Hayley, November 2, 2017

Blogger Hayley and her mum

"Which side of the road do we drive on in this country?" 

"Are you this sarcastic with all your students?" I asked my dear mother.

"Normally I just say 'Bonjour!'"

I do like to use that one on my driver friends. I also enjoy "If it was a boat, I would've fallen in", when someone parks too far from the kerb. (When I reminded my mum of these wisecracks recently, she responded "I'm hilarious! [cry laugh face emoji]".)

I can't claim to have inherited all of her wit, but I've certainly inherited more of her humour than I have her driving ability. Most people are rightfully amused when they learn that I, at age 30, have a driving instructor mum, and cannot legally drive. It's not a 'cobbler's children have bare feet’ scenario – and having a police officer dad hasn't given me a penchant for committing crimes – she has personally given me around 10 years of (admittedly very sporadic) lessons. It's because I am afraid of driving.

Having anxiety can be like having two (or more) friends constantly bickering in your brain.

Having anxiety can be like having two (or more) friends constantly bickering in your brain. One of them might be trying to tell you that life is dangerous and overwhelming, while the other is trying to reassure you that everything is fine, and that there's no value of worrying about things that will probably never happen. 

On a really good day the second voice might find a quick and satisfactory answer to every concern the first voice can raise, but on a bad day - perhaps it's a wet and grey Monday, you're tired, maybe you're exhausted from months of bad nights' sleep - the first voice can start to win out. 

Once the bad voice starts to win, it can grow stronger, pulling apart chunks of your self-esteem until it topples down like the world's cruellest game of Jenga. "Aha!" it exclaims, twirling its moustache and stroking a wild eyed, fluffy cat perched in its lap. "Your colleagues do resent you after all, just like I told you they did! I knew you shouldn't get your hopes up! This is just the way things will always be for you, and the way they have always been, of course. Don't forget that you were always picked last in P.E. at school! Now, let's move onto even more important things, like why your voice cracked when you said 'thank you' to that bus driver this morning." 

If you stir all these thoughts together with a swirl of aches, pains, hunger, thirst, hot flushes, 24 hour news cycles, background and foreground conversations, adverts, song lyrics, queues, smiles, frowns, booze, checking your phone every two minutes and OH-MY-GOD-WHAT-IS-DONALD-TRUMP-DOING-NOW, it can become pretty messy.

I know my fear of driving (like so many of my anxieties) is not entirely rational. I don't worry about my mum, who spends her entire working week driving – giving other people's children the freedom and convenience to go wherever they want, whenever they want. 

I ruined her delicate, youthful body (as she likes to remind me every year on my birthday), I messed up her house for 23 years and must have destroyed her pass rate average by taking nearly a decade to learn to drive. 

She's always there, and she truly understands. 

She's still there for every weepy phone call, and every poorly manoeuvred parallel park. I fill up her 'Missed calls' list while she's out driving just as greedily as I occupied her womb. She's always there, and she truly understands. 

When I’m feeling anxious, I often find it helpful to chat through my anxieties with a supportive friend, or a counsellor. It's an opportunity to pull out each of my thoughts and inspect them, hold them up to the light. Once they're out of my mouth, hanging in the silence, it's easier to figure out which ones I can throw away, and which ones perhaps might actually be worth paying attention to. 

When I was going through a tough time at work, I used to call my mum every Monday for what I started to refer to as 'The Weekly Cry'. 

"How long have you been taking your anti-depressants?" she asked. 

"About a month now."

"That's good."

"I've been thinking about speaking to the doctor about going on different ones."

"It's probably fine, this is just how it is sometimes with anxiety. You can go for a while and everything's fine, and then it likes to pop back up like 'Hello! I'm still here!'"

I'm still here too, fighting. And she's still here with me, in my corner

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