Run Towards the Scary

It often helps to charge at scary and difficult things head on.

(Okay, this is bad advice if you’re scared of bulls, tigers, traffic etc., but in many cases the approach works well.)

What we fear is unlikely to do us any harm. It’s just the thought of it that’s scary, and fear can have a tight grip.

There was a time when I decided enough was enough: I would gravitate towards those things. The scarier the better. I viewed it as a training exercise – literally, in the case of my half marathon preparation.

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Your Best Work is Yet to Come

Sometimes I get bogged down with the thought that my best writing is in the past.

As well as being extremely happy, I have an underlying anxiety whenever I get amazing feedback on a story. What if I can’t live up to it? This happened with ‘Those Charming Birds’, which was published on Potato Soup Journal recently.

It’s not just readers’ reactions though. I panic when I edit something and it just doesn’t work whatever I do. I worry that I won’t ever have that lovely feeling when I know it has clicked. (Don’t worry, I do realise the world won’t end if I write something terrible.)

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Why I Haven’t Tried to Have a Good Week

(Disclaimer: There are references to health issues like vomiting, so please don’t read if that’s likely to be triggering!)

I was standing in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon when it happened. I was video chatting with my boyfriend and his son, phone propped up on the counter, while I made devilled eggs. After I’d scooped the hardboiled yolks into a bowl, I turned to the fridge to get the mayo, and…it was happening.

No, please, no! The burning, the dizziness, the strange hallucinatory sensation, the numbness and tingling down my right arm, the feeling of being gripped by something horrendous. I held onto the counter, gently lowered myself to my knees, leant down until my face was on the cold floor, and blacked out. Two minutes later, I came round and gradually worked out where I was. My fist was clenched; my nail had broken the skin on my palm. I stood up carefully and moved to the sofa, lying there until the symptoms wore off. What day was it? What month was it? It took slightly longer than usual for me to remember.

I was gutted. I’ve been free of partial seizures for sixteen months now and had hoped they were a thing of the past. To put it flippantly, this was the perfect climax for the past few weeks…It’s been one thing after another. I spent an unexpected week in Cornwall, where I was ‘on call’, being with my great-uncle at the end of his life. The week after, I was hit by fatigue and emotional exhaustion, and then the following week I had stomach issues (probably anxiety related). Straight after those had eased up, I had a bad migraine, vomited several times, and must have burst a blood vessel, because…you get the picture. The next day, my body decided to attack me for being a woman!

So, yes, the seizure came at a bad time. It’s been a struggle recently; there’s no escaping that. I’m not unaware of the many blessings. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt fine and have been able to post cheerful things on Facebook, but this string of events knocked me back. It has affected my confidence and self-esteem as well as my body and I’ve had bouts of hysterical crying. I’m still trying to find ways to cope, both mentally and physically – the two are intrinsically linked.

Initially I’d started each week with determination to make it a ‘good one’, because I am, basically, an optimist. It didn’t work. Trying to force a positive attitude can’t always help the situation. Sometimes it creates extra pressure that makes the problem worse, causing friction in your mind and increasing the feelings of failure when you find you can’t see past it.

I’m realising that it’s sometimes better to try to employ neutrality: ‘absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling’. It’s a meditative thing, to observe without judgement. There is also the sense of ‘handing over’ the things that are out of our control – an important element of prayer.

Life is hard enough. It’s okay not to be okay. We shouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad.

Strange New Anxieties

When we went into lockdown, I picked up some weird little anxieties: fear of hair loss and split ends. Eek, is there more hair coming out when I brush it? Are the ends coarser and more broken? Will I be able to go to the hairdresser again before it becomes a problem?

These anxieties had no rational basis. I knew this, even at the time. I wasn’t losing too much hair (and if it seemed a lot, it was only because I hadn’t brushed it all week!), my hair ends were perfectly healthy, and I’d ‘survived’ for 26 years almost entirely without a hairdresser…so I could manage a few more months. Not a problem.

