So so many of you have emailed me letting me know you're enjoying Brett's guest blog posts. He's back at it again, this time.... he talks about...
Yesterday, my stomach started to feel properly ‘funny.’ To be fair I’ve had a few runs lately where it’s felt ‘funny.' I’ve put it down to a change in my diet, the cold or too much coffee. Today my neck is aching. There is real tension in-between my shoulder blades. I used an ice pack which helped and wondered ‘did I sleep funny’? Today I also started to feel anxious. I mean properly anxious. I haven’t felt like this for some time. It’s like no matter what I do I can’t feel comfortable. I can’t feel... quiet. The serenity I felt during yesterdays run has disappeared. Then it hit me.
My parents are coming to visit.
It’s been years since I last saw my counselor, Campbell Perry. I’ll never forget his name. He is a brilliant man. I found him quite by chance. Don’t get me wrong at that point I was desperately seeking help but my search lacked any true method. I just looked through a directory and called a few who offered the person centred approach; an approach I had studied for a year whilst becoming accredited with a certificate in counseling skills (Think Carl Rogers et al). Campbell had a time available I would work with and was even willing to negotiate on price. I was out of work at the time so money was tighter that tight. Maybe the truth was he found me? Either way we met for the first consultation and I realised quickly I trusted him, I liked him, I could work with him and he could help me. During our lengthy exploratory discussions he taught me to recognise the physical symptoms of anxiety and for that, amongst many other things he did, I am eternally grateful.
Today, I recognised the symptoms again. Like I said, it’s been a while, but his words still rung in my ears. ‘Once you recognise the symptoms at least you know it’s normal. You understand what’s going on and then you can deal with it.'
If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that the vast majority of my anxiety has come from my parents. It’s a complex relationship full, for a very long time for me, with denial and expectation. Expectations driven in part by the social norm; you are supposed to get on with your parents, your parents aren’t around for long, your parents will always be there for you... well I also have a brother I haven’t spoken to in at least 3 years so I beg to differ. Isn’t there another social norm that goes something like ‘you can’t choose your family’?
So I’m sitting here with their arrival less than 24 hours away and I can’t deny it’s tough. I feel sick. But I also feel different. I feel... defiant.
TIME LAPSE.... FAST FORWARD 24 HOURS LATER......
It’s now 24 hours after the event. The physical symptoms of the anxiety have all passed. Not surprisingly it was an emotional time and one full of reflection and revelations. The act is complete.
It’s been said my many far wiser than I that you cannot choose your family. I can’t help wondering how many people, like me, have felt the tug of duty and need for acceptance. After all, it’s natural isn’t it to want that unbreakable bond you can apparently only feel with your parents? But what if that bond isn’t there, hasn’t been there for years and through the natural course of self actualisation actually becomes counterproductive? To be fair I’ve also been through this before as communication with my brother ceased years ago. For some reason that has been easier to take, or ignore.
As the visit continued I soon realised I now shared very little with my parents. I have traveled extensively, moved a considerable distance from my home town, grown accustomed to and welcomed rich cultural diversity, experienced a full education to post graduate level and enjoyed empty open spaces and the city life. My experiences had surpassed theirs by some distance. In essence, I had actively chosen NOT to walk in their footsteps.
Normally in any given social situation you can choose to walk away. You make your excuse and you’re gone to enjoy your latte, beer or water elsewhere. If that’s not possible you can endure the small talk knowing that in the future you can actively avoid contact. However, again in family situations there are expectations, a ritualised way things should happen part of which is that parents remain parents and children, no matter the age, remain children until such times and somebody looses that ability to look after themselves.
As my father attempted to exert his dominance in conversations which teetered on the edge of awkward I realised that whether they realised it or not there had been a perceivable shift. I could no longer force the situation. I was done faking. We had moved on from the parent child relationship to something altogether different. What that will be remains to be seen and I honestly hope over time it will be something positive however I am also acutely aware that, irrespective of convention, I will not be turned away from my path, for any period of time.
I am left with one thought that is painfully clear. For me it was never going to be a parent who dragged me kicking and screaming out of childhood. I managed that all on my own thank you, however now perhaps it is me who will need to guide them to the next step. It will be their rite of passage.
Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and aims to complete his first ultra marathon in 2018 at the not so tender age of 47.
He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 8 years ago has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health. You can follow Brett on Twitter and cheer him along as he battles his anxiety and beats it most days.