As a child I hated school and would feel a sense of dread boil up inside my gut by bedtime on a Sunday evening that would float in a stomach full of anxiety, that would prevent me from sleeping and provoke tantrums and arguments and vomit and panic.
I hated school so much that I would regularly pack a bag after my Sunday evening shower and march out of the front door with wet hair, a good story book in my hand and a teddy bear under my arm to run away from the prospect of returning to school.
Every Sunday evening was filled with my tears and screams and physical shaking and trembling. I was having panic attacks from age 11 whilst my parents continued their lives in front of the TV downstairs, oblivious.
GOOD RIDDANCE SCHOOL
As I grew up, the prospect of another day grew more and more worry-some. Especially as the realm of school crept into my paradigm of home; MSN Messenger became a breeding ground for gossip and weekly plans about beautiful boys and school uniform alterations, and, inevitably, bullying.
Mobile phones would never let me escape the demons at school even at the weekends. Even when mobile phones weren’t allowed in the classrooms, they were allowed in my bedroom. And my parents, they continued their lives in front of the TV downstairs, oblivious still.
I suppose, therefore, it was no surprise that on the day of my last GCSE exam, I completed the last test, picked up my bag and walked the five miles through the suburb homes into Bristol and vowed never to return the school that had caused some many fits of anxiety every Sunday evening for over a decade.
I celebrated by bouncing on a trampoline, listening to music loudly, reading books of my choosing for my own pleasure and staying up late. Even today, over 10 years since leaving that place, I have never returned to the school gates and I purposely make no work plans on Monday to avoid that Sunday evening feeling.
SWEET SUNDAY FREEDOM
Until now, this plan was working perfectly. I was having few attacks of anxiety due to that Sunday 'feeling'. Last month I moved into a house in small village in North Devon. In the summer, especially during hot and sunny days, this area is filled with tourists, fun events, busy shops bursting with shoppers and surfers and holiday makers.
I enjoyed being here, lounging on beaches in my bikini, throwing BBQs on the verges near parking spaces, or picnicking along the coastal path. But now that we approach the shortest day of the year, I've begun to feel trapped and isolated as well as cold and wet. The weather is not suitable to be laying on the sand or going on long walks or throwing BBQ parties.
The one nightclub closed and most of the pubs shut for the long winter. It is now becoming harder to fill the days with activities to do.
When not working (I work remotely and this brings greater social obstacles I will mention in a later post), I overstay in coffee shops whilst I sip tea and read books, I walk the length of the one shopping street, try on clothes for the sake of trying on clothes with no intention of ever buying.
I spent hours driving from village to village exploring the one or two paved streets they have to offer and am regularly greeted with closed shops or desperately sad and lonely locals.
TIME ALONE CAN BE SCARY
Now, I feel that same anxiety I would get on Sunday evenings as a school girl creep up from within me, except now, it’s not happening on a Sunday, it’s starting on a Saturday night.
What sort of confident, outgoing girl in her mid-twenties should be getting anxious about Saturday nights and Sundays?! On Sunday the few shops that remain open will shut, on Sunday the libraries and gyms close. On Sundays there is never anything to do.
Even the local (12 miles away!) supermarket is shut. And of course, at first, I filled these Sundays with bike rides and train journeys but these activities creep into my normal week too. I quite literally have run out of things to do and this filled me with the dread I first experienced as an 11-year-old schoolgirl.
Now, I’m not scared of bullies or perverted teachers; I’m scared of having a moment alone with myself with nothing to do.
Today, I am not scared of homework deadlines or exams, I’m scared of the library shutting down forever and the gym closing for refurbishments. And right now, I have no idea how to solve it. Do you?
I GUESS WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY:
It is important to recognise how you are feeling. I understand that I was nervous about returning to school when I was a child and realise that even if that’s not an appropriate feeling to the situation, it’s still how I felt so I acknowledge it
Celebrating getting through school was important. I celebrate every small victory. I still remember how I felt bouncing on that trampoline for hours after I had walked the long walk to my childhood home. There hasn’t quite been a sensational finale since.
We each tackle anxiety differently. Right now, I can feel anxious about Sundays in the countryside very far from civilisation, but it has yet to stop me from pursuing a solution or remedy. It’s tough to see people around me coping well with the isolation that living in North Devon brings and I hate when they tell me to ‘make the most of it’. I have a feeling I need to learn to be comfortable with my own silence and find my own entertainment, but for others, the solution may be very difficult.
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