STEPPING INTO THE UNKNOWN

Overthinking and overanalysing is a common problem with anxiety sufferers. The mind likes to run in endless loops of worthless conjecture, questioning, dissecting and criticizing every decision and response. It becomes a hardwired obsessive behaviour that leaves the person physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Without intervention and retraining of the mind, life can feel like an insurmountable hurdle.

I’ve suffered from anxiety for a long time, possibly since I was a child. Yet, it wasn’t until my breakdown at work last year that I was willing to accept that I was mentally unwell and needed help. My unchecked and untreated anxiety had become all-consuming, affecting my every thought, decision and action. It had become mental warfare to my subconscious and conscious mind, making me overfraught and fatigued. Simply avoiding anxiety triggers and shying from new experiences were not keeping that beast of anxiety at bay any longer. I had to be in control, in everything and everyone – an impossible task.

Since undergoing psychological counselling and treatment, I better understand what drives my patterns of negative thinking. I’m learning to recalibrate my thought processes through mindfulness. Instead of avoiding triggers (e.g. school runs, meeting new people), I consciously put myself in those uncomfortable situations, accept the unwanted fear and stress, and try to reduce my anxiety levels through exposure therapy. Baby steps. Tiny baby steps.

Recently, we visited Erskine Falls, a popular tourist attraction in Lorne. We travelled a small stretch of the 243km length of the Great Ocean Road to get to this destination. We drove on winding roads that mostly hugged the coastline with scenic views of beaches, limestone and sandstone cliffs, passed through several popular coastal towns before traversing through beautiful rainforests.

Most people would have admired the views, taken a great deal of photos and chalked up the drive as a great experience. For someone like me who is terrified of heights and has an abnormal fear of death, the drive was akin to an extreme form of exposure therapy. I was shitting my dacks.

“Slow down around the bends!”
“The sign says 40!”
“Should we use fog lights?”

I was the unwanted backseat driver (in this case, passenger seat driver) that everyone loathes to travel with. My husband was at risk of repetitive strain injury from eye-rolling. That was how bad I was with projecting my fears.

“Why is Mum so scared?” my children asked.
“Mummy sees danger everywhere. She finds it hard to relax and just enjoy things,” my husband replied.

I had an irrational fear that the car would veer off the road and crash on the jagged rocks below. Rationally, I understood that it was unlikely and that my husband would never put us in harm’s way. It was like a bad rollercoaster ride that I couldn’t get off and all I could do was grasp the car door handle with white knuckles and close my eyes every time we took a sharp bend. Eventually, we made it to the destination. I was in one piece, relatively speaking.

Oh, but the fun didn’t end there! As we entered the trails, I saw a sign that sent shivers down my spine.

ARE WE GOING THE RIGHT WAY FOLKS??

Immediately, the alert beacons sounded and danger in flashing neon lights threatened to overwhelm my logical mind. 

Did we REALLY want to look at some water falling down rocks? What if someone slips and gets hurt? Ssssssnakes?

While I was having a mini-mind meltdown of what ifs, the crew bounded down the rock steps before I could voice my concerns. I forced my feet to move after the kids yelled out “Come on Mum, stop being a scaredy cat!”

STEPS… SO MANY STEPS!

Have you seen anything more frightening? I was worried to see fit looking people huffing and puffing as they struggled back up the steps. For someone who hates sweating and is unfit, the sight was disturbing. There was a distinct possibility that I’d need a rescue team to retrieve me from whence I lay.

By the time I got my plump behind to the bottom, the crew had begun to venture off the dirt path and rock jumping along the stream bed.

“It’s fine. Don’t be a party pooper. Live a little.” This was my husband’s response to my concerns about safety.

“You’re only as old as you feel and I am not old. Don’t make me old cos you want to be old.” This was my father in-law’s response to my mother in-law’s grumbling over him joining in on the fun.

