Tigers Un­der The Bed

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Come On In! -

That hard ball of anx­i­ety keeps on get­ting big­ger and, be­fore you know it, anx­ious is the new nor­mal

One minute I was peace­fully lis­ten­ing to the sooth­ing tones of Sean Bean, de­scrib­ing the courtship of the rut­ting stag (well, not so much a courtship – he’s more of a get-your-coat-you’ve-pulled kind of guy), then the next I had a knot in my stom­ach the size of Piers Mor­gan’s head.

And the thing was, I didn’t know if this hard ball of anx­i­ety was about whether an un­fledged gan­net would fall to its death from its nar­row, cliff-side perch or about our bro­ken gas fire or the state of the world. Non-spe­cific anx­i­ety. It had been hap­pen­ing a lot lately.

OK, I’d al­ways been jumpy: shriek­ing at driv­ers to slow down and start­ing when any­one walked in the room.

“I live here,” Dave would say, look­ing pained. He, of course, be­ing the coolest, calmest per­son on the planet, thought it al­ter­nately amus­ing and ex­as­per­at­ing that I couldn’t re­lax. He called it tiger­sun­der-the-bed syn­drome.

“It’s get­ting worse,” I told my friend, Jeanie. “I lie in bed hav­ing pal­pi­ta­tions over noth­ing. And they only re­cede when Dave hugs me to calm me down. Then I might just get to sleep.” “It’s your age,” Jeanie said. “You mean it’ll pass?” I asked. Jeanie knew about these things.

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” she said. “Buy a whale mu­sic CD – that’ll help.”

Well, I’d tried ‘sooth­ing’ whale mu­sic when I was preg­nant and it hadn’t worked then…

Dave and I were com­ing up to our sil­ver wed­ding. We didn’t want a party. I thought that with luck it might pass me by, like the num­ber 49 when

I’m wait­ing in the rain, but no, Dave was mak­ing plans.

“Let’s go to Am­s­ter­dam – you’ve al­ways wanted to.

We’ll get the ferry.” He al­ready knew fly­ing was a no-no.

I hadn’t told him that re­cently my un­ease about boat travel had in­creased, too. Who wanted to be out in the North Sea in a gale? The last time, a short trip to France, I’d just about coped; I didn’t think I could do it again.

“They won’t bring Am­s­ter­dam to you, you know,” he said, and walked out.

He seemed a bit fed up. In the end, we went to Giuseppe’s for pizza and Pros­ecco. It was nice enough, but even I knew it was all a bit samey, a bit tame.

The fol­low­ing week, Sean Bean – I can’t think of him as Mr Bean, and Sean’s too in­for­mal; I hardly know him, af­ter all – was still con­cerned about the limp­ing roe deer and her two fawns. I thought of my own three lit­tle chicks. Not so lit­tle now. I’d al­ways felt more con­tent when they were all safely in the nest. Those teenage years of late nights and com­ing home tid­dly, and driv­ing lessons and boyfriends! Well, it’s how it is, I sup­pose. So many pos­si­ble ac­ci­dents and in­ci­dents wait­ing to be­fall them, and un­true friends and lovers to break their lit­tle hearts. You’d never let them know, but if their heart breaks, so does yours. And that hard ball of anx­i­ety keeps on get­ting big­ger and more gen­er­alised and, be­fore you know it, anx­ious is the new nor­mal.

Then some­thing hap­pened. Michelle, our mid­dle daugh­ter, fell over in a rowdy res­tau­rant in Spain. Her leg was swollen and strapped up, she’d lost her bag, she was shaken and bruised and needed us.

Dave said, “I’ll go. You stay here and have her favourite meal ready for when we get back. And make up the spare bed.” I could hear him giv­ing me clear­ance to stay home, mak­ing al­lowances.

I thought of my three lit­tle chicks. So many ac­ci­dents wait­ing to be­fall them

“Wait for me,” I yelled, run­ning up the stairs. “I’ll pack a bag.” My heart was pump­ing and I tried not to think of how claus­tro­pho­bic planes are, how fast they take off or that aw­ful, in­evitable bump­ing as they land; I tried to fo­cus on Michelle, alone in a strange coun­try.

I held Dave’s hand very tightly on the way to the air­port. I held it all through the flight and I nearly broke his fin­gers as we landed.

So, we went, both of us. We res­cued her, dealt with the po­lice – CCTV showed a sim­ple slip, fol­lowed by an op­por­tunist theft – and brought her home. Safe and sound.

Jeanie was some­what less than over­awed by my brav­ery. Leav­ing the coun­try isn’t the ma­jor step for her that it is for me, so I don’t sup­pose go­ing on a plane struck her as a big deal.

“Did you have a nice time?” she said, as though we were a cou­ple of ru­n­away sun wor­ship­pers. She did man­age a, “How’s Michelle?” later, in be­tween bites of Bat­ten­berg.

“I’m wor­ried that now Dave will think I can just take off any­where, any­time, though,” I whined. Even I could tell I was whin­ing. “He might not re­alise how hard it was.”

Jeanie looked at me steadily for a mo­ment or two. “I think he’ll re­alise,” she said.

She was right, be­cause Dave told me later that when I gripped his hand it re­minded him of the births of the girls – a kind of silent, per­mit­ted, fin­ger­nailsinto-palms abuse that would only nor­mally be ac­cept­able in labour. And I’m tak­ing that as a sign. For­give the ex­tended metaphor, but I’m about to birth a new me. I’ve de­cided that next time he sug­gests some­thing I’m go­ing to say yes. The anx­i­ety won’t ever go away, but I can try sup­port groups and herbal reme­dies and I can med­i­tate and con­cen­trate on other stuff. And I’m go­ing to carry on, re­gard­less of that un­fo­cused feel­ing of dread that catches up with me when­ever my mind’s not busy with other stuff, and some­times when it is. If mak­ing that ef­fort goes against my grain, stops me from sleep­ing and makes me feel phys­i­cally sick, I’m go­ing to do it any­way. I can’t wait to tell Dave.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.