So we’ve reached the final week of mental health awareness month, and I find myself in the most positive state I have been in a long time. This week started with a bit of reminiscing about our trip to Paris, a city I have always wanted to visit. We walked for miles covering the city and all the major tourist attractions, stopping off for lunch and a glass of champagne because when in France, you do like the French right?!
Day two of our time in France was followed by a trip to Disneyland Paris and at one point whilst my husband and our eldest son went on a ride, my toddler and I went exploring the park. I speak very little French ( my French vocabulary consists of two words, Merci and au revouir), but we managed to make our way around bits of the park without my husband’s help. This was an amazing achievement for me, because for so long I relied heavily on his guidance and help. Although for a short time, I navigated my way through the crowds of people all by myself. My anxiety did not rear its ugly head and for the second time this month it did not exist. I did not allow it to take over my life, and I ended up having one of the most amazing days out. I was calm and dare I say for a moment I felt confident and was able to navigate my way through my own thoughts.
The next few days I felt my confidence grew even more. I took walks by myself and had some time to reflect on the last few months. Walking along the waterfront was so calming and again showed how being outdoors and in nature soothes my anxiety and again it reiterated just how much of a prisoner I have become in my own home. We visited Geneva, Switzerland and I made my way into St Pierre Cathedral through crowds of people and I was able to truly admire and absorb the architecture, the beautiful stained glass, the floors, the small detail on the pews and pulpit and the history of the Cathedral. I sat on one for the pews in complete silence. My head was clear. The anxious voices were silenced. My head was empty for a brief moment, but my heart was filled with joy. As we left the stunning scenery of Switzerland we made our way to the German city of Saarbrücken and for most of the way I was quiet. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to speak, but because I enjoyed the silence in my head. I felt joy like I haven’t felt for a long time and I wanted to relish that for as long as possible. Once we reached our destination and after some sightseeing I had another opportunity to be by myself soaking up the rhythm of the city, listening to the people laugh, the cars driving by and the birds singing. My confidence grew stronger each time I ventured off by myself.
Things were going so well, but as we reached the end of our European road trip the voices were awoken again, and suddenly I found myself in a place where I have not been for a while. Suddenly doubts started creeping in and I felt my new found confidence slipping away, but I was determined not to allow this volcano in my head to erupt. I managed to silence the voices by distracting myself. Once we arrived back at home I had some work to complete for university and it was going well until the day the last essay was due. My anxiety started unexpectedly. This time there were no conscious negative thoughts to start off with, just me being physically sick and unable to eat. I knew this was down to stress, so I laid on my floor cuddling my dogs in an effort to calm myself down. The anxious thoughts of failure started to overwhelm me and I knew right then something needed done. I forced myself off my floor and went for a walk in the rain knowing the streets would be quiet and I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone. All I wanted was to calm myself and by going for a walk prove to myself that I can calm the storms even while I am away from the safe confines of my home. Home has been and still is my safety net, but it is also my prison. A double edged sword if you like. So, I had to prove to myself that I can calm the storms even when I am out.
My legs felt extremely heavy, but I kept walking and after a few minutes I stopped in the middle of the park and took my coat off. It was raining heavily and I was drenched, but I needed to feel the rain on my skin. The rain drops fell on my face as I attempted to look to the sky. It was cold, but it felt so amazingly cleansing. I returned home soaked to the bone, but it was as if the rain had washed all my troubles away and I felt good again. The smell of the rain on the grass, the wet soil, feeling the rain on my skin and walking around in the cold crisp air was just what I needed. Feeling the rain on my skin reminded me of happier times when an old friend and I used to run around the streets in the rain. We were students then and people always thought we were nuts, but we didn’t care. It felt freeing and cleansing. My smile returned and when my youngest son and I went to collect my eldest son from school the three of us ran around in the rain jumping in muddy puddles and all I could hear was our laughter echoing in my head.
I returned home happier than what I felt earlier that morning and I finally feel that I am making progress and getting better at managing my anxiety. Happy is a word I thought I’d never use to describe myself again, but I am so happy. I am not cured of my mental illness, but I am coping with it so much better. My mental illness is an extension of me, but it doesn’t define who I am. I will continue to fight this battle because now that I have felt happiness again, I want to feel it more than my anxiety. To do this I will keep fighting and believing that one day this battle will be won by me. My journey is not without its bumps and the road is long, but my tool box is stocked up and ready to deal with what comes my way. I may not always succeed, but I will never stop fighting.