It’s probably no surprise to readers of this blog that I suffer from anxiety. In fact it was actually the subject of one of my very first posts, a couple of years ago!
In between writing that post and writing this one, what has changed? Everything and nothing.
Obviously there have been some fairly major changes in my life. I started dialysis, then unexpectedly got a transplant very quickly and am now physically healthier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m free to do things I thought might never be possible, and a lot of obstacles in my life have been resolved. In many ways, things are great.
But the path to reaching this place where things are mostly good has been paved with a lot of very difficult experiences. I know I don’t have to explain this to those among you who are also dialysis patients or transplant recipients. Nothing about this illness, or any chronic condition, is easy.
Somehow (and on some days I literally do question how!) I am still standing. At this point, it would be tempting for me to say that the reason behind this is my simply being “a strong person”. That I have character and grit that others don’t, and skills they are lacking. Maybe I do, but I think it goes deeper than this. It’s about more than just me, and this “strength” has not come out of nowhere.
Recently, I had a discussion with my psychologist about anxiety, panic and resilience.
She pointed out that although I often have a tendency to panic spectacularly when faced with some situations (both medical related and otherwise), when it comes down to it, I almost always manage to actually do, or at least cope with, whatever it was I was panicking about. The panic only seems to be on the outside.
In some ways, it’s like how people say they’re a duck, “calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddling like hell underneath”. People work hard to conceal how they’re really feeling.
Not me however, when I panic, I am quite the opposite. I do not sail along calmly looking fluffy and adorable, like our little friend pictured above.
After much discussion, we concluded that I more closely resemble an “upside-down duck”. The visible part of me is flailing around flinging water everywhere and looking like it has no clue what it’s doing, but meanwhile, the part you don’t see, is underneath the water, quietly getting on with exactly what it needs to do.
At the time, I liked this comparison, it made me laugh and seemed like it fitted quite well, but once I got home, I realised there was a better description.
Rather than a duck, upside-down or otherwise, I am more like this dog. This dog is a Weeble.
Mr. Weeble Dog can be poked and prodded and pushed as much as you like, but he never tips over. He certainly wobbles and rolls around, sometimes rather violently, but ultimately, he always ends up the right way up.
He manages this because he has a stable base. Granted, I don’t know what’s in his base, probably rubber or plastic, but I do know what’s in mine.
Inside my Weeble base is quite a lot of stuff!
- Coping skills: Things I’ve learned about myself over the course of both my illness and my lifetime in general. The ability I have to manage stress and anxiety. Granted, this is something I need to develop a lot more, but it’s definitely there.
- Normality: Things I do that make me feel like life is normal. Things like going to work, fulfilling my voluntary roles, writing this blog, participating in hobbies, attending medical appointments and the other routine things I always do.
- Relationships: I am fortunate to have a large number of people in my life who are there when life is rocky, not only my friends and family, but also my amazing medical team, they see me as more than just A Renal Patient.
When all of these things are combined, they are why my Weeble doesn’t tip over. Together, they are why I am, albeit to my surprise on many days, a reasonably resilient person!
So, because of this Thing Holly Has Learned, on my dresser, amongst jewellery, contact lenses, medication, stray hair grips and far too many perfume bottles, is a little plastic dog. A visual, if slightly out of place, reminder that most days, I’m better at coping than I think.