Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And lo it came to pass...

No sooner had I written that post about the panicometer then one of my worst fears was realised. Namely that mil would have a fall. Not only did she have a fall, but she did it at night and the wretched panic button which she's had for 12 years and never needed didn't work. On top of that she'd left the grill on. So she lay all night on the floor in her bedroom, which is where she managed to crawl to. On the bright side, at least she didn't burn down the flats and all the occupants therein. She was found in the morning by the carer, who was let in by one of the neighbours. Typically Friday morning was the only day in weeks that I'd managed to leave my mobile behind, so though I am the nearest I was the last to get the call. Given my current levels of anxiety this was a blessing, because by the time I found out what was happening the paramedics already had her in the ambulance and Spouse was on his way home. We then spent the day in Casualty with her, while bil and sil dealt with the flat. I laughingly joked at 11am that we'd still be there when it was time to do the school run, and of course that's what happened. Luckily the hospital is literally between the two schools. And as it happened we were booked in for a tour of the children's ward where no 4 is having her op. So hey, we could kill two birds with one stone. Always a bright side I find...

In a funny kind of way the fact that this has now happened has made me feel better. It's been a big fear, and it was all dealt with. Which isn't to say it hasn't been a stressful weekend. It has. Not least because on top of that, we had an emotionally charged social arrangement which had been making me feel like crap all week. The stress of mil's fall took the edge off that however, and I did manage to get through the evening without succumbing to the panic attack which hovered around the edges for the whole night. As Spouse needed a calming beer or two I had to do without my diazepam, and having coped allright with that I felt somewhat better the next day.

However, looking after an elderly relative on top of running a busy household isn't without its stresses, however much you want to do it. And on Sunday night mil suddenly announced she wanted to spend some time in a care home. Up until now she's always wanted to stay at home so it was a huge shock. Added to which we always wanted to be the ones to look after her, but it really isn't possible on a longterm basis. Spouse and I both hated the home that fil went to for respite care, where we felt he wasn't treated with the respect or compassion he deserved, so we were both angsting on Sunday night about the best course of action. Bil and sil looked into some local homes, and luckily there is a fantastic one on the way home from school. We went to look at it yesterday and sil and I both felt that she's going to get really good care there. The aim is to get her up and running and back to her flat, but really, if she had to stay longer, for the first time I don't feel worried about that. She'll be in a place where she will be treated with dignity and importantly there will be plenty of other people to talk to. We can come and go as we please, so I can bring the kids in after school, which will be wonderful not only for mil, but for them, because this whole thing is a bit unnerving for them all.

So for the first time in 13 years I can scrub no 2 of my panicometer. At least for the next three weeks I really won't have to worry about mil, because I know she's going to be all right. I can't tell you what a relief that is.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Panicometer

Please bear with me. I'm trying do some self therapy here. Although, thankfully, I have been given the all clear by the cardiologist (I do have a slight heart murmur, but it's nothing to worry about), sadly this hasn't meant an instant end to all that angsting and neuroticism. Hell, I've been building it up for YEARS, so it's not going away in an instant is it? I've been given a lot of good advice over the last few weeks, and had stonking support (particularly here, thanks guys), and best of all no one has told me I'm bonkers. Which is very nice of them, because frankly, when I followed some of that good advice and wrote down all the things that worry me (scrub that - all the things that freak me out), I realise the list is as long as your arm, and a normal person should just be able to shrug most of them off. My problem is too much imagination. A very good thing in a writer, but as I've mentioned before, a really rubbish thing in a mother.

So in order to help myself out of this angst ridden hole I've decided to rate my worries on the Panicometer. There are rather a lot. So I maybe some time.

1 Let me start with the children. How do I worry about the children? Let me count the ways...

a)I worry they'll be ill. They can never just have a cold, automatically (at the moment) I'm assuming it's swine flu. When they have a temperature, I still check for meningitis. In my defence I did have nos2 & 4 in hospital several times with asthma attacks when they were tiny so it has led to a lingering fear. But really. They are perfectly healthy. I am very lucky. Ergo I should stop worrying...
Panic rating 100

b) I worry about them growing up. This merits a whole post in itself. Overnight no 1 has gone from being a stay at home Peter Pan to meeting her mates down the parks. I always know where she is, but suppose she stops telling me. She's starting to meet boys. They might start drinking. I keep hearing tales of sleepovers where boys and girls share rooms. There are drugdealers in the local park... I want her to be independent, I want her to have fun, but oh boy oh boy do I want her to be safe. She thinks I'm an overprotective mother hen. She is probably right.
Panic rating 150

c) I worry about them being upset. Last term was a case in point. One by one they came to me with problems relating to school friends. I know they have to go through this stuff, but god I hate it when it happens. Can't bear to see them miserable, then I panic about how bad it is for them, when they are long over it. So should I be...
Panic rating 50.

