Saturday, 20 August 2016

Being afraid.

I have achieved a number of things in the last few months of this year. Some of them more obvious and conventional than others. One of them an extreme emotional challenge for myself.

I became ill with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) when I was 7 years old. I find it hard to describe because I'm lucky enough not to remember why I was unwell, or how the symptoms affected me. My parents are unfortunate enough to remember that. I remember books that my mum had on the illness, as she tried to understand what was happening to me, and various children's groups she signed me up to, one of which I received birthday cards from, to help me understand what was happening to me. I didn't really go to school properly for two years, from year 2 to year 3, and in the years after that I would miss almost months at a time. I remember two women who would come to teach me occasionally at home, and I think that's how I learnt the handwriting and advanced reading skills that everyone else was learning at school.

The thing I remember most from this illness, the thing I can find most haunting, is the clinical anxiety that came with it and followed me all the way to where I am now. I am not clinically diagnosed with anxiety anymore, thank god, but it still turns up in my mind when I'm vulnerable and attempts to make everything a complete catastrophe.

I have memories of this anxiety that I'm not going to share yet, because they're horrible and they make me sad. Maybe I'll write about them one day, in some fiction where it's easier to describe such painful, irrational fear. Today I'm going to write about a good memory; one of my biggest achievements to date.

Most of my anxiety was about leaving home, leaving the country and being away from my mum. I just spent 3 weeks travelling through Europe without my mum, and I am completely alive and well to tell the tale. I can't really explain to you how cool that is.

I've been extremely anxious this summer, because that part of me will never really go away and will come back in occasional, unasked for waves. I think this wave came because of exam stress, but in any case I felt small and vulnerable as all the helpless feelings from my childhood that I haven't really felt for a few years came back in buckets.

One thing I am now lucky enough to have is the ability to deal with such intense emotion, but that doesn't make it in any way a walk in the park. Some of this year's joyous ball of fear arrived on the plane to Greece for a family holiday, it remained for a few days and waned as the week came to an end. I spent some of the nights shaking and seizing up and crying as random and pointless anxiety crept up on me again. I found it really scary, because the next week my mum wouldn't be there to soothe me and I'd be in an unknown, cheap Airbnb or hostel possibly not being able to deal with it.

But here's the thing, I totally was able to deal with it. And I faced every worst fear I've ever had in one go. And I didn't die.

The three weeks away with my wonderful friends made me feel constantly tense and afraid and it felt like more times than not my chest was tight and the world was like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole and everything floats past her and she doesn't know where she'll end up. I had food poisoning in Split which forced me to deal with everything I've spent my entire life desperately trying to avoid and I now have a great memory of myself on the awful toilet floor of a ferry, crying to my mum on the phone, vomiting every 15 minutes.

But I did it. I did it. I did it. I did it. I had the most crazy, amazing, bizarre time and I love my friends and we did it together. We made it to every train and every accommodation and survived wild nights in strange new cities.

I keep having this strange desire to run back through time and tell younger Mollie what she did, what she will do. For a very long time she is very worried that she'll never be able to travel, that she'll never be able to go to university, that she'll never be able to leave home. She's doing all of those things now. I want younger Mollie to see me because I know exactly how comforting that would be, how exciting, how proud it would make her. I know that younger Mollie would see everything she's hoping to become.

If only an older Mollie would come back and do that for me now, for the future. But that would lose half the fun, and half the fear. I guess I just keep going forwards now, right?