I’m reminded of my meltdown anniversary by one little packet of empty Valium. Date stamped 18 June 2015…
Anniversaries are often viewed as cause for celebration. Birthdays, weddings, work, first dates, first shags. It’s hard not to remember the date when something amazing happened to you. But when I flip that celebration coin high in the air, it’s going to land on the other side. The side where things go horribly wrong. The dates you can’t forget, for really shitty reasons.
In a few days it will be 12 months since the day I’ve labelled as the beginning. The beginning of it all. The beginning of being thrust into a world where I found myself ill-equipped. The beginning of a game that I thought anxiety may very well win. One whole year since that wooden Jenga block was plucked from the bottom of an uneasy, wobbling tower, and everything came crashing down.
On the morning of 18 June I got out of bed at 6am, after no sleep, riddled with anxiety and I told my husband that I needed to go the doctor. It had been a few months of worries and stresses that led to this morning. It had all been building. On this day, the glass of adrenalin overflowed. I couldn’t function. I was exhausted from weeks of no sleep, but bravely trying to act as if nothing was wrong when I was with anyone other than my husband. I remember thinking to myself ‘my legs shouldn’t be this tense’. They were like steel rods. Unable to bend.
So off I went to the doctor. Valium prescribed to get me through the next few days. Options of antidepressants and therapy were discussed but I was stubborn. I was going to be better in a few days. Couldn’t the doctor tell? I was really fine. And really in denial.
When I look back on this time I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness that I had no idea what I was in for. Why didn’t I seek therapy then and there? Why didn’t I go and see a psychiatrist and get proper advice about medications? Why did I insist on trying to handle it all on my own? Because I’m a bit of a fuckwit. A stubborn fuckwit.
Little did I know at that time it would be at least six months before things started to pick up. So knowing my anniversary is around the corner makes me feel a little on edge. A little sad. A whole year. Gone.
I’ve been too scared to say this to anyone, but I told my psychologist the other day; this tragic stream of dire pain was meant to happen to me. Yes, it left me scared, shaken, and terrified of a repeat situation, but that led me to change how I deal with things. I will never be the same Steph pre- June 2015. And I’m ok with that. I would never wish my experience on my worst enemy, but if it didn’t happen to me I would be worse off.
Because I wouldn’t have learnt that worrying doesn’t mean I’m in control (actually, it’s the opposite). I wouldn’t have learnt that sniffing lavender oil makes me feel zen as fuck, and that watching Pretty Little Liars during tough times is no good for my mental well-being but Gilmore Girls is. I wouldn’t have learnt that I can postpone my worries till 3pm and despite that sounding like some bullshit ‘woo-woo’ technique it actually fucking works. I wouldn’t have learnt that most airlines’ refund policies are bullshit. I wouldn’t have learnt about mindful tea. I wouldn’t have learnt how strong I am. I wouldn’t have learnt about Elizabeth Gilbert. I wouldn’t have learnt that it’s ok to be awake at odd hours of the morning, and that it’s ok to listen to Hamish and Andy podcasts to help calm down.
I wouldn’t have learnt to be me.
I kept that first tiny packet of empty Valium because I’m a sentimental a freak. Well, in all honesty it got lost amongst all the crap in my bedside draw. Either way, there it sits in front of me. Its contents long gone, and many of its friends and bigger cousins also lost down my oesophagus. And that’s ok. I won’t be scared of my anniversary. I’ll be proud of it. Husband and I will drink to it. And eat carbs to it. It’s just a date, and it can’t hurt me now. I know I will feel anxious in the future. Anxiety will always be a part of me. But I’m positive it will never have a hold on me like last year.
Like it says on the Valium packet, no repeats.