d) currently angsting hugely about no 4 who has to have a very minor and straightforward operation on her foot. Yesterday she had to have an MRI scan. Was in much more of a state then she was during it. Her lips looked all red, and at one point I was convinced she was bleeding. Why on earth did I think an MRI scan would make her lips bleed? I really have no idea...
Panic rating 200

2 I worry about mil. Is she eating enough? Is she drinking enough? When it's hot, is she too hot? When it's cold, is she too cold? If she falls over in her flat will she be wearing her emergency phone button?(actually she has of late). Will something happen to her when I'm on the way to the school run? Will I be the one to find her ill/dying? The last is not totally unreasonable, considering I am physically nearest to her during the day, and I was first on the scene when fil died. I am also having a belated reaction to her having been very very ill last winter. But still. As the sensible casualty nurse said to me when I voiced the fear that she might die, well we all die. And it's not as if I am the only one to have to deal with this now. But you know. The panicy bit of my brain revels in this kind of stuff. So...
Mil gets a panic rating of 200+

3 I also worry about my own mum. Who is getting older. And lives a long way away. But she is pretty fit and healthy for a near octagenarian. So that's a worry that's currently ridiculous. Like so many of the things I panic about, I panic about if before it happens, then panic when it happens. It's like I punish myself twice. The joys of catholic guilt.
So Ma, you get a panic rating of 0. I don't need to worry about you yet.

4 Get this. I worry about the computer. About how much time I spend on it. How little I achieve when I can spend a whole day twittering and blogging. Oh and occasionally writing a novel. When I first came back from holidays I could barely sit at the computer without an immediate wave of panic flowing over me. This is getting better. But not gone yet.
So panic rating 50

5 I worry about the housework. Yes. Truly I do. I hate housework. I also hate an untidy house. There is always too much to do. And I never feel on top of it. And when I'm working it makes me feel guilty. And when I'm doing housework I feel guilty about not working. And when it's done the children can undo the work in a moment. And then I get cross. And then I feel guilty. And then I am anxious because the house is untidy, and I'm not in control. And ergo. I am a control freak in desperate need of a cleaner. Or a wife. That would help.
Panic rating 100

6 New born babies. I suppose that counts with children. Except I don't have any anymore. But when I did have my own, while I loved the newborn bit I simultaneously hated it. Couldn't stand the fragility of the little buggers. Just wanted them to get bigger, so they didn't seem so bleeding vulnerable. Spent the first six weeks of no 1's life in state of high anxiety, even stopping the car once because I was so convinced she'd died in the car seat (she did look rather waxy and still). Spouse got so fed up with me he accused me of wanting her to be ill - I didn't, I just was terrified she would be (see worry 1 above). And now I don't have newborn babies of my own, I am absolutely terrified of holding anyone elses's. Lord alone knows how I'll ever cope with grandchildren if I'm lucky enough to get any.
Panic rating 150

7 Dogs. This is a life long phobia entirely driven by family mythology. Before I was born we had a dog which apparently ripped my mother's best dress to shreds. I've never been able to cope with dogs, but a couple of times in late childhood I found myself on the wrong side of a barking dog, and was literally rooted to the spot. Spouse has worked much positive therapy on me over the years (he would love a dog), so I can actually bear to touch them now, and I always try to pat them in front of the kids because I don't want to pass on the fear, but really? If I could I would always walk in the opposite direction to our furry friends. And though at once stage I thought maybe we could get ourselves a pooch, the reality is I couldn't stand to be in the house alone with one as would have to be the case. So dogs. You're still near my top worry and you get a panic rating of 300.

