What do you do when you’re alone on the edge of a cliff on what’s supposed to be the best day of your life looking out at the sea, which in turn is crashing on the ragged rocks below you and the only light surrounding you is the crescent moon and distant beam from a lighthouse spinning and illuminating the landscape around you, a second of light illuminating reality before it turns its full 360, black again.
Blink and it’s gone.
And at that very moment, standing on the cliff you’re hit with an understanding, a truth, something you’d never really understood before because you never wanted to understand – and that was why some people have a need to stop. Stop the spinning, stop the chaos, the pain, the panic. Life. Just end it.
This is what I did:
I kicked off my flip flops, ran down the wooden steps as if my life depended on it, and it did – and ran back into the luxury caravan my beautiful new husband had booked for us to spend our first few nights as a married couple in. I unceremoniously flung myself on to the bed next to his snoozy, slightly inebriated soul, and he lifted his arm so I could nestle in the safe place – safe but full of fear.
“Are you OK babe?” he asked sleepily.
“No.” I cried. My snotty tears wrapped my face and settled into my now dishevelled and unwinding wedding hair.
“Want to talk?.”
“Yes.” I sobbed.
Now most new husbands certainly don’t expect to spend their wedding night talking – or walking half-drunk along a deserted, pitch black, unmade road with their new bride who’s clearly unstable and not because of the several triple jack daniels she necked at the reception, but because the demon that is anxiety has taken its grip…again. No new groom wants to flip-flop miles and miles when there’s a perfectly wonderful luxury king size bed waiting in the perfectly luxurious caravan he’s spend a month’s wages on to spend this very special night, whilst she walks off her inexplicable and entirely unwarranted panic attack, which will in turn, eventually, ease the unbearable at times, physical pain she feels all day every day. No, most new grooms want to be doing what grooms do on their wedding night.
But my husband had already been with me for 12 years. He knew the story well. He had lived and breathed it with me for all those years. Sometimes he watched in horror how the panic would grip me and turn me inside out, trying desperately to help but not having the answers. He’d reach out to me, hold me, whilst I, like a deer in headlights shook and reeled from an unknown yet really real fear. He would laugh with me, walk with me, shout with me, sing with me, dance with me – whatever I needed to get through that moment of sheer horror, through the crazy and indescribable terror into a moment, a precious moment, when the fear didn’t grip me, and then he’d celebrate me and cheer me and feel all of the joy with me.
My husband, it should be noted if you hadn’t already worked out, isn’t any normal husband – he’s an uber Husband and I thank all the known gods for him every single day.
That moment on the cliff was my turning point – my lowest point. Whilst I stood there overlooking the sea, hearing the soft lulled snores of my man float from the caravan, I’d reached rock bottom. There was no rhyme and certainly no reason for me to feel the way I felt. I’d just married my man for goodness sake. I’d had a wedding day many people would dream of. I had the fairytale and every single person I loved and who loved me was there and I had been spoiled rotten – so, why the hell would I be having such a horrific lightbulb moment in the middle of the night as to the reasons a person might kill themselves. Why I might kill myself?
It made no sense.
But that’s the thing with anxiety. It makes no sense. If it did we wouldn’t have it would we? If we could figure it out, then we could find the switch to turn it off. We could stick our fingers up at it, – “fuck you anxiety, get back in your box.” – “I know you, I know your game.” Thing is though, anxiety is the ultimate unknown guest. The parasite that sucks your very soul – and at that moment, when I felt the lowest I could possibly feel for no reason whatsoever, I began to fight back. I’d waited too long to feel the happy I should have been feeling right there and then, and as I looked at my Man – he’d waited long enough too. Living with someone who suffers from anxiety must be hard, and the look in his eyes as he looked back into mine broke my heart.
“I wish you were happy.”
And all I could do, through tears and snot bubbles is laugh and say “I am.”
And I know how utterly ludicrous those two words sounded to him right then, but it was true – I was. So very very happy…yet so very very fucked up – so scared that I’d come to understand the thoughts of someone who was on the precipice of ending it all and that scared me even more – because that’s the very last thing I ever wanted. I had never, in all the downs I’ve ever had (and there’s been a few over the years) I had never been at such peace knowing why someone might want to end it. At such peace of knowing that I might want to end it.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been angsty, as a child I was, as a teenager I was and as a young woman I was – but I always had just enough sass to get through it. It never disabled me. It threatened to, but it never did. Then about 15 years ago, it took me over. There was no amount of sass I could muster to get through it. I retreated. I remained gobby Cora on the outside, but on the inside I was dying.
During the months before the wedding I had felt the anxiety building. I talked myself down, this is normal, all brides feel like this before their wedding. I’d speak with my nearest and dearest and they’d all agree – all brides feel like it – stop being so dramatic Cora, and so I went along with it. But I knew I was heading somewhere dark. I wanted to believe I was just doing the ‘normal’ thing. But ‘normal’ is not a word that’s ever been used to describe me. Of course I couldn’t have ‘normal’ wedding fears. I had to take it deeper didn’t I. I didn’t know how I was doing it. Maybe I was overthinking the overthinking?
My body began to feel broken, I was in a lot of physical pain, it hurt to breathe, if indeed I could take a deep breath at all – because breathing was the hardest thing to do – and when you can’t breathe, you die – and I didn’t want to die, I wanted to marry my man – so if I put my head in the sand and pretended there was no pain, and that I could breathe and everything was OK I was just feeling ‘normal’ bride fear – then it would go away.
But, having half a brain cell I knew that this was no normal sequence of events – I was hurtling headlong into an abyss and I couldn’t stop it, I just had to ride it and let it do what it was going to do and my final thought before the crash was “OK, you’ve broken me. Take it. Take it all.”
And then I woke up, and the lighthouse light showed me the waves and I kicked those flip flops off and ran to my Man, cos that’s where I was meant to be. With him. Not on the edge.