About ten years ago I was in recovery from my bipolar, writes Kate Hull-Rodgers.
Then, quite suddenly, a new mental illness reared its ugly head –anxiety.
I was rendered helpless by this ailment as it made me lie foetal on the couch.
I would shake for hours, clammy, sweaty, cold, musty, and wounded.
Anxiety is hard to describe.
For me, it felt like I was wrapped in a barbed wire fence.
Then the fence was pulled up over my head, taking my open-wounded flesh with it
People would ask ‘what are you feeling anxious about?’, as if there was something I needed to cut out of my life and all would be okay.
But that’s not how it works, unfortunately.
Instead, anxiety was like someone had flipped my fight or flight switch.
I was agitated and panicked so I chose flight and tried to run away and hide.
Sometimes, I had to go out into the world, even when I was in the grips of anxiety.
I said to my husband, Bill, ‘it’s okay, no-one will know, anxiety is my invisible friend.’
Then one day, Bill suggested I might be on to something and when I said anxiety was my invisible friend, maybe, I should make friends with my anxiety?
This was an ingenious idea and something I had never considered.
I had only tried to run away.
Now I reasoned, if anxiety was going to be my friend I would have to give it a name, so I immediately named it Frank.
And, because my anxiety was worse in the morning, I figured Frank must work nights.
He went away at night.
Before long I had written a life scenario for Frank.
He had friends and family of his own and I urged him to go visit them.
The mornings which followed, after these imaginings, the anxiety had eased.
Rather than practising flight, I became very friendly with my anxiety.
When I would feel anxiety I would move toward it with my mind and this would cause the physical pain to disperse.
If it would reappear somewhere else in my body, I would move toward it again and soon it would be gone.
I literally chased Frank, away.
Roll forward a few years, to the present and I’m on a medication that I know helps, I have built my entire life to practise self-help, self-care, and self-love.
And I have made my anxiety a tangible entity.
I have tamed Frank and then sent him on his way.
I can only describe it by saying – I am whole.