Running hard to stand still: Anxiety, writing & a world of confusion…

images (2)I sit at my PC. My hands hover over the keyboard, my mind trying hard to focus on the letters. I will them into words, sentences, paragraphs. I flick through my folders of research; the articles I must read, the chapters I have identified in the books taken  out of The London Library. But it isn’t right. It is never right. The words are there but they are not fit for purpose and refuse to get into shape. I switch to the internet, searching for inspiration on twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Nothing but distraction, they only add to a sense of frustration and an anxiety that increases as the minutes and hours pass.

I turn to the social media and blogging work I do for others – that is fine. My editing and proofreading work is going well. I am not letting clients down, just myself.

I stand up, stretch and try a change of scene, getting out the colouring books that still my mind.  Alternatively I take up the book I am currently reading, greedily turning pages of stories that take me away from my desk, the room, the house and ultimately the life I am living. The sun might be out, the day warm and the plants in pots close to where I sit offer a faint scent. All I can hear are gulls, light traffic noise and a sound akin to a roomful of anxious sleepers grinding their teeth, as my dog sits next to me chewing on an old bone.

What has happened? Shell Shocked Britain has been a success, as far as I can tell from reviews and comments following the many talks I have done. I have been commissioned to write two further books, both non-fiction and both on subjects that would usually fascinate me. They do still. But I can’t write. This blog post is the first I have written in weeks and it scares me. Everything scares me. and perhaps that is the problem.  As always, my favourite poet is wise beyond words:

….if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all…. (John Keats)

download (1)The world feels a frightening place at the moment, the very air we breathe charged with anxiety. Austerity, deprivation, radicalisation, dehumanisation, the race for technological progress at the expense of simple peace.  Clearly life is in real terms much more frightening for those fleeing war zones, fighting extremists, simply struggling to stay alive. But their fear seems to transmit around the globe with an intensity that touches my soul, and eats away at my sense of my own safety. My work on social media offers no protection from the tragedy and sadness that can strike even the happiest of communities, families, individuals. Illness, accident, the actions of the wicked, the thoughtless or the desperate that devastate and cut short lives – stories that are shared, retweeted, posted and reposted until our bodies become ticking time bombs and our families prey to the seeming whim of fate.

I return to my chair in front of the large, bright screen and the stream of words that taunt me, meaningless as they seem in the face of the tears that fall, the heart that races and the breath that comes in wretched little sobs. Anxiety is a condition for which I am prescribed a number of pills, but this doesn’t feel like a sickness that can be cured by any chemical. It is a symptom of a loss of control over the world I inhabit, of a sense of being done to, rather than doing. Reactive rather than proactive.

fallHow do those of us that struggle with mental health issues regain a sense of power over our destinies? Is it possible to surge forward once again when one has tripped and fallen behind the confident front-runners? I have lost my momentum and am struggling against a headwind; somehow I must pick up my pace once more, and fly (you can tell my family are in the next room, watching an athletics meeting on the TV….)

Does anyone else feel like this at the moment? The tiny space I occupy on the troubled globe seems a lonely place sometimes……

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10 Responses to Running hard to stand still: Anxiety, writing & a world of confusion…

  1. lindaglasto says:

    I have been in a similar place myself, it’s not nice. It helped me when I could have a change of scene for a few days, particularly if this involved being outdoors and away from the media. Hugs x

    • keatsbabe says:

      Yes, I really fancy getting away for a few days, but the summer is a tough time to rent somewhere or visit friends without getting in the way…Thanks for your support x

  2. MarinaSofia says:

    I felt as if each one of your words above described my situation, so you are not alone in feeling like this! I fritter away my time on reading, reviewing, admin and spend so little on my real writing. Then I feel guilty about it, resolve to do better but get depressed instead… and it’s a downwards spiral. General and specific anxieties add to this package, so…
    Hope you can find a way to change the pace or the backdrop or find some like-minded people to share thoughts with!

    • keatsbabe says:

      Thank you!! It is good to know I am not alone, although not so good for you of course… I enjoy your regular blogs and hope that if at least I can keep tapping away on here the words will come back. Take care x

  3. We do positive things to regain authority over yourselves, mate. We push away the things we can’t change: politics, austerity, the weather, how other people act and react to us. We focus on the things we can change: our attitude to life. We question the validity of what we are thinking … can we prove it? Is there an alternative way of looking at it?. We write down at the end of every day 3 things that made us glad to be alive. We walk (raises seratonin levels).We eat well and treat ourselves occasionally BECAUSE WE ARE F****NG WORTH IT!!. We box up the inner voice that tells us we are a waste of space. and we allow ourselves to be hugged. (((((hug)))))

  4. amanda white says:

    Sorry to read this Suzie. My much milder form of artist’s block I combat with an hour (that usually turns into 2) of energetic gardening a day. It soothes my soul. I also avoid the rolling news and stick to just the 10pm slot. I am without Radio 4 (and have been for weeks) I miss the programmes but not the constant barrage of news of senseless killing. My aunt had mental problems stemming from unnamed horrors she had lived through through in occupied France, I used as a child to wonder at her refusal to watch anything “nasty” (which included for her not just the news but whodunnits and most documentaries and even wildlife ones where things get eaten). I am now beginning to understand her.

    • keatsbabe says:

      It is interesting to hear about your aunt – there was a lot of hidden trauma after the war and I have an aunt who is similar in that she has no idea what is going on in the world. However, she does worry about friends and family instead! Interesting to hear you have no access to The Archers and the lovely afternoon dramas we enjoy pulling to pieces! Might be my next move…

  5. Heya,

    Anxiety is really tough. It’s been a battle for me too over the last few years and i’m only just starting to get on top of it via more specific and focused support. Re-engaging with the professional support services has been productive.

    For me, i focus on the things over which i do have control (what i eat, what i work on, who i spend time with) and as far as possible put out of mind the things over which i have no control or no energy too control.

    I mostly control myself and my environment via structure. I have a timetable which i use to structure my life. That has massively helped reduce the anxiety day to day.

    I use the unit of “spoons”. Right now 40% of my spoons go into managing the day to day demands of life (managing a pain condition and the autism stuff at the moment) and the rest i focus on my work. I try not to spend my spoons on things i can’t control or have a positive outcome on.

    The above methods are working for me. I have documented them on my blog at:

    I hope you find a way to manage the anxiety and wish you the best of luck for the future. Thanks for sharing your post.


    Jamie + Lion

    • keatsbabe says:

      Thanks Jamie. You are right, structure is key and that is something I definitely need to work on.I will take a look at your blog and hope you continue to make progress.
      Suzie x

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