8 Family holidays. Aagh. I used to love holidays before I had children. Then they came along and we were limited to campsites and grotty English hotels, and children being sick before, after and during our trips. When we finally ventured abroad to France, the place we stayed in shut down for September so there was nothing to do to entertain four children under the age of 6. Then we had a disastrous holiday in Spain over which a veil should be properly drawn, and two very wet camping trips. The second of which involved driving round Europe, breaking children's limbs, being burgled, and staying on the worst campsite in the world. Not surprisingly we came home early. We've also done several trips to Germany with mil and the children. Relaxing. Not. Plus on top of that I get to have all my usual worries about the children, are they ill, will they have an accident, are they about to drown in foreign country. Magic. Recipe for a stress free time. Is it any wonder I had a major panic attack the day before I went on holiday? Ironically of course, had I not been panicking so much, I would have had a really relaxing time...
Panic rating 500

9 Panicking about relationships. Oh I am champion at this. I have a strong oversensitive streak, which leads me to analyse every single conversation I ever have with people. I play back conversations in my head, worry that I have caused offence when none was intended, worry that this will affect my relationships, then inevitably it does affect my relationships. I am particularly prone to this in my online dealings. So. if I ever offend you, I never meant to. And if you think I'm overreacting to something, that's probably because I am.
Panic rating 300

10 But top dollar has to go my greatest fear of all. Fear of flying. Jeez. How I hate getting on bloody aeroplanes. If God had meant us to fly he 'd have given us wings. I didn't start off phobic about flying. In fact I used to quite like it. But then we had a trip back from Istanbul when we could see a plane flying above us which spooked me, and it's all been downhill from there. Yes, yes, yes. I know it's the safest form of transport. It just doesn't feel safe. I am just about ok if stare fixedly ahead and read my book for the duration of the flight, and thanks to the wonders of diazepam I can cope, but no, I'd rather not do it. Which is of course plain stupid. If I opt not to fly I won't ever go anywhere again. And there's a big wide world out there. Most of which I haven't seen. My fear is so stupidly irrational, I hate flying without the children, which I've done a couple of times, because it feels selfish to do something which might kill me when they're not with me. To follow this through to its logical conclusion, as a friend pointed out to me, I'd rather be in a plane crash and we'd all die, then me die and the children be safe. And of course, I could be run over by a bus tomorrow. Or have a heart attack for that matter.
Panic rating a big whopping 1000+

So there you have it. Ten of the things that worry me most. And I never even mentioned driving...

Next bit of self therapy. How to find my happy place. I sure could do with knowing exactly where it is...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Such a Perfect Day...

After my last rather melodramatic post, I thought I'd write about something a bit more cheerful, and as it happens I am feeling a lot better so ergo I am more cheerful. I will probably be returning to my angst ridden state, if only to take the piss out of myself - laughter really is the best medicine I find, but not today. Today is about much happier things.

Twenty years ago today was the day I tripped down the aisle (actually it's a very short aisle so it was a mere few steps) to marry Spouse. So I thought I'd celebrate by blogging my wedding day, which remains the most perfect day of my life. (I know technically I should include the days the children were born, but hell, there was ALOT of pain before they came out, so I'd say the moments they were born were perfect, the rest was not).

As I am also currently writing about weddings, it also seems rather appropriate to delve into the old memory banks to get me in the mood for when I get back to work in a minute...

Spouse and I met at university (this deserves a whole other post as in a few weeks time it will be 25 years since we met. Eek. I can't possibly be that old) and were among the first of our friends to get married, which I seem to remember causing mild consternation at the time. One of them even begged us not to do it - mind you fil wasn't too happy when we announced our engagement either, but then Spouse's brother had just announced his divorce so our timing wasn't the best (-:

Although I grew up in London, my parents took off to Shropshire the year before we got married, so we were blessed with being able to have a country wedding in a tiny church which I still go to when I'm visiting my mum. I'd show you a picture, but my scanner's on the blink, which means you aren't going to get any wedding pics either. Sorry about that.

However, the course to our wedding day wasn't an entirely smooth one. Is it for anyone? I doubt it somehow. For a start, dearly as I love my mother, she is an organiser extraordinaire and gets very definite ideas about things. One of which was that we should send everyone home at around 7pm. This was mainly so she could avoid us having a disco as she hates them. Given a choice I'd rather not have an argument with anyone, but we had invited people from all over the country, most of whom would be staying the night. The town my mum lives in is lovely, but there isn't a whole lot to do after dark, especially not twenty years ago. So I put my foot down and won that one. 1-0 to me.

