by Sophie Olson
Poetry helps me to express the things I find harder to say. One thing I don’t talk about much is the lodger who lives in my body. I tolerate him simply because he’s been with me for a long time and I’m used to him. This lodger’s name is Anxiety. He also goes by the name Fear, Worry and On Edge.
Anxiety is a bit unpredictable. Sometimes he is my ball and chain that stands in the way of my decision making with whispers of, but are you sure? What if it goes wrong? You might fuck it up, and the next minute he is my rocket fuel. I start to rely on him as my drug of choice – Keep going, faster, faster… don’t sleep…don’t stop…
when people ask me what I’m afraid of it’s hard to explain that monsters under the bed are real the bogeyman doesn’t let go when he catches you by the ankle how to describe the feeling of black spiders when doors (and light switches) vanish in the dark? Sophie Olson
I want Anxiety to go away and I have tried many ways to persuade him. I diligently followed professional advice with optimism and belief. Meditation, mindfulness, breathing, tapping… pills – lots of pills of course… who doesn’t end up with those when they stutter in distress to their GP in a hurried ten minute time slot, it’s this worrying you see… but Anxiety laughed at the pills and I cried because as it turned out, sedated and Anxiety is not a great combination in the long run and it made things one hundred times worse.
Anxiety moved in when I was a small child – when life became dark, unsafe and unpredictable. Someone left the front door unlocked and he sidled in unnoticed, with enough baggage to last a lifetime. He also slips out at times and I came to the conclusion a long time ago that he will come and go.
Accepting this has made him somewhat easier to live with. When this irritating lodger of mine packs a bag and disappears into the unknown, I relax for a while… until he returns. Some periods of respite are longer than others. Days might turn to weeks but he always comes back in the end so I have to manage him the best I can.
I take him for a walk where his incessant chattering might float away with the wind, or be stupefied by the warmth of the sun. I try writing him out. When I make him flat letters on a page I can crumple him and throw him in the bin. I like to scribble over his whispers in black biro and burn him in the fireplace. Or I can type him on a folder named THE SHIT on my phone and lock him away, along with the other things, people and memories who should not be allowed to see the beautiful light of day. It works, until he finds a way back.
Surviving child sexual abuse is a process, so I am open to the idea it won’t always be this way but I also know it might. Deciding to live my life despite rather than waiting until was the key to getting where I am today. I’m glad I made that decision otherwise my lifetime would have been spent waiting, until time ran out and I would have missed out on the living bit.
Feel the fear and do it anyway is the cliché I remember reading on a front cover of a book as a child, and it works quite well for me (although I never actually read the book).
Some people understand my lodger, especially if they have one of their own, but I find him harder to explain to those who kindly offer solutions and belief a past can be undone. Maybe one day I’ll find the magic bullet and get rid of him once and for all, but in the meantime I’ll keep on living and keep on doing, and leave as little space for him as possible.