It’s been 11 months since my last session with my psychologist. At first it felt good to save money, and not take time out of my week to travel to and from her office. But each jolt of anxiety, each dip in mood, collects. They build onto each other, onto each other, onto—
While eating breakfast I discover that my lips and face are tingly and hot. Then my inner elbows and the back of my neck are itchy. Then my whole upper body is itchy. I’m so itchy I jump into the shower and take one of my partner’s antihistamine tablets. The last time this happened, chilli flakes and tomatoes suddenly made my face red and angry, even in tiny amounts. I was very depressed. I was not seeing a psychologist. I was not seeing anybody. I was—
I make a post in a Facebook group about the importance of separating self-worth from work success, after spending a few days intermittently crying because my project isn’t working – or I’ve invested too much value into how well it’s doing – or I’m measuring success in numbers (all three). I receive a few critical, but not unkind comments amongst largely positive responses, and my heart races, and my brain tells me: this is why you should never share anything – other people are not safe. I know this is an old reaction to an old thing, and this is my new life – but intellectualism does no good here. I go to work and mimic laughing, which sometimes develops into real laughing, but the line between fake and real blurs, and maybe I am all fake.
I stop wearing mascara because my eyes well up too often, and it smudges onto my face. I start filling in my brows instead.
I circle back to what’s reliable: the Buffy Once More With Feeling soundtrack, Bojack Horseman, Harry Potter, baths. Eventually repetition deepens the groove.The way back to other, alien feelings does not become clearer. And I feel guilt about using so much water for a bath.
Past-me has an appointment in November 2012 with an Osteopath named Rachel. Rachel places her hands on the back of my ribcage, and feels. On my sacrum, and feels. On my upper back, and feels. My feelings are manifesting in acute physical pain. My ribcage is twisted, and I have difficulty breathing. Over several months Rachael gently manipulates my bones and muscles to sit where they’re supposed to. They need to be moved, and moved again. I need to be taught how to breathe, which is different to what I’ve been doing. Breathe in (belly out); breathe out (belly in). Rachel touches me and I relax. I learn how to do this when she’s not touching me. My digestive system starts to rhythmically pump the way it’s supposed to, now that my diaphragm is moving with it. My body forgot what it was supposed to do, but Rachel tells me I am malleable.
It’s 2017, and my osteopath has moved away. I have referrals for other practitioners I’m not contacting, along with my psychologist. Their phone numbers are on a piece of paper in my bag, thoughtfully written down for me. I’m in the bottom half of the circle, rolling feebly like a stagnant pinball.
Spring winds shower my body with plant debris, and I break out in another rash. I go to work, walk my dog, put the bins out on Thursday nights. I hold the space until I can try again.
Jenna works in Melbourne and writes non-fiction and memoir. Her work focuses on mental health, animal rights, and feminism. She is the creator of Head Desk, a mental health culture resource.