The anticipation anxiety and nerves I have been going through since 60 Minutes confirmed the anxiety story was going ahead a month ago has been a tad stifling at times.
This morning, the day of air date, I feel a bit all over the place and unfocused – tummy keeps churning around and getting waves of tightness and nerves, my chest feels tight, my breathing feels a laboured, and my ‘what if’ thoughts are endless and going around in circles.
The anticipation anxiety is (thankfully) not where it used to be, especially in my days of crippling agoraphobia where I used to fear dying or having a panic attack. Today, whilst it’s uncomfortable, I can function – although I did have one day in bed unwell last week – and I know I can trust I’m safe and all is going to be ok.
What someone with anxiety has trouble with is the unknown. So, the process of filming the anxiety story with 60 Minutes and waiting for it to air has resulted in my body and thoughts questioning every possible outcome possible.
When the film date was confirmed for Peter Overton (reporter for 60 Minutes Australia) to come to Melbourne for a day of filming with me, all I could think about was what will the day would be like. But, with the anxiety brain, this was accompanied with negative self-talk – those ‘what ifs’
What if I freeze on camera?
What if I cry on camera?
What if I’m not a good interviewee?
What if Peter has wasted his time coming here?
What if the 60 Minutes crew has wasted their time coming here?
Then, I needed to also worry about the planned drive that would be filmed (didn’t air after all that!) that gives me heightened anxiety on the best of days.
The worst part of this stage of the 60 Minutes story was that it was in embargo and I couldn’t speak publicly. Obviously some family and close friends knew, but not being able to tell people and seek their opinion and have feedback was excruciating for me.
And that’s the anxiety that followed after the 60 Minutes team left after a full day of filming. How would people react?
I worry so much about people’s opinion and it’s something I’m sure pretty familiar to people with anxiety. I wish I didn’t care, but I do.
So, the weeks of not knowing if people would care or be proud of me were really difficult.
On top of all this, if there wasn’t already enough to worry about, I was reliving every moment of the film day and what I said in the interview, and wondering what would be put to air.
Anxiety isn’t just about being anxious about future (big) events – real or perceived, but thinking of the past and all the things you did wrong and remembering how it felt.
I had to be ok with putting all my trust in the Producer (who I really did trust after a year of discussions and her taking the time to get to know me and anxiety) and Peter (who I know does amazing mental health advocacy with his wife Jess Rowe).
And, intellectually I was. Emotionally, which plays into my anxiety, I was a scared and, well, anxious.
There was also the issue of changing air dates – super hard for an anxiety brain.
The story was scheduled to air on a certain date and (with an anxiety brain) I was 110% focused on getting through the days to this finishing line. But the line was moved and would air in a few weeks.
That’s the best analogy I can possible give is it was like running a marathon telling your body it only had 1km to go and convincing yourself you can make it and then you turn a corner to find they’ve added another 10kms.
Your body doesn’t quite know what to do with this information.
After a few days my body started to settle, finally, and the all-consuming thoughts and ‘what ifs’ about the story were dissipating. But then I got an email…
Unexpectedly the story was airing “this Sunday” (a week earlier than anticipated). My body went in to feelings of half excitement, half shock. There were some tears (a whole other story) and, then, the anxiety hit again.
I walked around in a daze and needed to speak with my support networks more than usual. But with days the embargo lifted and I could tell the world. And the incredible comments and support have made me feel better and less alone in this journey.
With the embargo lifted was also a sneak peak video of the story. It is a surreal feeling watching the reality of what you’ve done on screen. I’ve experienced it a few other times so I kinda knew the feelings, but I’m no celebrity so it’s very weird thinking about all the potential people watching you, and 60 Minutes is a whole other level, too.
Even though the Producer asked me to promise I wouldn’t look on social media, I took a very quick look at the 60 Minutes Facebook post of the video and saw starting comments of people with anxiety detailing their empathy and heartache.
That’s the hardest thing. And I especially experienced that with the beyondblue Get to Know Anxiety campaign. I know exactly these people’s fears and want to take their hand and help them
But I know if I reach out, the bad and negative can follow. So I need to look after myself. But it breaks my heart.
So, embargo lifted 3 days ago. And I feel like I’ve been floating ever since along with the above-mentioned anxiety feelings.
My anxiety always feels a bit better when the event is here, though, because I can get moving and start working through the adrenaline in a practical way. The morning of filming was better than the previous day’s anxiety, for example. Today (air date) is better than yesterday’s anxiety waiting for today.
I’m trying to keep myself distracted, a big thing for anxiety and was very much a focus during my agoraphobia recovery and exposure therapy for panic attacks. A big lesson for my anxiety management.
So, here I am writing, although it’s a bit difficult (not even sure this all makes sense!). I’ll try and do some work if I can focus my marketing brain – luckily my JoElla Marketing clients have been incredibly supportive, and I’ll head out with my Mum early afternoon for a nice few hours in nature and try and buy a small reward for my efforts.
I know (and accept) myself so well these days that I know in the hour before 60 Minutes starts I’ll be very scattery in thought and communication, and will probably be unable to keep still. (Something that happens when I’m anxious or feel like I’m about to have a panic attack.)
But I love knowing these days (most days) that I’m safe.
I know I will have my heart pounding out of my chest and feel like I can’t breathe. I know I will feel like I’m going to vomit. I know I’ll feel hot and sweaty and have a nervous rash. I know I’ll probably feel like I can’t cope and will pass out as a consequence.
I also know I will have all these anxiety feelings but will also know I WILL cope and I will be ok.
And that’s a pretty amazing feeling for the agoraphobia girl who didn’t know how she would ever leave the family home alone.