I love keeping my posts light-hearted because that’s who I am- I love being happy and goofy and I love trying to make other people happy too.
But goofy isn’t the only thing I am- I’m also someone who suffers from GAD, and someone who suffers from it pretty badly. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me; I’m friendly and almost always smiling, and even when I’m at my worst, I’m making sure I’m always smiling and laughing with those around me.
But if you have an anxiety disorder, you’ll know how exhausting it is to pretend that you’re fine even when you’re not… Especially when you’re not.
Last year, I had a horrible breakdown. I was at uni studying primary teaching, something I’d wanted to do ever since I could remember. My second 10 week prac the year before went horribly; my anxiety was debilitating and my supervising teacher was awful. This made my next prac extremely daunting. The days before I started were nauseating; I was terrified I would breakdown again, that I would cry in front of everyone; that I would fail. Again. Despite this, I still went into it with my head held high, even though my hands were hidden in my pockets, trembling and shaking constantly.
I made it two whole days before I decided to withdraw from prac. I couldn’t sit in the classroom without bawling my eyes out and consequently spent most of the time in the bathroom throwing up bile and hiding my panic attacks.
The days after I made the decision were the worst. I was a failure. I couldn’t even last two days in a school- how was I meant to make a whole career out of it?
I was lost. I made the huge, life changing decision that I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. It was already making me extremely ill and I hadn’t even graduated yet. I was in my fourth and final year of uni and I felt absolutely devastated that those four long years of study would eventuate to nothing.
I met up with one of my lecturers at uni, one of my absolute idols. I sat and told her everything, fighting back a flood of tears, terrified she would be as disappointed in me as I was in myself. She wasn’t; she was amazing. She told me that my health had to come first and I had to take care of myself. She also said there was an option of changing my degree to a Bachelor of Education Studies; I wouldn’t be a teacher, but could still work in education as a teacher’s aide or childcare worker and I would finish with a degree. I was relieved, but most of me still felt extremely lost and disappointed.
A few days later, I woke up on a windy Sunday morning with stinging eyes, aches and pains and was almost blue I was so pale from worry and not eating. I’m not sure what told me to do this, but I decided I wanted to make an apple pie. Something in me just urged me to; told me that I had to do it… From scratch. If I could succeed at making an apple pie; pastry, filling and all, there was one thing that I wouldn’t fail at. And everything would be okay.
I was still extremely fragile and weak when I gathered the ingredients and went to work in the kitchen. Mum and Alex, constantly caring for me throughout it all, stayed close by while I began to bake; Mum in the living room, Alex sitting on a dining room chair in the kitchen. He watched Netflix while I started following Poh’s recipe for Cheddar Crusted Apple Pie. (I left the cheddar out of the crust, something I now wish I didn’t because it sounds delicious. But at the time it was all too much for me to imagine putting cheese in an apple pie crust!)
I remember assembling the dough and immediately feeling this great wave of calm rush over me. The tension in my back and shoulders started to ease up, and I began to feel relaxed.
I peeled, cored and cut the apples, the monotonous action somehow soothing to me. I remember starting to hum and starting to smile, feeling content… Something I hadn’t felt for a long time.
After we chilled the dough, Alex and I rolled out the pastry with a big glass cup (I didn’t have a rolling pin!) and we assembled the pie. We made a lattice covering for it and I started to become thrilled with what we were creating.
I made an egg wash and brushed it over the finished lattice, humming as I went. Alex took a video of me doing it and smiled as he watched on. I was happy in that moment; everything was okay.
We took the pie out of the oven and it was perfect. The crust was golden and crunchy and the apple mixture was beautifully gooey and enticingly fragrant. I cut it into slices and we served it with ice cream. It was too sweet for me at first, probably because my taste buds were used to nothing but dry toast for a week. But then I felt it warm my whole body up. My heart was healing and my soul was being soothed.
I’m writing this because that was perhaps one of the best days of my life. It’s the day I remember thinking everything was going to be okay. I achieved something, didn’t fail and was proud of myself for the first time in a long time… I could finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Today, I’m finally doing something I love- working in childcare and loving every minute of it. I’m so incredibly thankful for how blessed I am: I have the most amazing partner, family and friends and everything is going well for me.
That is, almost everything. It’s been a year since my breakdown and despite my best efforts, my anxiety is back in a big way; it’s almost at its worst. There’s no specific trigger; that’s one of the worst things about GAD. Nothing bad has to happen for you to be terrified that something bad will happen.
I’m terrified and I need to take care of myself to make sure I get better.
It’s extremely difficult to take the first step to recovery (again.) It’s overwhelming, exhausting and most days, the likelihood of being healthy again seems impossible.
So today, I made apple pie. And everything is going to be alright.