This post originally appeared on 9 Now titled “How does someone with anxiety film a 60 Minutes story on anxiety?”
It was no ordinary Friday morning and my body was reacting.
I’d had little sleep the past two nights and felt like not butterflies or bats, but pterodactyls were crashing around in my stomach.
My heart was racing and I felt hot.
I wanted to cry and run away – anywhere but be here.
Time felt like it was standing still. I just wanted it all over or, at the very least, started.
I looked for my sister. All good, she was hidden behind me and I felt a bit better. She must have sensed something as she moved forward and smiled at me. I’ve seen that smile, an ‘it’s going to be ok’ smile. I felt more settled, well, for a second.
I kept grabbing for the water bottle I had under my chair. Pretty typical since my agoraphobia days, a water bottle is always close-by – because that’s really going to save me from danger, right! But who ever said anxiety was logical…
A deep breath and another sip of water… I really, really, really want this over.
Another look for my sister, but she doesn’t see me this time.
It’s ok… I’ll be ok…
But say I stuff it all up and make a fool of myself? Say I freeze and can’t say a word and I’ve wasted everyone’s time?
And now I’ve imagined it: I’ve frozen up and I’m crying in front of everyone.
Deep breath. Another sip of water… I feel like I’m 3 years old and need my “Mummy”.
“And we’re ready,” says the cameraman.
“How are you feeling?” asks Peter Overton to start the 60 Minutes interview on living with anxiety.
I knew this question was coming, but how do I articulate how I’m feeling? How do I help all those people who have racing hearts and feel like crying watching this story because any talk of anxiety makes them anxious?
“Ummm, anxious…” I reply with a giggle, before taking it seriously and answering properly.
The interview went well I’m told. I calmed down after a few questions, but my memory has taken me back so vividly to my days of debilitating anxiety and agoraphobia.
I’m asked a few times to try and articulate what life was like when I did nothing more than lay on a couch during my agoraphobia days. It’s so hard to detail because it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Next I have to be filmed doing the dreaded drive; the one thing I still let anxiety rule over. But I’m willing to do this for the story and drive on some roads I usually avoid.
All for the story. All to help explain anxiety to Australia. All to hopefully help just one person not feel alone and know they can recover and live a life freely with anxiety.
A camera is being rigged up in my car and I rehearse the entire drive in my head. I’ve worked out every possible outcome. My sister, as she leaves, tells the producer I’m not to be taken down any roads with three lanes – bless her protectiveness.
Oh yeah, and not only do I have to have a camera in my car and Peter Overton interviewing me, I have to follow the cameraman’s car so the team can film me and hear my audio. I have to trust people I hardly know to look after me and lead me along the roads as agreed.
It’s ok… I’ll be ok…
Peter says I’ll be ok.
I get into the car, put my bag on the backseat.
Oh, hang on, I’d normally have my bag close to hand where Peter is.
Do I have my mobile? Let me check…
Because it’s easier to make fun of myself before someone has a chance, I joke how I have to check my bag twice. Not OCD, I say, but to ease my mind I have everything in case something goes wrong.
“Like a flight attendant,” Peter says with a smile.
I laughed. “Yes, like a flight attendant.” I liked that – it didn’t make me feel silly.
The drive started.
Too much to think about. But I can do this.
Peter’s asking how I’m feeling and I really don’t want to think about it. I need to concentrate.
I get to the first intersection and I feel ok. I get to the next and I’m feeling more edgy.
Heart rate has increased, but I’m more concerned that I feel overwhelmed; that I have too much to concentrate on.
And he keeps asking how I’m feeling…
I feel like I’m not concentrating well.
Am I merging into lanes ok? I have no confidence in my driving and traffic awareness.
Now, will the cameraman be turning left down this road as agreed?
Because if not, I’m really going to freak out.
Good, he is…
Ok, yes, Peter, you’re asking how bad my anxiety symptoms have been when driving.
Let me tell you about the time my legs got pins and needles.
Oh, hang on, now I remember when my arms all seized up and I couldn’t move them.
