On the Edge

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.

It’s like my anxiety took speed then jumped out of a burning plane without a parachute into a sea of hungry crocodiles

(I know crocodiles don’t live in the sea)

This week I thought I was having to prepare myself to lose my Mum.

It all started with a standard MRI scan – her bones were hurting and we needed to find out if it was her hips or her back, or both. At the scan Mum had to change into orange scrubs – she came out of the changing room all Orange is the New Black, and I was all like Judge Judy proclaiming that I sentenced her to life for crimes against haircuts during my childhood – and she crossed her legs protectively and was all “Shut up I’m going to pee myself.” and we giggled stupidly like teenagers.

On Monday Mum went to collect her results – which revealed a lump. But the bone doctor couldn’t deal with her, she needed to go to Gynae.

Gynae?

In the interim Mum had blood tests and whilst there, given the card of a cancer specialist nurse. She would be seen by the doctor on Friday.

Cancer?

Really?

Was this really happening?

Monday night I sat in the bath and cried – of course, my poorly brain told me that my Mum was dying. My poorly brain also told me to make plans. So I did. I’d go and stay with her and I’ll care for her. She’ll never be alone again. My poorly brain also reminded me of every-single-thing I hadn’t done to make her proud. My poorly brain gave me images of her funeral, and how I’ll wake up every morning and for three seconds everything will seem perfect until I remember she’s gone. My poorly brain started to shut down.

On Tuesday morning, my Harvey dog got sick again (he’d been poorly the week before, but blood tests had told us he was OK.) Too early to call Mum to check if she was still alive, I walked Harvey, because walking is Harvey’s second most favourite thing to do.

But my usually boisterous crazy cocker spaniel didn’t want to walk. He shlopped along beside me like a 20 year old dog, and my poorly brain told me that this was it, everything’s fucked – all the living breathing things I love most dearly are going to die at the same time. I broke down in tears again, and to add to the awkward – this time publicly. People walked passed me staring – the crazy woman speaking out loud to her dog telling him he had to walk and can’t die because right now is not convenient…not now and not ever.

The crazy woman in her wellies and morning hair and I don’t blame them for walking past me either.

I called Bernard because when it gets bad, that’s what I do. I told him that I hated my brain and how it makes me think of every worst case scenario in every situation and I wanted it to stop. He told me that everything was OK and it wasn’t my fault, that my brain is poorly and when he gets home he’ll unscrew my brain and make the bad go, and I was happy with that. Bernard knows how to snap me out of terror and make me smile.

But Harvey got more poorly. And I was still convinced that Mum was dying.

Tuesday turned to Wednesday and I tried to keep it light with Mum. She was scared too. I called her lump Tarquin. I told her that we were going to make Tarquin fuck right off – that he wasn’t invited to this party and how bloody dare he show his face around here. She smiled and that’s all that mattered. I never told Mum I could see her funeral in my head in graphic detail. She didn’t need to be worrying about my poorly brain too.

Harvey wouldn’t poo though. He’d had blood tests, he’d had injections – he just wouldn’t poo. I began endless loops of dragging him around the block and cooking and feeding him chicken breast willing him to poo. The vet told me to give it another day. My poorly brain told me that he had a blockage in his intestine and if I kept feeding him and he didn’t poo his intestine would burst and he’d die and oh yeah, my Mum’s got a lump called Tarquin that’s killing her.

Friday morning came around. 4am I was wide awake. Mum’s appointment was at 11am – I drank 4 coffees and waited until it was 6:30am to walk Harvey again whilst willing him to “do a fucking poo for Mummy PLEASE.”

At 6:45am Harvey did a poo. I rejoiced. I sang to him, and skipped and he wagged his tail and trotted beside me and the relief poured through me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and my poorly brain told me that maybe he wasn’t going to die after all, but don’t forget – Tarquin’s still gatecrashing the party. Filing that thought until the end of my walk,  I saw my friend with her two dogs, and swang the precious poo in it’s bag around my head in a circle of victory and she whooped in celebration too because she knew that Harvey wasn’t right and how badly my poorly brain had been treating me.

At 10:50am Mum and I entered the gynae department. We sat waiting for the doctor. In front of us a rack of pamphlets, every single one documenting information about every kind of female cancer there is. Mum grabbed my hand, I squeezed it and smiled at her. “Either way Mum, it’s all going to be OK, I’ll make sure of it, don’t you worry.” I had no idea how I was going to fulfill that promise, but at that point – I could have fought a lion and won.

The cancer specialist nurse called us in. The doctor, a handsome chap of around 12 years old it seemed told Mum he was going to examine her – she asked if I could be with her – I, in my nervousness blurted “Yeah, as long as I don’t have to see her foomph.” Mortified I closed my eyes and heard my Mum snort and the doctor laugh telling me there was no need for me to be at the ‘business end’ if I didn’t want to be – the tension broke. Mum prepared to be probed by a 12 year old.

Turned out Tarquin is 98% probably a cyst, the horrid little bastard. If I thought that nothing could top the relief of seeing poo come out of my dog’s bum I was totally wrong – for I could have squeezed that doctor until he squeaked for the comfort he gave us. We got Mum back in her undies and skinny jeans before you could say “speculum” and out of there.

She’s booked for an op to remove her ovaries and I shall be there to nurse her afterwards. I’m pretty sure she’s going to ground me for sharing stuff about the innards of her va-jay-jay but I shall take the hit and surely she’s used to me and my ways by now?

Happy Mother’s Day my lovely Mum – here’s to at least 50 more!