Tag Archives: anxiety

every day is a school day

Some weeks ago I, along with other volunteers, gave a presentation to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Inquiry into emergency care.  My recollections of the event were dominated by my being anxious and hardly drawing breath.

Today the video was made available. It was a legal thing; our input a matter of public record.


Key learning point 1: stick to the script.

1a: this will resolve the on/off/on/off nature of the reading glasses.

1b: this will give other people a chance to speak.

1c: this will preclude any notion that inventing a random character and giving her a pet is a useful idea.


Key learning point 2: go back to Weightwatchers.

2a: this may have an impact on the developing jowls.

2b: this may mean that clothes fit.


Key learning point 3: nothing is ever as bad as I fear.

3a: about time I realised this.



the day before the adventure starts

I’ve done the practical things- stocked up on anti mad tablets, booked flights and the hotel, bought travel size shampoo, measured the case to be sure it fits the hand luggage rules.

I’ve done the ‘not so practical but it’ll make me feel better’ things- got my nails done and bought proper foundation, approximating to my skin tone.

I written the talk and prepped slides. I’ve timed myself. In truth I’m not so worried yet about talking- that will start when I get to the huge venue and see other people talking in a slick, relaxed, we do this all the time fashion. They won’t have a panicked ‘just pretend I’m reading at Mass’ face on. They’ll be chatting.

Before I get to then I have other things to worry about. The plane. The tube. Crowds. That there London, without Spurs Fan to steer me. I’m a grown up; I know I can do this. Years ago I’d hardly have given it a thought, but that was before. Before I knew about exhaustion and anxiety and needing a dog to get me out of the house.

red sparkly nail varnish


And while I’m worrying away about my wee thing, our mate and fellow volunteer Awesome Academic is worrying about hers. Normally unflappable, Awesome Academic will be recording a broadcast for Nature- discussing her work on genetics or kidneys or whatever branch of awesomeness she feels like discussing,  and then answering questions. Live. She doesn’t need sparkly nails,  but there is definitely some flapping going on. We all have our challenges.

I’m getting over my ‘I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go. Why did I apply to go? Do I have to go?’ phase. This time tomorrow I hope I’ll be bouncy and brave and full of adventure. I’d be kicking myself if I hadn’t applied. I’d be devastated if I hadn’t been accepted. There are so many folk I want to meet and learn from. I want to be inspired and energised. I want to make a difference. So I will go and chat and learn and present  and enjoy. And when I come home, I will recover.

And then I’ll do it all again, in another time and another place. With different nail varnish. I think the red is too bright. I have to live up to it.

and now for the legal bit

It was a proper legal thing. A Human Rights Inquiry.

I was dreaming about it- and not in a good way, more in a wake up in a cold sweat sort of way.

I had armour (Kileen’s hand me down heels).

I had war paint (Claudia Winkleman is my eye makeup role model).

I was totally hyper andjustkeptontalkinginthecafebeforehand.

Then a phone call: would we like to be interviewed for local TV about rare disease? Of course we will. AAAARGH. What did I just agree to? What will we say?

We agreed key messages.

We were asked totally different questions. This meant thinking on the spot, on camera.( I haven’t seen what, if anything was broadcast.) I have no idea what I said, but I managed to get one of our key messages in. FM- our leader for the day- is experienced, calm and measured. We needed her.

The Inquiry was running late, which meant we got to watch others give their submissions. Calm, articulate, moving stories. All being recorded on video and by a court reporter.

Eventually it was our turn. We had name plates and water. We introduced ourselves, and I should have realised that I needed to calm down when I struggled to say ‘Progressive Supranuclear Palsy’. Why could I not remember about the deep breathing and happy place stuff when it would have been useful?

FM made our brief presentation. We were ready for the rest- they’d told us what questions to expect, and we had all the answers. We had all the answers prepared and written down in front of us. We may have been anxious, but we were the most prepared people in the building. We had this thing sussed; all we had to do was relax into the flow of it.

They asked different questions.

smiling giraffe, baffled

FM struggled to get a word in as @imonlyslightly and I seemed to believe we were taking an exam and, as is traditional, the question mattered less than our determination to tell everything we knew. We hardly drew breath- a result being few questions. They practically had to throw us out, still talking about the inequalities of rare disease, and patient and family expertise.

The commissioners retired to a darkened room for a tea break and we left, burbling all the way.

The court reporter is the one I felt sorry for.

H is for healing

Much as I look forward to it, I’m always a bit bothered when school starts again. All those people moving on, experiencing new things, learning about life and themselves. This is my ninth September staying in bed- I was off work, still expecting go back in a week or two, when Girl2 started nursery school. We have all changed since then, but I’m still in my pyjamas.

With nobody in the house, I finally have the space to deal with the random bits of paper that have gathered up during the summer. I’ve discovered the things I forgot to do, or didn’t finish. I haven’t yet found anything I did brilliantly and forgot about. There are no pleasant surprises hidden in the paperwork.

Jake is lying in the sun, sleeping. He follows me about, finding a comfy spot close to hand. He has a lot of sleeping to catch up on, making the most of long days with nobody dancing around him, or posing him for ‘selfies’, or trying to get him to play. Peace for an old grumpy dog. But last night, he had me in tears on the street. Sobbing on Sunnyside Street. Another dog,  a short lead, a sniff, a wag and- in a heartbeat- each dog going for the other’s throat.

I was defeated. What sort of fool was I anyway, if I couldn’t even walk the dog without a crisis? Anxiety and doubt were overwhelming.

I’d spent the morning filling in an application for a training course- what a laugh. What made me think I could be a ‘leader’ or an ‘influencer’ when I could hardly leave the house? How could I persuade the GP to medicate me heavily when he knew I gave presentations to big wigs? I’d seen him there; he’s related to a big wig. I’d pretended well that day, but the truth will out. I was weeping in public because one grumpy dog met another, and it was all my fault. Everything was my fault.

I couldn’t go to bed and huff- Spurs Fan had to go to a meeting and somebody needed to be a grown up. It was time to hide in a book.

Dawnriser raved about H is for Hawk; I’d never heard of it, but read a few other reviews and bought it. I’d looked at it on the shelf and wondered what was wrong with my head. I know nothing about birds. I don’t even want to know anything about birds. Yes, I know something of grief, but we all do. I’d bought a hardback book about a blimmin’ bird and I was never ever going to read it.

But last night I needed to be distracted. I needed to be taken away from my own mind. That big bird book would do. This was its chance to captivate. If I were beaten, so be it. It was just that sort of day and I wasn’t going to feel any worse.

Five hours later I realised I’d need to sleep.

The book is sitting on the table in front of me now, calling to me, and I’m not opening it. I have things to do. I will do nothing else if I open the book.

I’m fascinated, involved, totally engrossed by the goshawk (never knew they existed) Mabel and her owner Helen, an academic and experienced falconer. Helen is struggling with death and grief; Mabel is a young bird, learning about living. “Her demeanour switches from everything scares me to I see it all; I own all this and more.” I went to bed after a key moment- “A baby hawk that’s just worked out who she is. What she’s for.”

I’m unlikely to experience a late blooming of interest in birds of prey, but my faith in the power of a well told story is reinforced. Today I feel like an addict, working out how long I hold off until I get back to it. How long will the mundane messages take? Maybe I could finish the book first? Or just read a chapter? (Not even fooling myself with that one.)

kafka, book, axe, sea

So, there it is. The solution to being left behind, shrouded in brain fog and too anxious to leave the house. The solution to my just about everything.

A good story, well told.

Read a book. Always. Read a book.