My arms hurt.
My arms hurt because I’ve scratched them to pieces. I didn’t mean to. It’s an involuntary reaction to the bit where my mind reaches its limit. I stop wanting to be me. I stop wanting to have air to breathe and a room to hide in and I stop wanting skin.
What happened today? The same as every other – nothing. There was no tipping point, no straw laden with the weight of straw already past. It just builds up and up and up, sometimes over days, sometimes over hours, and then it throws itself. It’s a sudden downpour when you’re two miles from home and you’ve forgotten your umbrella. It’s a blow from behind in a dark alley when your music’s too loud to hear them coming. It’s when your insides decide they want to be your outsides.
I have an anxiety disorder and I like to pretend that I don’t. This in itself is a problem because it means that when I’m happy, I forget how to handle the sad and when I’m sad I forget that it will pass. It will pass. It has to. It has every other time before.
These are the things I am scared of, in no particular order: the inside, the outside, the day, the night, myself, everybody else, losing people, meeting people, knowing people, loving people, people in general, not succeeding, not trying, not knowing what to try, spiders, walking into shops, walking out of shops, crossing roads, going to work, not going to work, being scared, people knowing that I’m scared, the being scared not stopping, the being scared not starting, peas, the world, life, existence, non-existence, the beginning of things, the end of things, middles, my thighs, the doorbell, the phone ringing, having to talk to people, not having anyone to talk to, everything the world has ever managed to string together ever. Except for maybe cats.
I am not scared every day and the days on which I’m scared, I’m mostly normal. I am not scared every day and I think that makes it worse sometimes. When I’m not scared I’m… I’m me. I’m happy and I’m in love with everything the world has got to offer and I make friends with animals in the street and I say hello to trees and I want to cradle the world in the palm of my hand and make everything that’s ever hurt anyone just that little bit better. When I’m not scared I’m me and a while ago I was fortunate enough to realise that that is a great thing to be. I am more me than anyone else could ever be and I am proud of the fact that sometimes I gallop. Like, around the house. Not on a horse. I’ve not got a horse. Yet.
So, when I’m not scared I’m me and having the relationship I do with myself (fascination, abject horror, pride, amusement… mostly chagrin) means that when I am not me, things are tricky. When I want to pull my skin off and crawl under the bed and pretend that the Sophie who lives here doesn’t exist… it hurts. It damn hurts.
I have digressed. It is my speciality.
I wanted to write down what it feels like when anxiety attacks but the moment it passes – the exact moment – I just forget. I know that it feels like there are gaping holes in my body and it doesn’t matter how I put myself, I can’t cover them up. I know that a raging stag beats into my chest over and over until the blood and my still beating heart are speared upon his antlers for the world to see. There’s definitely a lot of not being able to breathe, too.
I wanted to write it down so that the individuals who receive messages from me when I’m like that have some idea of my thought patterns. There are only four of them currently in my life who have received a message mid-panic and I’m not sure if all of them know. Some of them definitely do. One of them is often there to hold my hand and pretend he can’t see the snot. I wanted to write it down but now that I’m here I’m not sure that there are words. It is simply as if your mind has turned against your body and your body is acting in self-defence; trying to repel the rotten thing from within it in as dramatic a way as possible. There are usually tears (I like to think this is my brain leaking*) and quite often muttered words and, really, I probably just look like a complete nutter. Which is why I try my best to do it behind closed doors. Sainsbury’s is probably not the place (although when I try to reach that top shelf…).
I wanted to write it down and I sat here with my body still tense but it’s gone. I ache. I am still scared. I am extremely lonely. I need a cuddle and somebody to put me to bed, perhaps read me a story. I need to quit my job and run away to an island with hills and trees and puffins. I need freedom and fresh air and a fudge business. Until then, I guess I’ll just be stuck waiting for the next one and then forgetting how they feel, letting myself lapse back into the world of ‘just existing’ until the rain starts to fall again and my thoughts get bored of living somewhere underneath that dense bit of tissue you normal folk like to call a brain.
*I don’t. I added that for even more dramatic effect.