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.

Consuela Knobhead – or how nicotine withdrawal turned me into a monster

In the space of two months I have weened myself off of some pretty hard-core anxiety meds, I have embarked on a weight loss plan of 3 stone, planned my wedding, kept my business going without running away screaming and given up smoking.

You would be forgiven for thinking me Super Woman.

I am not of course.

Coming off the meds was difficult, the kind of difficult that rendered me senseless for at least a month. I came off them because I hated the fug in my head. Of course, my anxiety has increased tenfold, but I can think – and I like thinking.

The weight loss started OK, but I love food too much and I lose and gain half a stone sequentially – I’m scared I will look like Mr Blobby in lace on my wedding day. Speaking of which, I am so filled with wedding-planning-fear that the mere act of opening my wedding note-book sends me into a melt-down – and, I so very love my job, it is everything I ever wanted, but sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the things that come with running your own business, that I think I can’t do it all, and cry a bit – mostly on my Mum – who soothes me and makes me many cups of tea when she visits.

And finally, as we’re being brutally honest – I fucking hate not smoking.

I had smoked for thirty years. I did not give up cold turkey for I am not that brave. A friend set me up with one of those pen shaped puffy things to help me. It is a small and unobtrusive contraption, that doesn’t give off the storm clouds as some I’ve seen. My friend informed me that it was a good starter kit and I should use will power to help me get off the nicotine at a pace that suited me.

1. I know that there is an actual name for the ‘pen shaped puffy thing’, and I sound like a  moron saying ‘pen shaped puffy thing’, but I’ve spent so long calling it my ‘pen shaped puffy thing’, that the real name for it has completely deleted itself from my vocabulary.

2. I own no will power. Will power bypassed me for more deserving souls.

3. I also know very little about these pen shaped puffy things except that you put cherry flavoured oil in it and suck it til you pass out in the hope that it will satiate your need for nicotine. Of course it doesn’t, because in your screwed up and infinite wisdom you’ve chosen the cherry flavoured oil that is just above 0% nicotine because you refuse to have yet another substance dictate how you live your life, and as a consequence, your anxiety, which you were managing very well thank you (with the help of a slow release betablocker and 40 fags a day after taking yourself off all other anxiety medication) now has no emotional crutch and you’re crawling the ceiling with the pain of back-breaking muscle spasms triggered by an inordinate number of absolutely illogical and bastardly panic attacks.

Every. Single. Day.

But at least I’m not smoking actual cigarettes, so technically I’m winning.

Last night I ran out of cherry flavoured oil for my puffy pen thing for the first time. The mere thought of having to go into the Cherry Flavoured Oil Shop put the fear of god up me because I’m never very good in situations like these…like being in public, and talking to strangers about things I don’t know enough about, because – you know…anxiety. But I was beginning to exhibit some pretty hefty signs of nicotine withdrawal already that, what with the weight loss, the wedding planning, the business running, the lack of the hard core meds, etc (all excuses of course) started to become a little too much to bear.

Today, after much procrastination and being close to nicotine withdrawal actual explosion, I arrived at the Cherry Flavoured Oil Shop.

Me: “Hi, I’d like to buy some cherry flavoured oil please.”

So far so good. It is oil, it is cherry flavoured – this is what I want.

Man in Cherry Flavoured Oil Shop: “Yeah?” Puffing on huge great puffy thing emitting clouds that any magic dragon would be proud of whilst displaying precisely zero interest in doing his job and actually helping me. This particular absence of any kind of customer service skill managed to knock the granular sized clot of confidence I had mustered in my 10 minute pre-shop-pep-talk right off its rocker.

Me: “Yes please. I’m really sorry, I’m quite new to all this…”  *gestures around the shop with sweaty hands at a gerjillion tiny bottles of poisonous substances*  “…and not really sure what it’s called exactly but I want the one that’s two up from 0% percent nicotine, cos I’m using the one that’s one up from it now and it’s not really taking the edge off – I’m a bit stressed right now.”

MICFOS: Grimacing “I didn’t understand one word of that.”

All of a sudden I’m back in school; five year old me is out, the cool kids are mocking and pointing at me. I flinch. I might wee a bit.

Me: “Oh, sorry – like I said, I’m not really sure what all the technical terms are but I’m looking for oil, to put in my pen shaped puffy thing. Not the zero nicotine, not the next one up, but the next one up. Do you have some?”

MICFOS: “So what kind of oil do you want?”

Me: “The cherry flavoured kind please.”

MICFOS: “Yes.” Po-faced. “You’ve said that already. What kind?”

Five year old me is freaking out inside, the man with the beard in the hipster clothes hates me and wants me to die. I continue to nervous-sweat.

Me: “The kind I can put in my pen shaped puffy thing?” I question, because this man is looking at me like I’m an alien and I’m not entirely sure what language I’m speaking in right now or why I’m not already walking out the door with a bottle of cherry flavoured poisonous substance in my hands.

MICFOS: “Yes, I heard you the first, and the second time. What kind?”

I continue, slowly – five year old me knows that grown-ups rarely understand her.

