I cringe every time i think about communicating my feelings in a public way, and as a result, i don't do it. If i speak about something in a negative way to friends or colleagues, it is always a surface-level issue; not the deep route of my anxiety. I was recently working on a documentary to document my experiences growing up with a parent who was an addict, and how that had shaped the person i am today; but both disappointingly, and amazingly, the BBC ran an all-day news piece on the same topic not long after. While i was happy that this important message had reached a wider audience, i felt like i remained the same - perhaps selfishly, being a part of the documentary was going to be a cathartic process for me.
I grew up thinking that anxiety was a dirty word; whenever someone told me i was anxious, i didn't believe them. 'No i'm just worried', i'd say. Worrying about everything and anything became a regular day-to-day action for me; but i didn't ever say what was truly worrying me - i'd deflect the true worries onto smaller things... arguments with friends, someone saying something rude to me in a club, people not replying to messages, etc.
Being brought up by an addict has its plus sides - you get a lot of things almost instantly; but instant gratification sets you up for disappointment too. As a kid, my addict parent would do anything and everything to get me what i wanted straight away - this was down to their need to not think about it anymore; but it built an ability in me to be very quick-minded, not to think things through - to "treat myself" without thinking of the consequences, and to be overly generous. This also meant i wanted a quick fix to anything that went wrong in my life.
What having an addictive parental figure also taught me, is that you can spend years on end pretending that everything is ok, while there is a huge bubble of seriousness under the surface. My family could act like a 'normal' family, doing our day-to-day things, but really, we had a huge thing we should have all been tackling; coming to terms with; dealing with head-on.
As a result, loosing that parent came as an absolute shock to me. I had normalised everything; hospital visits, intensive care, picking them up from the floor, cleaning, caring, organising housing. I couldn't find a quick fix for this; i couldn't get instant gratification. The constant level of stress in my life was so normal to me, that i didn't know how to cope without it - i couldn't understand that life could seemingly be stress-free, that you could think about YOURSELF and not someone else 24/7. I unconsciously began shifting this stress into other areas of my life. It was more comfortable to live with the stress than without it, and this meant my body began to create it, itself.
I spent the first few months after my addict parent's death feeling weirdly ok; i went back to work the next day, and i didn't stop - working more than 12 hours a day, every day. However, as time went on, and with me working obsessively, and being in complete denial, i began to crack.
I extend the biggest of thank you's to EVERYONE (friends, colleagues, family) who has put up with me being pretty out of character, stress-filled and dramatic - i appreciate every single one of you. I carried around my stress, thinking i could carry on as i had spent my whole life - denying the truth. It wasn't until Father's Day weekend this year, that i realised i was doing everything i could to drown out my true feelings. This was the first year i didn't have a dad. I didn't feel like i could celebrate with everyone else, i had a moment of total crisis as to what my relevance was for those 24 hours. The night before i was stress personified, anything small that wasn't planned - i felt as a catastrophe; i couldn't help it.
However you need to release stress, you should do it - holding it in doesn't make you stronger/ the issue easier. Music massively helped me to do this, especially seeing it live; but more than that - i needed to find silence. I needed to find a space where my brain finally stopped whirring and only focused on me. For me, this was virtually impossible - meditation would take me years to get the hang of, and i sought to drown everything out so completely after the death, that i would sit on my emails with the radio on, and my headphones in one ear. (Sometimes on the phone too.) I couldn't stop. I didn't want anyone to ask me anything about my dad, so i'd change my appearance regularly - dying my hair, piercings, new tattoos. I'd also create an imaginary problem from something minor, just to be able to talk about that instead. With the help of incredible literature, understanding why i behaved the way i did, around 4 incredible people who i am close with, and the most beautiful Pilates and Yoga centre in the planet (Camden Town, Chelsea, and Central London branches), i finally had an epiphany.
Allowing myself to feel what i am feeling deep down is still incredibly difficult, but i'm writing this piece to advise anyone to do the same, and as soon as you can. With my denial, came illness (my whole body seized up with stress, muscle pain, headaches, obsessive habits of pulling out eyelashes), stress, and someone i didn't recognise; i transformed from an energetic, positive person into a stressed, amped-up person. I began to try and control my life in every aspect; couldn't bare the thought of a minor disagreement, argument, or anything that could potentially hurt me. I was living in a fairytale, a fairy tale, with an added force-field - totally unrealistic.
Being in denial for too long will change who you are, and this isn't right.
This weekend, i finally said goodbye in my own way to my wonderful parent who is in a place of no pain, incredible memories and love.
Good Music: https://play.spotify.com/album/1dZZh7PvVgce1DDsDPzy8Z?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open
Good relaxation spots: http://www.triyoga.co.uk/