These anxieties were deflection and distraction. I couldn’t immediately engage with the situation, in observation, discussion, or prayer. World events and uncertainty threatened to overwhelm me, so my brain redirected itself to something trivial, engaging with the massive topic of shampoo and conditioner instead. I was surprised by that initial coping mechanism! I still revert to it sometimes.

Did you have any strange responses to lockdown?

In a World of a Million Causes

I don’t post much political/social content on social media. I post jokes, clips of my life, photos of pretty scenery, selfies, writing news, and whatever else I think will entertain or interest my friends. If they make even one person smile, I’m happy. However, it weighs on me that I rarely post about more controversial topics. I want to attempt to articulate why that is.

I’m scared of confrontation; I’m scared to voice an ‘opinion’ when I’m not an expert on *insert issue here*; I’m scared of putting forward a misguided simplification of a complex matter; I’m scared to stir up arguments with anyone who wouldn’t change their viewpoint when faced with new information; and I’m scared to write anything that I couldn’t stand by 100%.

I also struggle to know which of the Continue reading

Adding my Thoughts to the Virus Fray!

I wasn’t going to share anything publicly about…we all know what! I’m more of an introspective writer, not often commenting on wider issues such as politics and, well, pandemics. It’s not because I don’t care – I write about them privately – but more because I don’t know. I read all sorts of articles, see conflicting views from experts, and non-experts like me, and don’t feel in all conscience that I can share anything. Why should I throw my ‘opinion’ into the mix? This jumble of words started to flow this morning though.

Coronavirus responses from the general public: Isn’t there a middle ground between panic and apathy? Unfortunately, panic and apathy shout the loudest, throwing people from one extreme to the other. News and social media love extremes – extremes get clicks. I suspect the ‘truth’ is somewhere in between, and that’s not me hedging my bets and sitting on the fence (*cringes at the two overused expressions*).

Many of the extreme views come from only looking at Continue reading

There’s That Person Sitting Alone

Pay attention. There’s that person sitting a few feet away from you and your circle of friends. She’s sitting alone, maybe because she wants to be alone, or maybe because she sees a barrier between herself and your happy, oblivious little group. You didn’t put up a barrier, of course you didn’t, you’re not unkind – but the barrier is still there for her. It appeared when you weren’t looking.

You think if she wants company, she’ll ask. She won’t. And neither did you. Do you remember that time when you were the one sitting alone, and someone smiled and asked if the chair next to you was free? They made that chair sound special. It was; it was next to you. How happy you are now! And yet you still assume she Continue reading

Don’t Delay Happiness

Wednesday 20.3.19

As I put on my makeup this morning, I decided to ignore a particularly aggressive cluster of spots. After all, there’s only so much that can be done – the redness can be covered but not the texture. It’s fine.

I wish I’d always been this blasé.

When I was in my early teens, my spots might as well have been shouting across the room. I don’t suppose anyone else cared though, or even noticed.

It’s important to have Continue reading

Travelling on My Own

Wednesday 20.3.19

Hannah 1 – Travel Anxiety 0

The ten-hour train journey from Cornwall to North Wales turned out to be easy. It helps that I’ve travelled the route twice before with other people. It’s the first time I’ve been on a train on my own though!

When something causes me anxiety, the key is planning. I wrote careful lists of what to take and in which bags, kept notes about train times and station practicalities, and visualised all the changes and taxi logistics. This probably sounds obsessive (because it is, teehee). But it doesn’t keep me in a control-freak trap.

‘Obsessive’ preparation tricks my mind into believing there’s Continue reading

My Brain Diagnosis

Friday 5.10.18

A letter arrived with my brain test results:

I have a solitary cavernoma in the left amygdala.

A cavernoma is a ‘cluster of abnormal blood vessels’. The amygdala has ‘a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional responses (including fear, anxiety, and aggression)’.

This would explain the seizures! Mum and I have looked it up – it doesn’t seem anything too serious, although it can be if there’s a bad Continue reading