Oh, geez, I’m really remembering how frightening it was.
Hang on, did I give way properly turning left into this road?
I suddenly brake and Pete is jolted in the passenger seat. He asks why I did it; he knew there was no oncoming traffic.
I try and explain myself and profusely apologise for my mistake.
I feel like I’m floating.
I know I’m not concentrating because the adrenaline rush has taken over.
Follow the van.
Watch for red lights and traffic.
Please be safe.
Before long I’m parking in front of my place and I can’t remember the last five to ten minutes.
Deep breath; I made it and didn’t harm anyone.
I apologise again to Peter.
I remain mortified and out-of body.
But no time for that; it’s off to the gym.
I get to the gym and ask for the owner. What do you mean she’s just left? She’s expecting me. I look at him and bark: “But 60 Minutes are on their way!” He doesn’t seem overly fussed and gets the next in charge.
She’s going to call the owner and let her know.
She asks questions about the filming. I answer as best I can.
The producer will be here in 10 minutes. She’ll have all the answers. I just need to get changed.
Please don’t ask me more questions. I have too much on my mind. I’ve spent all morning talking and re-living anxiety.
Please stop asking questions. I need a break from questions.
Do you not understand what I’ve been doing? I’ve been filming for 60 Minutes and that’s kinda hard!
She understands and tells me to get changed and she’ll wait for the producer.
I box for a bit. Do a few weights. And we’re done.
That wasn’t too bad except for puffing out and feeling a bit dizzy.
Now for a lunch break. Thank god, some time to gather my thoughts.
I’m really exhausted.
I mean, I’m really exhausted!
Who can I talk to and unload some of these thoughts and adrenaline.
Who’s telling me I’m doing ok, that I’m being brave?
My sister has texted. Phew. Smile.
My friend then texts. Another smile.
I just want to call off this afternoon. But hang in there; it’s nearly done.
All for the story. All to help people understand anxiety. All to help people with anxiety know they’re not alone and can get better.
The afternoon was ok – being filmed on a tram. Peter’s interviewing me but I don’t think I’m making sense. The adrenaline has me feeling out-of-body (again).
Soon it will be all done.
And then it was.
So, how does someone with anxiety feel filming a 60 Minutes story on anxiety?
A bit like that! Well, that was my experience.
And why does someone with anxiety agree to filming a story for 60 Minutes on anxiety?
Well, I can tell you why I agreed.
Yes, it was a lot to do with helping people understand anxiety and help people with anxiety know they’re not alone and can get better and live independently and happily with anxiety.
But it’s more than that.
Recovering from agoraphobia was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Recovery meant re-learning how to live, how to live independently, how to not fear anxiety, to not fear life, to let go of trying to control life.
And in learning all this, fear has become a different concept to me.
Anxiety and panic attacks still give me the hee-bee-jee-bees and a fright when they visit unexpectedly. They exhaust me when they’re anticipated. They’re completely crap. But, they now don’t stop me from doing things.
Because of agoraphobia recovery, I can now look at difficult choices, weigh up the pros and cons, decide which outweighs which, think about the big picture, and choose what’s best for me.
I choose not to expand my local drives, at least for now, because (pardon the pun) I’m not driven by it – I don’t care enough about it. The times I am upset by not driving are not worth the anxiety and terror to do exposure therapy to increase my distance.
I choose 60 Minutes knowing I want to help people and do more with my story. Who knows what will eventuate from doing this. I also know I’ll have no regrets if nothing comes.
But, I would regret not doing it.
Today I choose life and to live without regrets. When hard decisions are to be made I truly think: What will I care about on my deathbed?
It has taken a long, long, long time to get here.
Nerves about a tv shoot is nothing compared to the debilitating anxiety I experienced on and off for 37 years.
Towards the end of the interview, Peter said I’d come a long way.
I thought about lying on a couch at my Mum’s place and the crippling 24/7 anxiety. I thought of my life of agoraphobia, too scared to leave the house. Now I was sitting in front of a reporter telling my story to the nation.
Coming a “long way” is an understatement.