Early in 2017, after returning home from a pretty epic adventure in Africa, I had a sudden and severe relapse into anxiety. When I relapse, I now know I will get out the other side eventually so I quickly put my recovery plan into action and just make it to the end of each day until calm returns. This time around it took longer than usual… and it got a bit scary.
I see how hard it is for those close to me to see me struggling. I’ve been on the other side too and understand how helpless you can feel when supporting someone with a mental illness, just wishing that there was something you could do or say to make it all go away for that person.
I can’t remember where I heard it but there is a saying that when you’re a parent, you’re only ever as happy as your saddest child. It’s kind of a guilt-inducing thought but quite poetic at the same time. During this time of heightened anxiety, my mum saw ‘I Quit Sugar’ guru, Sarah Wilson on TV talking about her new book on anxiety, First, we Make the Beast Beautiful. Mum bought it for me that day and ordered me to read it. When she couldn’t hold my shaking hands or calm my racing mind, she could buy me a book.
In, First, we Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson explores how we can embrace anxiety and utilise it as a force for good in our lives, rather than trying to eradicate it. I agree with this review by Mark Manson who is the author of the book I’m currently reading, The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck, and who listed it in his top five books on dealing with anxiety and depression.
While I was in the middle of reading the book, I saw a call out for expressions of interest to join a beyondblue advisory group to give feedback on their new national anxiety awareness campaign and something in me just clicked. This was my chance to use anxiety as my superpower. It was a chance to make my beast beautiful. I applied without hesitation, was successfully appointed and savoured every moment of reviewing the advertising agency’s concepts.
You can see the final result of the television ad here but the campaign is also running across radio, social media, print and outdoor advertising. We were chuffed to be informed that the number of people visiting the beyondblue website and accessing the anxiety checklist after the campaign was launched had far exceeded their expectations.
My connection with beyondblue led to me sharing my story on the ABC News website on World Mental Health Day. Despite an unfortunately misleading headline that was used, I received so many messages of encouragement and gratitude, which made up for the embarrassment of telling the world about my poo. This one particular message that I received from a complete stranger made it all feel worth it:
Hi Erin. I read your article on the ABC website and nearly wept with relief when I read your story regarding anxiety and gut issues. The way you described how you felt is exactly how I’ve been feeling for more than 5 years. I can’t imagine how it must feel to get your life back. I had my husband read your story as I’ve tried over the years to get him to understand my anxiety and after reading the article he stated,”That’s very sad to live like that.” Once he realised I do live like that, he’s hoping we can find some help for me. Thank you for listening (and for giving me hope)…
The positive response from that story was inspiring enough for me to launch this blog, however after the fun of launching was over, all those old voices started squawking in my head again.
“This has all been said before.”
“Do you think you’re some kind of expert?”
“Who is ever going to read this?”
“Why do you even bother?”
Weeks then months went by while I started writing about seven pieces but finished none.
So when I recently saw this ad on the back of a shopping centre toilet door; an ad which was part of the campaign that I had helped influence, it was a bit of a wake up call for me to just get writing again. Even if it’s not perfect, you never know when you’ll say something that for somebody, just clicks.