I woke up on this bright Saturday morning, curled up in a fetal position. I was clutching my hair with both hands and I was sobbing under my duvet so my housemate wouldn’t hear me.
This is not a new feeling and it’s not unique to me but I’ll tell you what, after twenty years of feeling like this it sometimes feel like these days are never going away.
I have just spent a week attempting to finish my EP. It was a very productive but nerve-wracking experience. Not less because I am working with someone who is close to someone I used to be very close to and it’s been a painful couple of months to digest life without them. The songs are also very close to me emotionally. Perhaps I could’ve spared myself the anxiety and worked with someone else but I love what me and this guy make and we’re on the same wave length 98% percent of the time which serves to prove that we’re a good match musically but I’m also a big believer in confronting your fears head on and getting the best out of that moment. Of course, it hasn’t been without it’s emotional moments.
I am an emotional person. That doesn’t mean I cry at everything and lose my temper at any given moment, it means I’m in touch with how I’m feeling incredibly closely. When I was younger my living quarters were full of highly emotional people with no boundaries or switches to staunch the emotional waterfall. So at any given moment, you’d be faced with a highly anxious or frightening moment (usually from my parent) and so the tools that we learn as we grow to harness these emotions were lost on me completely. I do therapy to help me digest my emotions in a way that is healthy and compassionate for me and the people I’m around. It takes practise and concentration and most of the time, I’ve been doing “really well”, my therapist says.
However, I had about three panic attacks on the first day in the studio. I had to go sit in the loo and just try and breathe. I sat in there so long at times that the automatic light would go off and I’d just be sat there wishing the sudden darkness could swallow me whole too. Then I would look in the mirror and say out loud “I can do this”, about thirty times before heading back in.
But you can see how anxiety can destroy someone at times. It lies to you, deludes you and can make it physically impossible to do ANYTHING. It’s like it crawls into your head and tells you loudly, “YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE”, and, “YOU CAN’T COPE”, and the hardest one, “NOBODY LIKES YOU”.
We’re still not finished. We probably have another day to finalise everything but I feel better having turned up and done it for five days.
My producer noticed that I shoot things down before I’ve done anything. That I see the worse in everything before I’ve even taken the first step and it really upset me to know he’d noticed that. Not because he shouldn’t have told me but because I didn’t want to BE like that….
I know, I’m being “open” and possibly for some people, “too much”.
Listen, I understand that some people like a bit of mystery when it comes to musicians/actors/creative types. It’s almost like they are the puzzle and we spend a lifetime trying to work them out. Eddie Vedder once said “The music should do the talking”, and to an extent, I agree, but I’ve found people more fascinating when I know bits about them. Consider Eddie’s interviews about his father and how detached he felt from him? Or Springsteen when he speaks about his dad. We get an insight to their “human” side and it makes us feel closer to them and ultimately, as much as we like to feel we’re “unique” and therefore need to be alone in our “uniqueness”, we actually depend on each other.
In all honesty, I could uncover every secret I have and still people wouldn’t know me. People can read a fact, or a blog about someone and they will always have their own opinion so in that respect, what does it matter if I share my thoughts on depression and anxiety? What does it matter if I do an interview with a magazine about mental health? No one knows me any better. Not even my past boyfriends know me very well. They do what we all do; assume.
Assuming is so dangerous. Assuming things is why I had panic attacks this week. It’s why I burst into tears. It’s why we lose people from our lives, it’s why we step on people. Assuming comes from lack of knowledge and past experiences and what’s frightening is when your mind and body don’t seem to be able to take the step that clears up that crap and makes it logical. Combine that with depression and anxiety and you feel like you’re being held suspended in limbo and you have no idea how to get to the ground…in fact, where IS the ground? I can’t see anything at all….and now I can’t breathe…..
You see how bad it can get?
I have cut back on therapy sessions because financially it’s draining me and I’ve definitely felt the affects though I go each month. I sleep little, eat little, cry much. I have nightmares and wake pre-dawn sometimes for no reason. I do things like exercise every day in the morning if I can, mostly because of the back pain I have (welcome to the joys of heavy equipment) and because I was told years ago that it helped with depression, and it does.
