See ya later, stress….. Adios anxiety…..
See ya later, stress… Adios anxiety…
I seem to have experienced my fair share of stress and trauma in my life and I really hate saying that as it makes my life sound, well…..a bit shit. Not so. My life has been full of love and laughter and crazy, fun adventures.
My dad was an amazing man and a keen sailor so I grew up on yachts. We sailed and explored the east coast of Australia until he died suddenly when I was 13.
After I left school, I felt the pull of the ocean again and I spent ten years working on fishing trawlers and charter boats in Far North Queensland, Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria. You can just imagine the adventure stories…
In between the fun times however, there were a few stressful events – I was shipwrecked, weathered several cyclones and learnt how to hold my own in a very male-dominated industry.
As much as I thought I’d escaped these events unscathed, my nervous system had other ideas and I started to experience mild PTSD after the shipwreck. (You can read about that here).
I ended up marrying a very talented skipper and we worked together at sea for several years until I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. A working boat was just no longer big enough to contain me and my growing belly so I set up home on land.
It turns out, my husband coped a whole lot better at sea than he did on land and he had episodes where he could become quite abusive. This seemed to become more and more regular until one winter’s night, I fled the family home with a baby under one arm and a toddler under the other. (Read more about that here).
That was the end of my marriage but just the beginning of the emotional and psychological trauma that would follow. Ironically, it is often safer to stay in an abusive situation than to leave it. The next several years were a haze of lawyers, threats and fear, until my children decided that they no longer wanted to see their father and we lived in hiding for several more years.
I spent 16 years as a working, studying single parent and let me tell you, there is busy and stressed and then there’s a whole new level of working, single parent busy and stressed….whewww!
It was through this time that I started to experience anxiety and I had my first panic attack. Being the busy mum that I was, I decided that I definitely didn’t have time for that . After having a panic attack that lasted over two hours (on a major highway), I decided that enough was enough and that I needed to put a stop to it all quick-smart. After many years of study into physical health, my research into mental and emotional health began . I learnt ways to manage my anxiety and panic attacks and life became reasonably normal….for a time.
That is, until I found myself managing a stressful job, still studying and trying to single-handedly take two teenage boys through adolescence! It was when one of my sons started to experience his own issues that I really learned the true meaning of stress. I just can’t begin to describe the heartbreak of watching your child in so much pain and being unable to fix it…isn’t that what mothers do?
They say that the FBI has nothing on the research abilities of a worried mum. Back to the books I went and I spent night after night learning all that I could (whilst experiencing more and more stress at work), until one day I could no longer keep all the balls in the air and it all came crashing down. I had a massive burnout. I was pretty much bedridden for four weeks and then still at half strength for many months. Try doing that as a single parent!
Burnout is something that I struggle to describe but if you’ve ever been there, you’ll know. It is a deep exhaustion like no other…but of course, I didn’t want to have to live that way, so once again, back to the research, more learning and a huge realisation.
I realised that this was my ‘crisitunity’ (in the words of the very wise Homer Simpson). You’ve heard that the Chinese symbols for ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’ are the same? Well along came the opportunity to quit my soul-sucking job, return to university full-time and finally get to do something that I absolutely love.
….and here I am.
PS. It all ends well – I am very happy to report that I have never been happier and healthier in my whole entire life as I am now. Kx
By the way, if you missed the formal bits, click on ‘ABOUT ME’ above ^