Previously in this series:
Also in this series:
Where did I go? Firstly, a little scene setting. Indulge me…
Imagine you are sitting on your comfortable couch in the safety of your home.
You’re toasty warm and feeling very relaxed. It’s been a long week and you’re looking forward to kicking back. While surfing the tv channels you stumble across a scary movie. You’re not really a fan of scary movies but the plot gets you in. Picking up the remote and changing the channel isn’t an option. You. Just. Can’t. You’re hooked.
The girl on the screen hears yet another strange noise from the attic and looks toward the ceiling from her oversized lounge chair. She’s in for the night, all snuggled by the fire with a book, and a cup of fragrant chai tea. Outside the wind is howling and the constant rain is tap, tap, tapping away on the living room window (as it does in all trashy horror movies).
YOU know that there is a serial killer up there… in the attic… waiting… watching through the tiny holes he drilled into the attic floor days ago when he sneaked in to begin spying on his prey below. He’s making subtle noises to lure her up to the musty room to investigate and so into the clutches of despicable evil (insert appropriate evil psychotic laugh here).
Unable to ignore the curious noises any longer she puts down her cup, wraps the mohair rug around her that her mother gave her for Christmas and slowly makes her way to the attic stairs.
She thinks that maybe it’s ‘Marvin The Mischievous’ her missing mischievous cat. He’s always up to something crazy and just maybe he’s found his way into the attic and can’t get out. That’s exactly what the killer wants her to think. He did away with the cat days ago as part of his grand plan for her to go searching. The killer prefers his victims to come to him so he can delight in the lure and savour the twisted pleasure of anticipation. That’s his ‘thing’.
At this point you put down your Diet Coke and bowl of salted caramel buttered popcorn (awesome combination). There is no way you can manage a sip or swallow a bite past the lump forming in your throat. You draw your knees up to your chest and you grab a cushion for protection clutching it tight.
All of a sudden the killer knocks over an old forgotten vase from a side table and the toppling sound stops the girl in her stride just as she places one foot on the attic stairs.
You JUMP – scared out of your wits and proceed to squeeze the life out of that cushion you’re gripping.
The girl remains statue still for a moment… frozen… she looks wide eyed toward the room above her, wraps her mother’s rug around her more tightly as if for courage and cautiously continues climbing the stairs (yes, yes she does because the writers of these pathetic horror films think us women are just that stupid).
You yell at the tv screen you’re glued to “Stop, don’t go up there! What are you doing?” But she walks on… one slow careful step after another up the steep narrow stair case. The suspense music becomes even louder and your fear intensifies as she inches ever closer to the attic door.
The shot cuts away to the crazed eyes of the insanely disturbed killer waiting expectantly.
You curl up tighter into a little ball turning side-on to the screen. You’d rather not watch but you can’t stop watching. Your heart is hammering ten to the dozen and you feel like your chest is being sat on (a lot like the painful indigestion you’d suffer after scoffing too much salted caramel buttered popcorn and diet coke).
Your hands start to tremble and you break out in a clammy sweat; you want to scream at the top of your lungs “Stop – he’s waiting in there” but you are too immobilised by fear to speak… the words just won’t. come. out. You are paralysed like a dazed possum in car headlights. You’re holding your breath and your body so tightly… thoughts all jumbled… this doesn’t make sense.
The girl reaches the top of the stairs. The wind and rain from the storm now raging outside is almost deafening. “Marvin?” she calls cautiously. She places one hand on the door then pauses for a moment and looks down at the door handle… with her other hand shaking she slowly opens the old wooden door of the attic, with a predictable creak, and she nervously grasps in the darkness for the light switch on the wall.
The camera zooms in on her hand as she finds the light switch and flicks it on… only nothing happens… the killer has removed the globe… she flicks the switch a few more times… then it happens… the music BOOMS with the sound of a thousand violin screeches… the killer grabs her hand and violently pulls her into the attic toward him… she screams that blood curdling scream with great horror movie performance perfection and you’re hit with a wave of violent terror and panic that flings you into the corner of your couch hiding face first into your clutched cushion .
It’s too much to bear and you’re not coming up for air anytime soon.
