I would have laughed if someone told me circumstances in my life this year would present challenges beyond my wildest dreams . Boring old predictable Jenna. Ever-reliable Jenna. Unruffled Jenna. My life felt settled, but I guess Jon Shedd’s words became popular for good reason. Ships in the harbor are safe but that’s not what ships are built for. The only problem was I didn’t know I was boarding the ship.
Fast forward twelve months and I feel like I’ve gone through the wringer multiple times. I’ve faced my soul. I’ve looked it in the eye and didn’t like everything I saw.
There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
~ C.G. Jung
Teetering around the edges of my comfort zone isn’t new for me but this year I catapulted so far away I landed in uncharted waters without a life vest. Extraordinary family stresses as well as emotional and physical breakdowns relentlessly roared in my face. I sought counselling and tried medication to help tame the ugly beast but in the end discovered it’s up to me to find a way to progress. I’ve made mistakes and said things I regret. I’ve seen things I didn’t want to see and swallowed unpleasant truths. For the first time I’ve opened my eyes and looked the beast square in the eyes. For the first time in my life I’ve faced the truth warts and all. It doesn’t sit well but it feels authentic. For the first time I’m telling the whole truth.
I’m pretty tired I think I’ll go home now ~ Forrest Gump
Helping a loved one cope with anxiety is a difficult and confusing time. My heart aches as I try my best to support Jane through a low period in her life. It’s really tough watching a loved one go through this battle, while sitting on the outside, feeling helpless.
Anxiety disorders are different from ‘everyday’ anxiety; they are more intense and persistent and interfere with a person’s life. Such disorders share an extreme sense of fear and worry accompanied by physical symptoms that can affect all systems of the body. Anxiety disorders occur when someone has an intense and paralysing sense of fear or a more sustained pattern of worrying when there is no apparent real danger or threat.
I will do anything to help Jane feel better about her life and would swap places to save her going through this torment. As best I can I remain calm, firm and consistent and show her she is loved and supported. In addition to her family support network I’ve have urged her to seek professional counselling advice.
I started asking myself what should I be looking out for? What can I do to help? What support is out there for people on the perimeter of anxiety disorders? I rang the helpline of the most reputable organisation providing an information and support service helping Australians achieve their best possible mental health. This organisation is widely known for its helpline advice for people struggling with anxiety/ depression or who have suicidal thoughts. It was daunting to make the call as a supporter of a loved one so I can only imagine how overwhelming it might be for people feeling helpless to make the decision to reach out for help.
After deciding to call I dialled the number and heard a click followed by a long recorded message spruiking information about the organisation and the types of services they provide. Then came an automated message to press 1 for this, press 2 for that, press 3 for something else. Feeling confused about which number to select I had to wait to hear the message repeated so I could make the correct choice. Once you choose an option a further recorded message announces that calls are recorded unless you state your objection, and then invites callers to press another number to agree to stay on the line at the end of their call to participate in a survey. By now I was getting agitated and wanted to speak to a real person to ask for advice. When I was eventually connected with a counsellor she was helpful to a point and reassured me that I am doing and saying the right things to help Jane.
After making the call I felt disappointed with the unfriendly vibe around the process of getting through to speak to a real person. I doubt very much that people who genuinely need urgent help choosing between life or death would stay on the line long enough to speak to a counsellor to guide them in their time of need. I think this is really sad.
On the twentieth day Jenna senses that things may soon improve.
Her head has been throbbing and nothing eases the tension.
Her sleep patterns are erratic, she sleeps fitfully and wakes for no reason at odd hours of the early morning.
Days pass slower, little things become big things and food tastes different.
Words stop flowing, she can’t write freely which makes her head feel like it is going to explode.
She should be used to it, she’s battled the same symptoms several times over the past four years, but it never gets any easier.
The first and the last twenty-four hours are the hardest, her emotions fluctuate and are more intense.
Jenna paces up and down, her eyes glued on the automatic doors opening and closing again. After what feels like an eternity she sees her and for a brief moment time stands still.
Jenna smiles and waves excitedly. She deeply exhales.
Finally the fresh breeze blows again and clears her head.
She can breathe again for another couple of months.