I had a very active imagination as a child. For a few weeks, I thought I could tell the future, and even now I’m not entirely sure I was wrong. I was prescient af, even if it was limited to things like “there will be a blue van in front of us in two minutes”. We don’t choose our gifts, okay.
Being creative is great in a lot of ways when you’re young. You come up with the best playground games (Flying Pony Club was a particular success even though it mostly involved running around informing people that you were a flying pony) and you write as much as you can because you can’t not. Your ideas spill out from your tiny brain like an overflowing water fountain, and you have to make some of them real or you might burst.
But creativity + imagination + anxiety is an awful, awful mix – especially for someone who didn’t find out the existence of anxiety until they were 18.
When I was about 10, I had this horrible feeling of doom, of something really, really bad lurking around the corner. I know now that it’s just adrenalin and chemistry and all that stuff bunching up in your stomach – it’s not real. You’re not actually clairvoyant, kid.
But at the time, I thought I was, and I thought this was my curse – something bad is going to happen, and I know it is, but I don’t know what yet.
I felt that way for months, and I told my friends, and – obviously – they thought I was being an idiot.
One day, a family friend passed away.
Suddenly everything clicked into place, and I told myself that this was what I was supposed to foretell. I felt awful. I should have prevented it. It was my fault, somehow.
Imagine being a 10-year-old kid thinking that it’s your fault someone died. Of course it wasn’t my fault. It had very, very little to do with me, and the way I was feeling was just hormones and chemicals pulsing around my system. But I cried myself to sleep for weeks afterwards nonetheless.
Since finding out that I have generalised anxiety disorder (me and basically everyone else, am I right? Ha ha, ha, ha. Ohhh.) I don’t try to find reasons why I feel crappy as much. I’m more aware of when I’m feeling a bit doom-y, and after about an hour of going “oh no what’s wrong???!!?!” I usually remember the anxiety thing and then I feel a tiny bit better.
I still do the stupid thing of looking for things to be worried about, though. I don’t tell myself something bad is about to happen as much as I tell myself it already has happened.
It’s progress of a sort, I guess. But the real aim is to be able to separate that awful knot-in-my-stomach feeling from how I actually feel instead of trying to map things onto it. All that does is feed the anxiety – give it reasons to grow and spread.
Taking care of yourself is hard work, especially when your body occasionally glitches into “RUN AWAY!” mode. I’m still working on how to ignore that pang of fear, because fear is useful a lot of the time.
The only trick I have so far is not to run away, even though your body is screaming at you to do just that. Sit down with yourself, and try to think about everything that’s okay. Not even great, just okay. Make your brain believe everything is okay, because it is, probably. And it always gets better.
Also I don’t know make a cup of tea and eat a biscuit, that always helps me