(Need a bathroom break after that? Okay, off you go… I’ll wait here…)
“So Sandra… what the hell does the above narrative have to do with where you have been the last six months, what you have been doing and what you can tell me about it?”
Well, all cheesy movie stuff aside, the answer is… EVERYTHING. This has EVERYTHING to do with it. We’ve all felt this paralysing fear while watching a horror movie, yeah? Even a predictable trashy one, yeah? We all know that thump in the chest of panic and the real physical anguish your mind triggers your body to experience even though you know deep down none of it is real?
It’s just a B-grade, low budget scary movie? Right?
Imagine for a moment that’s how you felt physically and emotionally every day but you weren’t watching a scary movie – you were replaying scenes of your life over and over and fearfully questioning the unclear state of your future.
Imagine you couldn’t make those crippling thoughts, feelings, emotions and the physical disablement of terror go away, triggered by the regret, the grief and even the shame of what you believe to be unforgiving mistakes in your life that have impacted those closest to you.
Imagine being curled up on your couch in the tightest ball hiding your face from life, clutching a cushion and trembling like a frightened puppy unable to eat or drink due to the lump of fear in your throat and the churning of your stomach; every sound makes you JUMP like they were toppling forgotten vases. The phone ringing catapults you into full blown panic.
Imagine you are the paralysed dazed possum in the headlights; your heart is pounding; your chest aching; you’re confused and nothing makes sense.
You’re frozen, like the girl about to climb the stairs, you want to speak to explain but you can’t string the words together. You’re agitated, anxious and totally meshed with and fixated on the distorted stories you are telling yourself about yourself; they are on repeat chorus BOOMING in your head like the constant screech of those thousand pulsating violins like in the gripping moment of the movie.
The stories on repeat aren’t real, they have no truth, no substance – just like the movie is not real – they are merely fear loaded thoughts blown out of proportion by your tortured perception of self – but try telling your-self that or believing someone else when they try too.
You totally believe your own narrative “I’m a bad person, a hopeless person, a shit mother for being emotionally unwell again. I’m a needy friend, a disappointment as a daughter, a lousy wife, miserable cook, useless at managing money and suck at staying positive.
You feel guilty for surviving cancer and feel so ashamed about things you think you could have done differently and better in your life… you feel like you’ve let everyone down… everything is so uncertain and you Just. Can’t. Stop. Crying.
Imagine the haunting uncertainty of life suffocating you like a blanket of dread so you become unable to function.
Imagine then the torturous effects of such anxiety savagely grabbing your hand like the twisted killer in the movie, violently pulling you closer toward the perils of anxiety and depression dragging you dimensions away from those who love you; away from the colourful light of warmth and joy and gratitude.
You’re screaming at yourself “Please don’t go there” but it makes no difference… your mind has betrayed you… all the warped thoughts and feelings of regret, grief, shame and fear have morphed into one crazed serial killer living in your head; his hold is too tight and you’re too exhausted to fight.
If you can imagine how all that may feel, like you were constantly in the zone of complete distress watching a horror movie, then there’s a possibility you can imagine where I have been. Maybe you’ve even been there too?
This horror movie analogy was the only way I could think of that may give you an insight and some understanding of how it actually feels to crash and burn so brutally. No matter how desperately you try you just. can’t. stop. it. and there is no coming up for air.
You know, I was looking forward to kicking back and relaxing into life again after a long few years of sinister health challenges, horrid treatment for those health challenges, operations and emotional collapse – but instead I became fixated on the uncertainty of life and past decisions I frantically wished I could undo.
So… where did I go?
You may have guessed by now that I stumbled into my own scary horror movie and I couldn’t function due to crippling anxiety and it’s faithful shadow – depression.
It was scene after scene of agitated, distressed, physical trembling apprehension. It was not pretty. There was no changing the channel. There was no option to be found. I was hooked!
How do you step outside of that and recover to live your life with purpose and meaning once again?
Maybe the answer to that enormous question is not one of stepping outside anything – but one of stepping further in?
Let’s find out next week when I publish Part 2 of Soft Places and Honest Spaces.
Stay safe now, Sandra x
Quote inspiration for this series comes from Brene Brown, The Power of Positivity fb page and Lessons Learned in Life. Blog title and quote design by the beautiful Robyna May from The Mummy & The Minx.
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