So I have devised some tips for myself and for anyone else who wakes up and wants to cry. These help me sometimes. They don’t have the same effect every time but it’s the effort that counts and if done regularly, you WILL see a difference.
“Keep a journal”
Ok, I’ve been keeping journals since I was fifteen years old. It doesn’t have to be much. But date it and make a note of the time. Talk about your day. Write about a negative (if one happened) AND a positive thing that happened. For example, I wrote at some point this week “Felt shitty about studio today but found some prawn-flavoured Mccoys – they are fucking delicious”. It sounds weird but considering I am now thinking how I felt even a bit happy finding my favourite flavour of crisps, it can tip the balance between feeling miserable and feeling a bit blue and it’s these tiny moments that make the difference and train your brain to not dwell in the shit. You can write pages of shit but as long as you mention something good, you’re doing your brain so much good.
The reason writing is good is because it allows you to really digest what you’re feeling because all your thoughts are happening internally first and then you see them come to life on the page. There’s a technique for that. One friend of mine calls it “Conscious Writing”. I call it “Emotive Writing”. It’s when you write EXACTLY how you feel. So you can forget your grammar, full stops and spelling. You just WRITE. It’s for no one but you so who cares if it makes no sense even to you? You’re just letting the demon wander on paper for a while. It can be scary and it may feel at times that you’re setting yourself back but you’re not. You’re addressing your shit and that’s difficult and scary. Addressing it is not letting it win. It’s the opposite. You are crushing that shit down so you can breath again.
We would all like to be P!nk or Britney Spears when it comes to being at our physical best. These woman work hard on keeping fit. Of course, they have enough time to work on things like that (my dream is to basically have P!nk’s body) but some of us don’t have the time, money and really, the ENERGY to do this. I started off running in 2011 because I worked for a musical where ALL the women were incredibly fit and healthy. Unfortunately, I’ve been told by my osteopath that I literally can’t run ever again because of a back problem I have and that’s been incredibly difficult to deal with. I go to the gym with my friend but if you’re unable to gym as I couldn’t, here are some alternatives. Remember, take your time. It took me two weeks of walking to be able to run AT ALL in 2011…
. Power-walking: Easier on the joints and bloody fun. Also has been proven to burn more energy than running because of the core control you need while you move. Plus, you get to do it to your favourite songs. Steps: “Gold” being my favourite.
. Skip rope: I am shit at this but I will try to do it for one verse of a song (and then I feel like I’m wheezing for England) and stop for quick breaks. Plus, they cost nothing in a sports shop.
. Pilates ON YOUTUBE: So I’ve been told you can’t really do Pilates because someone needs to be there in case you’re doing it wrong but A) I can’t afford lessons and B) How wrong can it be when some classes on youtube are really good? Check some out today.
. Stretch. Any stretch. Never too much but enough that you feel a bit taller. You will feel better as soon as you’ve done it.
. Dance in your room: Believe it or not, I still do this. I will spend up to two hours (late at night when I can’t sleep) dancing to music with my headphones on and MP3 player in hand just dancing around the room. It’s perfect. You get a work out. You control the playlist and no one sees you doing it. You save that for when you decide to go out, which is basically never, ever, ever apart from maybe once this year but by jove, when you do you’ll be the best dancer there.
“Talk to people”
So, I can list on one hand the people I talk to regularly. And by one hand I mean two. I talk to two people. Why? Well, in truth, no one else picks up their phone. I know a lot of creatives so really when I’m talking about my anxiety and fears about music, I’m really talking about THEIR anxieties and fears and who in the name of Hades wants to talk about that? In all seriousness though, it’s not a whine I want, it’s to find answers but people love whining and they’ll assume (there’s our word again) that I want to do the same. Some people aren’t equipped to deal with your problems and that doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them the wrong person to call. Guilt can make us not talk too. People have their own problems and it’s pretty shit to feel like you’re basically adding to someone’s problems if they’re already going through a hard time so we stay silent.
