Author Sarah Wil­son’s strug­gle with anx­i­ety.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Al­ley Pas­coe

AT 12, SARAH WAS DI­AG­NOSED WITH CHILD­HOOD ANX­I­ETY AND IN­SOM­NIA. NOW AGED 43, THE AUTHOR AND EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR EX­PLAINS HOW MEN­TAL ILL­NESS IM­PACTS AND AF­FECTS HER PER­SONAL RE­LA­TION­SHIPS

Anx­i­ety is a very lonely con­di­tion. I’ve hid­den my anx­i­ety from the world, so only a small handful of peo­ple have had di­rect ex­po­sure to it at its worst. It’s pushed a lot of peo­ple away. My way of cop­ing has been to run. When I feel peo­ple can’t cope with my in­ten­sity, I dis­ap­pear; I take off over­seas, change ci­ties or go on a five-hour hike. I have to re­treat and sit in lone­li­ness un­til it set­tles. That’s not a healthy cop­ing mech­a­nism, but you have to do what you have to do.

It can be hard for peo­ple around me. When you’re in the worst of anx­i­ety you need peo­ple the most, but it’s also when you push them away. It’s a cruel irony.

It’s also ironic that anx­ious peo­ple are often at­tracted to easy­go­ing, laid-back peo­ple (who I call Life Nat­u­rals). They are a nice in­flu­ence, but they’re not al­ways equipped to han­dle the in­ten­sity of peo­ple like me. My whole fam­ily are Life Nat­u­rals. I have re­ally grounded broth­ers and their com­pany is won­der­ful. I get a lot of ac­cep­tance from them, but I can’t ex­pect them to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on with me.

We can spend our lives think­ing the peo­ple around us need to un­der­stand us bet­ter, but they don’t. This is some­thing I have re­ally strug­gled with. You want your par­ents to un­der­stand you, to ac­cept you. Well, it’s not their gig; they weren’t born with this sit­u­a­tion – you were. That, in it­self, is a call to arms. It’s a mo­ti­va­tor to be­come the big­ger adult in the room. I don’t al­ways suc­ceed, but it’s my aim.

I try to keep peo­ple happy, but I’m not al­ways good at it. The hard­est part about be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship when you have anx­i­ety is let­ting your­self be vul­ner­a­ble. But if you’re too ex­posed, things spin out of con­trol. I’m learn­ing to bal­ance that.

Once, when I was hav­ing a panic at­tack, my ex-part­ner took me fish­ing. It was such a mun­dane ac­tiv­ity, but it cor­rected me im­me­di­ately. It didn’t take long. You can break the cy­cle of anx­i­ety by just be­ing anx­ious and ac­cept­ing it.

I’ve cho­sen to see anx­i­ety as beau­ti­ful, not as a bur­den or some­thing I have to change about my­self. That’s the premise of my book, First, We Make The Beast Beau­ti­ful. Writ­ing about my anx­i­ety was quite ex­pos­ing. But I’m at an age where I’m com­fort­able with that and I’ve got noth­ing to hide. I’ve done enough car­ing about what peo­ple think of me; now it’s time to live more mean­ing­fully.

First, We Make The Beast Beau­ti­ful (Pan Macmil­lan, $34.99) is out now.

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