real life

"What happened after I revealed I suffer from anxiety."

It's been a big week. We launched a new website. I finally wrote about my battle with anxiety, four years after having a crack-up and breakdown. And the exposure made me unexpectedly wobbly for a moment. Anxiety is something you live with. Some days aren't great. And this week didn't start out great.

Of course all of that sounds sickeningly self-absorbed in the context of the plane that fell out of the sky in the French Alps and the 150 lives that were lost.

There was also a tragedy at a school where many of my friends send their daughters. A young girl in year 8 appears to have taken her life.

My heart breaks for everyone who has lost someone they love this week. It seems ridiculous to even write about anything else.

Read more: “I’m finally ready to talk about my anxiety.”

I've been feeling a little shaky about all this. I'm very susceptible to energy. Perhaps you are too. When there is a big national or international mood of fear or grief or anger, I pick up on it by osmosis. I involuntarily soak it up like an absorbent towel (on a more trivial level, it's also why I find it hard to be around people who are doing drugs. It makes me feels speedy and on edge).

Even if they don't involve you at all, tragic events like plane crashes or tragedies that get saturation media coverage can trigger anxiety in some people. My anxiety tends to be more generalised although it can be triggered in unexpected ways.
I have received so many emails and texts and messages on Facebook and Twitter from people who have wanted to tell me their own stories and who have expressed relief at reading my essay and feeling "less like a freak". People with anxiety feel this way a lot and use this expression a lot. I know I have. I'm writing back to people one by one to tell them that their reassurance in turn reassures me!


It's a giant circle of I'm-Not-A-Freak and it's a relief to be inside it.

"It's a giant circle of I'm-Not-A-Freak and it's a relief to be inside it."

I will say this though - it's something I forgot to say in my essay (which is here). Everyone who has anxiety, whether you take medication or not, you still have to work out what triggers you so you can avoid it and what soothes you so you can gravitate towards it during rough times.

This week I was reminded that routine is what soothes me. It makes me feel safe. I like to be in familiar surroundings, with familiar people, doing familiar things. And drinking tea out of a big cup.
For me, the symptoms of anxiety can feel like being untethered. Routine means security. It means I can fly freely in my work and my life, knowing that familiar terrain is below.

The other thing is that there's someone I didn't mention by name in that post and I'm not sure why I didn't. Because my friend Wendy Squires was the one I called. The first one I told. Before even my husband or my mum. Wendy has always been privately and publicly candid and open about her battles with depression. It felt safe to tell her. I felt like she'd know what to do. And she did. She recognised my symptoms, reassured me that I wasn't a freak or crazy and put me immediately in touch with another friend of hers who had suffered from a very similar form of intense type of long panic attack.

I feel like she saved my life. When I told her that, she waved me away. Friends save each other all the time.

That's what friends do. She's not wrong.

"Wendy Squires was the one I called."

So if you're suffering in silence about anything, I would encourage you to pick one friend and confide in her. Or him. It will change everything. I promise you that.

This is an excerpt from Mia's weekly email, Things I'd Tell You If We Were Friends, where she writes about her life and shares links to her favourite online reads of the week. You can subscribe  here.