Then two months before the wedding the woman who ran the hotel we'd booked ran away with the chef, so the business was being sold, about a week before we were due to get married. It was too late to book another venue. My poor mother was beside herself. So was I. But I was totally wrapped up in wedding mania by then and I wasn't at all sympathetic to her suggestion we got a marquee in the back garden. I don't know why, but I thought it would be a bit naff. So I remember having a very teary and fraught conversation on the phone (it's incredibly tedious organising a wedding from a distance of 200 miles I can tell you) sitting on the floor of our new home which was devoid of furniture and fittings and rather summed up the despair I was feeling at the time. My mum was adamant though. There wasn't any other choice really. 1-1.

As it happened she was completely and utterly right. We hired a local firm of caterers, my dad was able to get all the wine he wanted from the local wine merchants without paying corkage (people still talk about the wine at our wedding), and it was a lovely intimate setting on the day. Much much better then being an impersonal hotel. I'm thinking of suggesting it to my girls if they ever get married. So 2-1 to my ma really. In the end.

The second disaster to hit us was the small matter of our wedding rings. Being incredibly naive, when we got engaged, Spouse just took me into a shop in Hatton Garden, which is near where I worked at the time, we chose a ring, wandered off for half an hour while they resized it and that was that. We were so frantically busy before the wedding we'd left buying rings till the last moment. Well. Two weeks before at any rate. We had no time to pop up to Hatton Garden so we went into our local jewellers and ordered two rings. To our consternation they told us the rings would have to be sent away to be sized and would come back in two weeks time. Oh, we said weakly, that's when we're getting married. Luckily, they had an express service. The rings could be back within the week.

Only they weren't. I went in on the Saturday before the wedding. Nope. No sign of them. I then pushed off to Shropshire, leaving poor Spouse and various kind relatives to pay daily visits to the shop to no avail. By Thursday the situation was critical, so my mother suggested I tried the local jeweller, who was unable to sell us rings but helpfully offered to lend us some. I can't have you going up the aisle, naked m'dear, he said in his soft Shropshire burr, to my delight.

Needless to say, despite Spouse having a rare hissy fit in the jeweller's the day before the wedding, we still had no rings, so when he arrived ashen faced at 4pm I was able to whisk him to my new best friend and we were furnished with a pair of rings to see us through the day. Unfortunately I wasn't able to prevent the priest from blessing them, but I did stop the photographer in his tracks by announcing I was giving them back on Monday when tried to take a picture.

So rings all sorted, we were raring to go. Well, I was. As you might have noticed by now, I am a champion worrier(-: However, I tend to do my worrying months in advance. So come the big day I was serene and relaxed. Spouse on the other hand is a seats of your pants kind of person. So he never thinks about things till he has to. Hence he was in a terrible state the night before the wedding, suggesting we ran away to Gretna Green just so we didn't have to stand up in front of all those people (Spouse unlike me, who am heap big show off, doesn't relish a crowd, and the thought of making a speech made him feel physically sick). Tempting as it was, I wouldn't let him whisk me away, but we did spend a very happy evening in the local boozer with all our mates.

I'd like to say my wedding day dawned fair, but sadly it was cold and grey and cloudy. Weirdly enough though, I was so elated all day long I didn't feel the cold at all, in fact I was quite surprised when one of my aunts told me later that she'd been frozen all day.

I can't remember quite how early I woke, but I was up and out and at the hairdressers by 9am. The great thing about getting married in a small town is that everyone I spoke to knew about it. Even though my parents hadn't been there very long, they were sufficiently well known in the town for people to stop me and say, Oh you're the bride. It was a fantastic feeling that. Made me feel like a popstar. The other great thing was the town was also full of our friends and relatives so I kept bumping into people.

When I got back the house was a hive of activity. The lady who'd arranged our flowers arrived with the most gorgeous bouquet of gold and yellow roses for me, and two sprays for my grown up bridesmaids (Mad Twin and my other closest sister both gorgeous in gold) and a little posy for my lovely 5 year old niece. The flower lady was amazing, and lived in a wonderful old cottage somewhere up a Shropshire hill. She took my ideas and produced something really special (and she's just about to go in a book as a result (-:) What a happy house, she declared as she left. And it was. Both a happy house and an ecstatically happy day.

At some point I must have had a bath, as I remember being mortified to be found in my dressing gown when the best man arrived to pick up the button holes (gold of course). Then my second eldest sister pounced on me to do my nails (she's a bit like that, dead bossy), so I spent a tedious half hour waving my fingers out of the window to make them dry. I am champion at smudging nail varnish, so I really didn't want to scuff them. I can remember just being incredibly serene, despite the busyness around me.

