I have never made a bucket list.
In my head, I am still fifteen years old so why would I need a list of stuff to do before I die? I have all the time in the world!
A quick list off the top of my head might look like this;
– have kids (check!)
– get married (tick tock goes the clock)
– see New York again – this time with Bren
– family holiday in Hawaii
– publish a book
– eat my body weight in pavlova
It's a simple list for a simple gal.
Then I read an article by Chrissie Swan which was a reverse bucket list – things she would NEVER do in her life. I found it liberating to think about what would be on my list, things I am straight up saying Dammit, I won't do that! I have renamed it….
Angie's Fuckit List
I pledge to never:
– sky dive
– bungee jump
– let my feet leave the ground of any really high place EVER
– run a marathon
– caravan around Australia…or even around the block
– go camping (technically, I have done this before so am well qualified to say NEVER AGAIN)
– eat any weight in oysters
This was meant to be the end of my post. Short and sweet. Light. But wait, there's more. And it's considerably less fun to write about.
Not long before I fell pregnant with Luca, I went to see Billy Joel in concert. This revelation does little for my street cred, I know, but the man is a consummate performer, an extraordinary musician, and his live show is brought to life by a host of other amazing musicians. Our seats afforded us an excellent view of the musicians and back up singers and I found myself enthralled, watching their interactions, feeling so inspired by this creative life they got to lead, touring the world with Billy Joel. They were radiating with joyful energy, a buzz that anyone who has performed on stage will be familiar with. But they were doing it on the largest scale possible.
Having spent the better part of my life believing my life would follow a similar path and working towards a career in performance, witnessing a brilliant concert, an incredible movie, has always been a thrilling source of inspiration. And this night was no different. I began to imagine myself travelling the world as a performer, but instead of being motivated by that image, a claustrophobic dread gripped me like a vice. And just like that, the panic began.
In a massive arena, darkened and deafening loud, I felt like I had dropped down into the bottom of a well and couldn't get out. I was surrounded by thousands but completely and utterly alone inside my racing mind.
That fleeting idea of travelling away from home (and without Brendon) had sent a terror signal to my body which was dutifully preparing for my escape.
I rifled through my handbag for Valium which I rarely took but kept on hand because the very knowledge that I had it close by was an antidote to anxiety. I washed the little round pill down with some water and just the act of swallowing it allowed me to begin to talk myself down. Within five minutes, I had regulated my machine gun heart rate and slowly rejoined the crowd in focusing on the performance which had continued, oblivious to my quiet unravelling.
Although I was proud of the way I had reigned in this panic episode so quickly, the bigger implication was depressing. Anxiety had the power to stop me from living my life as I wanted to.
At its worst, anxiety disorders prevent people from ever stepping outside their own homes. While I was nowhere near that point, it was possible to see how the fear could become unmanageable. In some small ways, I was already a prisoner because of it.
Six years have passed and for the most part, my day to day life is not impacted by anxiety. But there are a handful of trigger situations (normally linked to a previous panic attack) – and I get nervous when I know they're approaching.
My anxiety is mild enough to live a normal life. But if I want to step outside of the norm, stray a little further from home, take a risk or jump headfirst into an adventure…I hesitate.
I don't want to hesitate.
And looking at the Bucket List I made at the beginning of this piece, at least three of them strike fear into my heart. Overseas travel – what if I have a panic attack away from home, in a foreign country, at the mercy of a foreign medical system? A wedding – what if planning this momentous event culminates in me having a meltdown on the day?
Sometimes I even wonder whether I share too much here, whether I am making myself vulnerable, exposing my truth in a way that can ultimately hurt me.
I had another episode of anxiety on the weekend. And then yesterday. Just small ones that I was able to control in a short space of time but too, too many.
The Fuckit List was empowering because it involved me declaring that I didn't care how exhilerating it felt, I was never going to jump out of a perfectly good and safe plane. My choice. But anxiety threatens to dictate my choices to me. Anxiety, as I currently live with it, has the power to remove things from my Bucket List without my consent. In my head, a list is formulating "Things I Can Never Do" and it's not me writing it.
So I finally saw the doctor today. The wheels are now in motion.
I want to feel safe – at home and on adventures.
And inside my own head.