I’ve basically felt for a few weeks now that I’ve exhausted all my lines from when me and my boyfriend broke up. I still cry about it and I assume my friends are sick of hearing about it. I feel like those contestants on, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and I’ve used up all my lifelines and now I just have to figure it out ALL BY MYSELF while Chris Tarrant (substituted for my negative side) quietly judges me while I fumble through my brain trying to think what the right answer is and then it’s the WRONG answer and I don’t move on to the next question and I feel like a massive failure which then makes me want to call up…oh wait….no lifelines….
There is always a lifeline and it’s usually going to be you. You can do this. If people can’t answer the phone, do something else. Write, watch something, read a book, dance or even have the biggest cry in the world. Channel it and let it happen.
We do this every bloody second but have you ever sat back and just breathed? I’ve looked into meditation and the breathing I do with my therapist has been the most beneficial for me. When you breathe you allow your body to connect to you and you’ll find that your body, in contrast to your mind, actually wants you to be happy and calm. When we’re thinking, “Oh FUCK!!! I’M LATE! I’M ALWAYS FUCKING LATE! WELL, WHO GIVES A FUCK THEY’LL PROBABLY BE LATE TOO AND WHATEVER BECAUSE THE CUNT DOESN’T EVEN LIKE ME SO WHAT’S THE POINT IN EVEN GOING???” your body starts to become gripped in the panic too…..that is a genuine thought I’ve had and I began to shake and sweat. So I sat on the tube and breathed. I imagined my belly getting bigger and smaller with each inhale and exhale and then I listened to the sounds around me saying in my head “I am present. I am here. I here a woman eating a doughnut. I hear kids chattering. It’s annoying but I am here breathing right now in the present”. Breathing really does help.
“Remember, you are not alone”
You really aren’t. You are never alone. You are not alone in feeling this awful. And DON’T take on board that chat when people say, “But people have it worse off than you”, because that as a helpful gesture is crap. Yes, people have it better and worse off than ourselves and at times it’s good to sit and take some perspective on what you have but to measure people’s misery against your own is not always productive. Also, when you are gripped in anxiety and depression it’s almost impossible to suddenly think, “But so-and so’s just tripped and smashed her knee in, why am I crying?”. It’s making your feelings less valuable and your feelings matter.
Berne Brown did a talk on The Power of Vulnerability and she was told by a professor “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” and it means, everybody can hurt and feel pain.
That doesn’t mean we don’t work on what we’re given. It doesn’t mean that we feel awful and we have to sit in that awfulness until something comes along and changes it because it won’t. You will change it. That doesn’t mean we blame others or past experiences for our shortcomings (which I have done, I do and I try to stop every time it’s noticed *like my producer noticed*) they’re not responsible for right now. I am.
It’s about pausing and acknowledging that we are feeling the pain but we can stop and find the things that bring us joy, the things that make us grateful. It is, and always will be difficult for me to acknowledge the bad moments that have happened and will happen again in the future but there is a bigger part of me that wants to stay open, stay vulnerable and keep talking because from vulnerability comes the strength to experience joy and happiness. I have hope for good things in the future and right now. If I were to shut myself off so I wouldn’t feel unhappy and sad ever again, I wouldn’t be able to feel good, or laugh ever again and that is not a life. So, keep talking. Keep letting people see you.
I started writing this blog in my pyjamas with tears running down my face, I have finished it by being dressed in clothes and ready to leave the house to go food shopping. I haven’t showered and the clothes I’m wearing are from yesterday (still KIND OF clean) and I haven’t washed my face but I’m amazed that I’ve gone from lying in bed morbidly thinking who would miss me if I wasn’t around, planning to stay in the dar to being sat cross-legged on my bed about to leave and get myself a wicked big Easter egg. I might not do much else but I’m out of my bed. I’m in clothes. I’m about to face the world.
I don’t expect many people to read this but just to pull back my skin and let someone see my vulnerable side has made me feel better. I instinctively feel that I’m not alone.
Whatever happens after, I will handle it and so will you.
I will leave you with a great quote from Sierra Boggess:
“You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are!”
Have a good Easter xxx