Then my niece arrived with her mother, just as I was getting into my dress - very plain, shot silk with lace for the train, made my immensely talented mother. (She also made the cake. I think my girls will have to make do with the bride shop (-: ) You look like a princess, she said. I felt like one too. I was never one to obsess about a white wedding as a child, but without a doubt, I felt incredibly special that day. And I loved wearing my dress and veil and being the centre of attention. Told you I was a show off.

The morning had dragged, but suddenly from lunchtime onwards things seemed to speed up. My brother was despatched to Shrewsbury to pick up an aunt and uncle (long story but basically my aunt made a - we think - bigamous marriage to an American second cousin, then became very difficult. First they were coming to the wedding, then they weren't, and at the last minute, suddenly they were again.) - however he got there and they weren't there. Instead they pitched up at the house as the car arrived to take me and my dad to church.

My uncle - well actually I never really thought of him as such - was a strange looking creature. He had a turtle like head, and a rather dessicated look about him. And I was much taken with the bobbing up and down of his head as he shook my hand earnestly and said in his Californian drawl, Oh, what a beautiful bride. In the meantime my eldest sister was subtly trying to get them into her car, so they wouldn't actually arrive at the church after us.

Then I was left alone with my dad. A moment of high tension for both of us, until we both realised how nervous we were and fell about laughing instead. I had the greatest time with my dad that day. When we got the church we laughed and laughed at the hapless photographer who'd probably never had such an unhelpful subject as my dad, who simply refused to take it seriously and kept looking the wrong way and pulling silly faces. One of my favourite photographs though, is of us holding hands and looking back at the camera, with the bridesmaids framed in the background. Wer'e both laughing, a happy spontaneous moment, from a wonderful wonderful day.

We giggled some more when we got to the door of the church and didn't know what to do as someone had shut the church door. In the end we shoved it open and then walked down the aisle in a matter of seconds (it's a very small church), and then my dad slipped away and I was sitting next to Spouse. Who looked dreadful. He was white as a sheet and looked as if he was about to throw up (I learnt afterwards he'd had to have about four G&Ts to steady his nerves. But he still managed to whisper You look gorgeous, which still makes me go all gooey when I think about it.

The wedding itself was a catholic nuptial mass - a bit of an ordeal for most of our agnostic friends, but I did want a ceremony that had meaning and wasn't over quickly. For our readings we chose John 4:&-13 and Psalm 128 which my parents had at their wedding - one verse of which now seems incredibly appropriate: Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house/Your children will be like olive shoots around your table (hmm, not sure we were expecting four olive shoots back then, but we're not sorry now.) When it came to our vows, I refused point blank to honour and obey, so we opted for cherishing one another instead, which is much much nicer anyway.

After the service was over we had endless photos in the garden. I am laughing in every single one. I just couldn't stop laughing. Every time I turned around someone clicked and took a photo of me. It was like being a film star for the day. And everywhere I turned there were friends and family congratulating us. It was just brilliant.

Then it was back to the house, and Spouse and I scooted straight through to make sure we got to the reception line before any of the guests. The caterers were already in the house and so were my late arriving aunt and uncle. Spouse had never met them before, and hilariously mistook the man solemnly shaking his hand and saying What a happy day for a very enthusiastic caterer.

I can't tell you what we had to eat that day. I don't think I ate very much of it. I was on such a high. I talked and laughed, and talked some more. I don't think I even drank very much. I didn't need to. I was drunk on the day itself.

My ma in law though, did get a little squiffy - she doesn't drink alot and the champagne went right to her head. This led to her having a very tired and emotional moment, so I spent at least half an hour trying to calm her down. Where were the men in the family, you ask? Nowhere. The first of many lessons in how the Williams men will run a mile at the first sight of emotion...

Eventually mil calmed down and Spouse and I worked the room, making a point of talking to each other's families. This was somewhat more daunting for Spouse then I. My family is HUGE. Not only do I have seven siblings, but my mother has five, so there were lots of uncles and aunts to get to know. It took Spouse at least three family weddings to feel comfortable with them all.
He was still stressing about his speech. Me being more stridently feminist in those days didn't see why the men got to do all the talking. So I made a speech too. I giggled my way through most of it, so it probably wasn't my finest hour, and the boys who didn't want to speak at all couldn't understand why I did, but I really didn't see why I shouldn't be allowed to get a word in on my special day. Both my dad and Spouse made speeches which were short and to the point, and the best man did a sterling job of staying the right side of good taste, so after that everyone could relax a bit, till it was time for the disco.

