(Artwork by Zoe Shier)
For a long time I considered myself a worrier. You know that pinching feeling at the bottom of your stomach when you’re nervous or worried? I had that constantly. A lot of the time I didn’t even know why. Worry could come over me about the smallest of things and snowball into something horrifying.
Let’s say I sent out a letter about my student loan. All of a sudden a thought came to me that I had filled out the information wrong.
I would have my loan revoked.
I wouldn’t be able to go back into university.
I wouldn’t be allowed to graduate.
Three years of hard work down the drain due to a stupid mistake.
I didn’t know which yet, but I was certain I had made it.
It was horrible. There was nothing I could do to control it. My parents would tell me to not to worry. But it didn’t feel like normal worrying, it was something I felt like I couldn’t control. Now I understand that I was suffering from severe anxiety. The only way I could tackle the sharpest edge of it was to tell my concerns to my mum and she would put it into realistic light.
I was in a constant state of alarm. My antennas were out, getting a feel of things and constantly analysing, finding things that could turn into a catastrophe. Crumbs on the kitchen counter. Crumbs could attract ants. Ants could infest the entire house. We lose the rental agreement and it will be all my fault for not cleaning the crumbs.
I would’ve kept the house absolutely impeccable but at the time I lived in a student house of nine people. If dirty dishes would stay in the sink for days on end, I would finally wash them. Not just because it was impossible to wash my own dishes but because I couldn’t stand them being there anymore. The various catastrophe scenarios these dishes could lead to were too much for my head.
My heart was bouncing against my ribs constantly. My hands were shaking and I had a metallic taste in my mouth. It was the same taste as I had as a child eating wood sorrel while playing in the woods. Wood sorrel has a blood-like taste to it. It was like I was constantly eating wood sorrel.
I had a similar attitude to my school work. Every single piece of work that I turned in had been finished days before deadline. I did well but got no sense of accomplishment from it. It was just another task. It’s done now, and now I’m just heading for the next one. Not doing my absolute best, even when it was on the expense of my comfort, was not an option. It didn’t matter if I didn’t sleep, if I didn’t eat but the essay or a short story would be written well in advance. On my second year I made the honour roll.
It meant nothing.
“Would you mind cleaning?” I’d ask my boyfriend, who was playing on his computer, before I was heading out to a mandatory evening study group. He hadn’t gone to his classes that day. “This room is like a fucking pigsty.”
I like to keep a neat home. He doesn’t. Now cleanliness has a direct link to my anxiety. I’m tired of cleaning after him. The state of the room we share together distresses me. When I come back, he’s still playing on the computer. He hasn’t cleaned.
“It was very derogatory to call our room a pigsty”, he said defiantly and continued playing the game.
I pick out loose threads on fabrics. I keep my closet and desk in impeccable order. I get A after A and put them into a file without reading the comments made by my lecturer. I’m up at 3am cleaning the bathroom because there’s grime and it’s disgusting, you can get roaches and they can infest the house.
My boyfriend tells me he wants an open relationship a night before he goes to spend a week with a female friend.
I start crying in the middle of the night because all of a sudden I’m convinced I had left the coffeemaker on and the house is going to catch fire.
My boyfriend tells me that he is ashamed to be seen in public with me because my jokes are not funny, nobody wants to hear my stories and that I’m simply too awkward.
I check every lock in the house at least thirty times and have to get out of bed at least twice because I’m convinced I didn’t check them proper.
I go to an acupuncturist who is giving out free consultation at a fair when I’m visiting my boyfriend’s family.
The man is Swiss. He has a very calm and soothing voice. He’s young and has a long silky ponytail. He takes a hold of my hand and presses my wrist with a couple of fingers. He looks at me straight in the eye.
“Your pulse is like of someone who is being chased,” he says so calmly and gently and all of a sudden I have to do everything in my power to not to start crying. In the middle of a summer’s day at a fair in front of this stranger who sees me. I want this kind Swiss man to take me away.
I don’t get up to check locks anymore. The antidepressants changed all that. I can’t say a weight was lifted because it doesn’t come close to describing the amount of relief I’ve felt. It’s like being an animal in a snare, with spikes digging into your flesh every time you try to move into a position where it would hurt less. The wound is bleeding profusely, the spikes are digging in deeper and tearing me further apart.
It was like someone crouched beside me, took a gentle hold of me while loosening the snare off me. Releasing me.
I’m thinking I might not be a worrier after all.