadequate I was.
Anxiety arrived in my life early on – following childhood trauma, but was compounded throughout my life and totally embedded by an ex who was happy to feed it what it wanted to hear. In my darkest days, my ex reminded me that “I was f*cked up”, “not right in the head”, “I was crap at maths”, “I was mental”. I can look back now with a wry, self depreciating sense of humour and say that to a certain extent he was right on all counts – but when you’re supposed to love someone you don’t speak about them – especially to them, like that. When you love someone and they’re struggling – and reaching out (albeit it in despair) you nurture, love, support and encourage them.
So, my ‘friend’ Anxiety was fed for a good few years – it was fantastic and adept at consuming ripe and tasty morsels from those around me. Anxiety could hone it on everything and anything that fed it’s recipe and formula for ‘KIM IS SHIT’.
It became known to me during my recovery and afterwards as my ‘radio stations’. It would be like having Radio 1, Capital, Heart, Talksport and Planet Rock playing in my head, all at once, all at different volumes and all playing different tunes. It was exhausting and draining having to listen in on this going in my head the whole time.
The road to recovery
My ex was abusive, mostly emotionally and mentally, but also occasionally physically. What lingers and resonates with me still, is not the punches he threw (those bruises healed quickly) but the cutting, snide, condescending and degrading words. Recovery was a long, fatiguing and intense process. It probably began about a year before I actually found the courage to finish with my ex. The better and stronger I got, the worse our relationship got – because I began to recognise the untruths he spouted at me and I would challenge and confront them (him). This is probably about the time the physical abuse happened…because his words were no longer enough to silence me. It was at this point that neighbours got involved (calling the police when they heard the turmoil next door) and I began to recognise that this life for me and my children was NOT OK. I found the courage to speak to my doctor – who referred me to an adult social worker. I began to talk. I started to see what was going on…but even at this point I still thought, he would change… if I fixed my ‘f*cked up brain’ then “we” would be OK.
The day I ended my relationship with my ex, was like an epiphany in my journey to recovery. He began another unprovoked tirade of abuse at me and seemingly from nowhere, this new radio station came on loudly in my head and said “Kim, you don’t deserve this”. I guess the therapy work I had been doing was retuning my ‘radio stations’. It didn’t feel like a conscious or obvious process – because all I thought I was doing during the sessions, was going to the adult social worker and talking about what was happening. I now know, talking about it is often all it takes. That’s why it’s so important to remove the stigma and to get people to talk about how they are feeling – the impact that talking and opening up can have is massive. Last year (2017), I completed a Level 2 counselling skills course which highlighted the importance in my growth/recovery, of just having someone who will listen.
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
Scars and wounds still exist – even now 12 years later. Fortunately, now I know how to nurse and heal these when they do emerge. I love who I am now – warts and all. I am a warrior. I am a survivor. For anyone who has encountered me in recent years, I hope that they would see me as a confident, extrovert and contented person – THIS IS ME.
I still have insecurities surrounding relationships – but they’re not overbearing anxieties and I am able to nurse them. Only when I enter into a wholesome, nurturing and loving relationship again, will I be able to heal these fully.
Look around you. That colleague, that friend, your family. Be brave and talk.
If you are struggling to talk to those close to you then you can visit your GP or one of these organisations can help:
Provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
Mind provides confidential mental health information services.
With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental distress, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind has around 140 local Minds providing local mental health services.
A range of resources and signposting to other services local to you.
Provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.
Telephone: 0300 5000 927 (9.30am – 4pm Monday to Friday)
Provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff. Rethink also runs Rethink services and groups across England and Northern Ireland.
Telephone: 0300 304 7000 (4:30pm-10:30pm)
Saneline is a national mental health helpline providing information and support to people with mental health problems and those who support them.
The 24hr freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) is available on 0808 2000 247 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The helpline is answered by fully trained female support workers and volunteers, who will answer your call in confidence. All calls to the domestic violence helpline are free from mobiles and landlines. We can support survivors of domestic abuse, friends and families, and professionals who are in contact with domestic violence survivors.