By way of making up for the fact that we hadn't been able to use the hotel, the ex owner, managed to wangle it so we could use the banqueting room attached to it for the evening. So we did, and had the disco there. My mother, having not got her way on the disco, managed to create a compromise and got us all doing Scottish country dancing to get the ball rolling. 3-1 to my mother I think. As fil was keen on this too, they both took it rather seriously. However by the time we got to it, most of our guests had imbibed far too much of my father's incredibly generous allocation of wine, including Mad Twin who was doing the calling. Factoring in also that our generation predates Strictly Come Dancing, not a one of us had a clue what we were doing. So the result was a riotous disaster. But what the hell. It just made me laugh all the more.

The evening passed far too quickly and by midnight we were supposed to have left. But the best man had organised a special surprise for us in the shape of a rolls royce which was driving round the Shropshire countryside for most of the evening so was rather late reaching us. We ended up being sent out after a round of congratulations. Spouse by now was well past the point of rational thought. As we sped off down the country lanes to the hotel where we staying the night, he blinked around him, and said, Gosh, this is a jolly big black cab. Probably the only time he's ever likely to go in a roller. And to this day he doesn't remember a thing...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

So... here's the thing.

I have thought long and hard about blogging this, but given that a) (and I say this with some irony) my next book deals in part with a variety of mental health issues b) I think as a nation we are still far too good at brushing such issues under the carpet, and c) I thought it might help anyone who is going through/has been through similar, I have decided to lift the lid on the last six weeks, which rate as among the most peculiar in my life. Please feel free to look away if you think this is pile of self indulgent clap trap. I won't be offended, I promise...

I used to be a bit cynical about psychological issues - I always liked that joke in Crocodile Dundee, when Mick can't get his head round why everyone in the States is in therapy - where he comes from, if you have a problem, you tell Wally, he tells everyone, no more problem. I thought that for a lot of people going to therapy was a form of self indulgence, and it was certainly not something I would have considered.

That all changed eleven years ago, when a series of lifechanging events, some good, some not so good sent me spiralling out of control, and I realised I was suffering from a mild form of depression. I had never sought help after my father died, but my GP suggested bereavement counselling might help. I went for six weeks, found it every bit as excruciating as I'd expected, but did realise that I had been knocked off kilter by events, and that I would bounce back, which I duly did.

Five years ago, I found myself at my wit's end, feeling overwhelmed with the combined responsiblities of looking after the children, and mil. I took myself off to the doc again, and he prescribed anti depressants. I did take them for a short period, but on that occasion, the act of seeking help, was almost enough, and I found that in time I didn't need them.

I don't think I'm suffering from depression now, but I am feeling the effects of long term stress. I don't wish to sound like an aggrieved martyr or anything (because I don't view it like that), but Spouse and I are unusual among our peers in very soon after we became parents, we took on some of the responsibility of his parents, when my fil had a stroke. We had an eight month old baby, fil was in hospital for three months, and when he came out it was clear that they couldn't manage in their house. Fortunately we were able to find a flat up the road from us, which has been a great boon, and meant we have been able to be on hand and look after them both originally and mil now. We haven't been alone in this as Spouse's bil and sil are luckily also on hand, but as I'm the one at home, I do tend to do a lot of the day to day stuff. All of this, coupled with looking after four children has been at times quite stressful, particularly this year when mil has been very ill. (On the plus side, the children have seen a lot of their grandparents, and I know fil took huge pleasure from that, and mil still does, so it ain't all bad.) It is no wonder, though, that my body has now apparently said enough is enough.

When I came back from Menorca and saw my GP, I was so relieved that I wasn't about to instantly cark it from a massive coronary, I felt much better. I had some trusty propanalol (beta blockers) to take in case of adrenalin surges, I knew exercising, of which I do a reasonable amount, helped, and most of all I knew what was happening to me, which meant I could regain some kind of control of the situation. Wrong.

As it turns out the last three weeks have been a hideous hideous experience in terms of all my many many anxieties about life, some real, some imagined have exploded in my head and left me in a ridiculously heightened state of anxiety about absolutely everything.

