I celebrated the launch of my latest kid’s book head down in the veggie garden, vomiting my guts up and I promise it wasn’t because of too many cupcakes and fairy bread.
It was anxiety.
Not the amazing butterflies in the tummy nerves you get before you step on stage and present to 100 or so kids. This was horrible, gut wrenching anxiety caused by not feeling in control and a lifetime of nervous energy having nowhere to go except out of my mouth.
When I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder last year, I thought I had pretty much made friends with it and only every now and then my anxiety would get the better of me. Apart from that I was in control.
But it seems Convid19 had other ideas.
My latest kids book, Magnificent Mistakes and Fantastic Failures, was due out Mid-March, but the virus shut down the factories in China, creating a massive delay in printing and shipment. Then as the virus spread to Australia and shutdowns and restrictions started spreading faster than the virus, I could feel my book slipping from my reach.
As one book launch event was cancelled after another, I was facing an even worse prospect; bookshops would be closed, and postal services restricted.
The mad rush to get online
But there was no time for a pity party as the rush to move everything online had begun. I launched my Kid’s Youtube Channel, went live on Facebook and Instagram for the first time and reached out to libraries offering to read my new book on their social media feeds. My mind was a blender of ideas and strategies. I had to keep the ship afloat no matter what.
I was still in control.
All the while my radio copywriting business had taken a kick in the guts as well. But still no time for a pity party there either as I needed to help the sales team keep clients on board and find new ones.
This was all happening around more bad news coming after more bad news on both TV and social media. People fighting in supermarkets, empty shelves of dunny paper, pasta and soap, radical social distancing rules, booze restrictions, border closures, massive queues outside Centrelink and worse of all, no hugging.
But I was still in control.
The date for the release of Magnificent Mistakes was put back even further and I became that annoying author pestering my publisher for information on where the book was at. Had the shipment even arrived in Australia?
I decided to apply for JobKeeper assistance so I could keep my business afloat, but my head exploded trying to navigate the red tape and I’m still waiting to hear if I am successful or even if I filled the forms in correctly.
But I was still in control.
Everything lets go
Then one morning I wasn’t.
After I’d sat at my desk and opened the computer, I felt a tight knot form in my solar plexus and it squeezed tighter and tighter. Completely bemused by what was going on, I pushed through until the waves of nausea forced me to hurl my guts up.
But I was still in control.
I carried on as normal for the following week trying to keep the ship afloat and doing my best to make sure I launched the book and kept my business going. There was contradicting information on whether the books had arrived at the distributers warehouse and whether they had started to send them out. I couldn’t wait and I went ahead with my online launches anyway. I also felt personally responsible that the early orders where still no where to be seen.
Then it happened again.
I’d come home from a morning walk and was thinking about what I needed to get onto for the day and the tightness returned. It quickly turned to rising nausea and it was only a matter of minutes before I was in the veggie garden vomiting over the cherry tomatoes.
I was no longer in control and I finally had to admit it.
My husband urged me to phone my therapist.
Society has got it wrong
One of the characteristics of Generalised Anxiety Disorder is needing to feel in control in every situation otherwise the fight or flight instinct kicks in. The brain says that if you’re not in control, you’re in danger.
So you can see how trying to stay in control, when it was impossible to do so, was literally making me sick.
Something had to give.
And the sad thing is that according to our modern society, I would have been deemed a failure for letting my mental health get the better of me.
I couldn’t cope.
I wasn’t strong enough.
I was weak.
And how could I be successful if I lose the plot like that?
However society has got it completely wrong and it’s killing people. We’re not meant to be winning all the time. We’re not meant to be in control all the time. We’re not meant to be in charge all the time.
We’re meant to show weakness and as Brene Brown keeps going on about, we’re meant to show vulnerability. We’re meant to fall down and get up again. That’s how we learn to be more real and authentic.
It is time to let go of expectations that no longer nourish our complete selves. It’s time to down tools.
Time to play.
I’ve taken the advice of Magnificent Mistakes, (which helps kids find inner resilience) and discovered new ways to be OK with not being in control. To play, take more photos, get my hands dirty in the veggie garden. Making time to mess around, to read, to cook, wander, dawdle and sit.
I’ve also turned off audio notifications on my phone, so I don’t react to every ding, bong, dong and whistle alerting me to another inane video someone shared on Messenger. It’s incredible the difference it makes.
It doesn’t mean I let go of what I need to do, it means I’m just going to be better at balancing it all.
Failing is actually growing
It seems that regardless of all the money and resources poured into mental health awareness programs around the world, society still doesn’t make you feel that it’s OK to fail.
But it is.
Don’t be embarrassed if you feel you’ve lost the plot and found yourself chundering over the cherry tomatoes like me. It’s a sign we need to listen to our bodies and step away from everything for a while. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Get some perspective and get out of your head.
You’re not a failure, neither am I.
We’re human and we’re magnificent.
The books finally arrived and were sent out to the people who ordered early. The bookshops and online stores are now full of stock and the amazing reviews and feedback from readers is coming through. I also got accepted for JobKeeper and mentally…. I’m going great guns.
Thank you to everyone.
PS Don’t eat my cherry tomatoes.
If you, or anyone you know, needs support, please call a helpline such as Lifeline 13 11 14; beyondblue 1300 224 636; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467