Me: “I’m really not sure, I was hoping you might be able to help me with that as you are the Man who is IN the Cherry Flavoured Oil Shop and maybe you know more about this than I do?”

MICFOS: “What type have you got already?”

Me: “Well, it’s oil. Just oil. Like ALL these oils you have here. In ALL of these bottles which are on your shelves.” 

MICFOS: “Yes, but there are thick oils and thin oils and it’s all about the coils you see. The coils determine the kind of oils you need. I can’t help you if you can’t tell me what type you need. Then of course it depends on what kind of device you have, see. And because you probably can’t tell me what kind of device you have” – pulls the universal face for ‘I’m dealing with a thicko’ “I won’t be able to tell you what oil you need.”

He shrugs and turns his back to me.

He’s dismissing me! He’s actually turned his back and is dismissing me from his shop!

I recap quickly what MICFOS has just said, stuttering over the ‘probably can’t tell me’ bit, and the pully-face thing, and I stop five year old shouting out loud ‘ well fuck you fuck face’ cos five year old me would get told bloody off for that, and all of a sudden fight-or-flight me engages – she is called Consuela Knobhead, and I bloody hate Consuela Knobhead because she makes mountains out of molehills and totally overreacts to everything that’s ever said to her – she is powered by Anxiety Annie who gives no shits how this next bit will make ‘normal’ me feel in an hour’s time because Anxiety Annie is evil and her middle name is Misery.

Consuelo Knobhead is about to spout some shit off.

Me: “Erm, excuse me?”

MICFOS: Glances over his shoulder as if surprised I’m still there. “What?”

Me: “Look.” Consuela Knobhead’s really pissed off now. “I just need some bastarding oil to put in my bastarding pen shaped puffy thing, so I can suck it until I pass out, in the hope that it will help take away this godawful pain I’ve got in my back that happens because Every. Single. Muscle. is tense due to the enormous and inexplicable amounts of anxiety I feel on a day-to-day basis, which YOU, you jumped up CHERRY FLAVOURED PISSFLAP, are contributing to.”

He turns round and faces me.

I do wee a bit.

Shit. I said suck it until I pass out.

Shit. I called him a Cherry Flavoured Piss Flap.

MICFOS: Yes…bu…

Consuela’s on a roll.

Me: “You are the Man in the Cherry Flavoured Oil Shop aren’t you?”

MICFOS: “Yes..bu…”

Me: “And you sell oil to go in puffy things don’t you?”

MICFOS: “Vapes, they’re calle…”

Me: “And you stock the cherry flavoured one in different percentages of nicotine levels don’t you?”

MICFOS: “Ye…”

Me: “Please show me where they are.”

He collects the tiny bottle and puts it on the counter without saying a word.

Me: “Is this two up from zero percent nicotine?”

MICFOS: “Yes.”

Me: “So you knew what I meant then?”

MICFOS: “Mmm-hmm.”

I slap a five pound note on the counter, grabbed the Cherry Flavoured Oil, spin round and right then, to add insult to injury, my shoe does a fart sound on the rubber floor as I make for the door.

“Bitch.” MICFOS mutters as I leave.

“Pissflap” I shout back.

10 Ways Anxiety Stole My Sleep Last Night

1) Wake to sound of rain. What if it’s like this on wedding day? Spend next thirty minutes preparing Plan B, C, D and E in case it rains on wedding day.

2) Wake with jolt. Where’s Harvey (dog) and is he suffocating under the duvet? Oh My God I’m a terrible dog mother. Grapple around under the duvet. Find Harvey. Establish breath. Fall asleep again.

3) Wake to check time – have I overslept? (it’s 1am). Find Jasper (other dog) in Willow’s (other dog) bed. Worry where Willow is. Find that thing thrust into lower back thankfully isn’t Bernard* saluting me, but Willow’s leg strategically placed to eventually kick me out of bed when I finally sleep. Cowbag.

4) Wake to Willow abandoning the kicking-me-out-of-bed scenario, but now attempting to bury her head in my hair. Turn over whilst avoiding getting dog-snotted hair in mouth. Make mental note to wash hair in the morning. Remember there is no shampoo. Note ‘buy shampoo’ on shopping list in head knowing full well that shopping list in head is highly unreliable.

5) Wake. That’s DEFINITELY the sound of a serial killer walking up the stairs. Calm down knowing all three dogs would bark so much and make serial killer’s ears bleed so bad he’d kill himself before of any of us.

6) Wake wondering what day it is and if I ordered the sterling silver bolt rings for the chain for my latest commission? I did. Sleep.

7) Wake…shit, I must have forgotten something, anything, that’s what I do…I forget things, what is it?

8) Wake. Seriously, it’s so going to rain on my wedding day and everyone will be really pissed off and leave early including Bernard, and it’ll be just me and Mum dancing to I Did It My Way whilst stuffing shed loads of fancy pastry and wedding cake in our gobs.

9) Wake. Jasper is barking…THE SERIAL KILLER IS HERE…realise it’s Bernard getting up for work and Jasper is protesting. Loosen grip on heavy lamp to fight serial killer with.

Finally relax.

Seconds later…

10) wake up. Start day.

Good Morning Gorgeous