Viz. We had a weekend with my family& some friends visiting the Globe to see Romeo & Juliet a couple of weeks back. Given that the Globe is my favourite place in London now alongside the Tower of London and I have been desperate to see a show there for ages, this should have been a great day out. And it was. For everyone else. For me, though I enjoyed it on one level, on another level there was an undercurrent of worry that ran like a hidden stream through my whole day, to the point at which I was talking about my writing to someone - something which absolutely does NOT make me anxious, and even that set me off.

The next day lots of family came to lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day. The kids had a blast in the pool and garden. We sat soaking up the sun in a relaxed and easy manner. I was thrilled to be with my siblings whom I don't see nearly enough of. And yet, that too was marred by the undercurrent of worry which persistently refused to go away.

The next week wasn't too bad. I had moments of anxiety, but as I wasn't doing a great deal, and not straying too far from home, it all felt manageable. So much so that on my follow up visit to the GP I felt emboldened to say that I felt my anxiety levels on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, were at about 4. Which only goes to show how wrong you can be. On the Saturday, we did have a lovely family day out - one of the best of the whole holiday. We went for a long tramp across the downs, and ended up kite flying. Aha! I thought, I have found my happy place (a suggestion of my twin was to find my happy place and try and go there when the anxiety gets too much), and I have vanquished my undercurrent deep underground.

But the following day the undercurrent burst forth in a veritable flood. We went to visit Brooklands for the day, and I felt so bad I was reduced to surreptitiously blowing into a paper bag in the car hoping that the kids wouldn't notice. I had bargained without eagle eyed no 2 however. I tried to fob her off with a, there's nothing wrong with me (yeah, right) kind of conversation, but realising it panics her more not to know what's happening I've given her an edited version. Thank God for Friends. She knows all about panic attacks because Janis had one once apparently...

Last week then went from bad to worse. I was waking early overcome with crippling feelings of anxiety, which rode my body in waves. The days were spent staving off the anxiety, and trying to ignore the hammering in my chest, the tightness in my throat, and the prickling in my arms.
In desperation I turned to a relaxation tape my brother had kindly sent. Only to discover that when in the grip of intense paranoia about the workings of your body, you do not need to get taken to such a deep place of relaxation that all you can hear is the beating of your heart. I must be the only person in the world who feels more anxious after they hear a relaxation tape then before...

By Thursday I was at my wit's end. We were going away for the weekend, the whole thing was beginning to feel really debiliatating, and I didn't know how I was going to get through each day. So I rang my GP, who decided that I needed some low level (and non addictive antedepressants) to help me regain my balance. Producing too much adrenalin (if I've understood this right) creates a chemical imbalance, and depletes your cerontonin levels, which need some help to get restored.

Now. A few years ago, like I say, I'd have said no way to drugs of any description. Surely, I thought you can pull yourself out of things by willpower. People who succumb to anxious feelings are just giving in. However, now it's happening to me, I realise this just isn't the case at all. I can no more control my anxious feelings then I can fly to the moon. And what's worse is they're with me every minute of every day. Sometimes they come more to the forefront, at which point I am in hell, and sometimes they subside, but I'm conscious they are still there, ready to bite me on the bum when I'm not looking. I just can't function like that. And I can't afford to take weeks off to recover, because who'll look after the kids if I don't? I am fortunate enough that I can ask for help (something I am very bad at) from a whole group of supportive friends, but can't do that on a permanent basis. So I need something to get me through. And if that's a mother's little helper, then so be it. ANYTHING to stop feeling the way I have been for the last six weeks.

Unfortunately, the antedepressants haven't kicked in yet, so while we managed to have a nice time away, I spent some part of every night awake, drinking hot chocolate, and breathing into my wretched paper bag (I'm not even sure that works very well for me.) to try and keep my feelings at bay. Last night, however was off the scale. So it was back to the doc's this morning. He tells me it will take time, and the drugs haven't kicked in yet. But clearly the propnalol aren't working, so as a temporary measure I'm back on diazepan just to calm me down enough till the other drugs kick in.

Like I said, I'd never have gone for this option in the past, but I have realised being on the other side of this that the view is somewhat different from here, and nothing is as straightforward about it as I might have once thought. It's been an educative lesson in discovering that even though I have a happy life, and am blessed with a wonderful husband, beautiful children and good friends, I am not immune to things going wrong. It's difficult to accept you're ill when it feels like it's all in your head. But I am ill. And I will get better. I just need a little time...