ROCK JUMPING ON STREAM BED

Unfortunately, my husband slipped on a rock while holding our three-year-old son, Henry and fell into the water. Luckily for Henry, my husband had turned his body to take the brunt of the fall. Panicked at the sight of the two of them in the water, I yelled at my seven-year-old daughter and the in-laws to stay put while I raced over to inspect the damage and placate a wailing child. I really wanted to say ‘I told you so!’ 

My husband sustained massive black bruises along his right shin, knee and thigh. Thankfully, Henry only had to deal with a wet shoe. As we trudged back up the steps, Henry kept saying over and over “That was a terrible idea! A terrible idea Daddy!” To which my husband would apologise for not turning back when he felt uncomfortable. However, by the time we reached the top, Henry had exclaimed “Let’s do that again!”

Upon reflection, I’m grateful that my children are inquisitive, energetic and ready to seek new adventures. I hope that they always see mistakes as opportunities to improve and learn from. I want them to feel that it’s okay to take a chance, try something new and not be downtrodden if things don’t go to plan. That it is not a sign of failure.

Raising resilient children is important to me. I hope that by facing my fears, by not depriving myself of new experiences, being open to personal growth and development, and building my emotional resilience, that I am setting a better example for my children.

In saying all this, I don’t think I was supposed to jump in the deep end and almost drown in anxiety with this whole exposure therapy business. Remember… baby steps.

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SANDY VAGINA

I am not a fan of the beach. I don’t like crowds. I don’t like feeling self-conscious in my bathers. I don’t like stepping on hot sand. I don’t like finding sand in places where sand should not be. I don’t like getting hot and bothered under the glaring sun. I don’t like sweating. I don’t like getting sunburn. I don’t swim. I think you probably get my drift.

I would never go to the beach willingly or suggest a beach holiday destination. So when my dad suggested that we should spend a day at the beach with the kids on New Year’s Day, my immediate response was ‘Hell No!’. Unfortunately, the children and my dad banded together and whined until they broke my resolve and I relented.

We met at my parent’s house so that we could follow each other down to the beach. It was a poor start to the day when I eyed my dad carrying four camera tripods and four rain umbrellas to his boot. I got snappy when my mum attempted to toast bread as a kiddie snack for the short car trip. Already feeling annoyed, I herded my crazy parents out of the house and drove twenty minutes to the nearest beach.

It’s been an age since I’ve been to the beach and I hadn’t realised that in place of ticket meters, you have to download a parking app or call a hotline to pay for tickets. How advance is that? I guess not many people carry coins or cash anymore. Makes sense. Anyway, after fumbling around and organising that, we trekked down to the beach.

When my dad told me he had sunshade under control, I wasn’t expecting him to use cable ties to connect handheld rain umbrellas to camera tripods. He set up four tripod-umbrella creations that offered little sunshade during high noon. Then he brought out his brand-new drone, a device he didn’t know how to set up or fly and had to get my husband to fix.

Meanwhile, my mum was unloading an array of sweet biscuits and cakes for the kids to eat and get high off.

Luckily, the children were eager to slather on sunscreen and make their way down to the water. Our three-year-old and I waded in the shallow waters and built sand castles while my husband and our seven-year-old ventured out further.

My suggestion of setting up closer to the water was dismissed in favour of being near the bushes for extra shade. This meant that anyone who returned wet was immediately covered in sand. There was sand everywhere! I had sand in all crevices and suffered a nasty case of inner thigh chafing.

On the way home, while I was complaining about the sand, my daughter yelled out “Mummy, why are you so grumpy? Have you got a sandy vagina?!” and cackled like a crazy hyena.

I was grumpy and being a sandy vagina. As for sand in the vagina, that was quite possible too.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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ANXIETY AND ME

Does it ever end?
I’m tired of the inner turmoil
I’m tired of being anxious
the rollercoaster ride of emotions
swirling and churning within
old scars reopen
past nightmares haunt
doubt invades, fear paralyses
silent screams that noone hears
I keep building my wall
uninviting, tall and proud
but the facade is brittle
weathered by the years
I’m lost in despair
unsure of who I am
uncertain of how to change
afraid of the road ahead
I am tired of being me

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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