Despite the many years looking for someone to blame, I am so happy that I can now recognise that there have been many people who have reached out to help me, in their own unique way. My life has been enveloped in the trappings of an unruly anxious mind and, even in the face of my own ignorance to their kindness, people have always been willing to step forward and let me know that they care. So many, in fact, that languishing typed-out commendations upon a sole person leaves too many without the acknowledgement they deserve.
Of course, highlighting this person also suggests that my path to recovery can be narrowed down to a single monumental moment; the awe-inspiring words of an omnipotent problem-solver or the life-preserving clutch of an outreached hand, pulling me back from the edge.
As we all know, life isn’t like this. As a sufferer of anxiety, few of my life’s greatest memories could be painted in vivid colour, amongst a backdrop of eye-catching taglines. No, my life has been one of understatement. Equally, it was a moment of understated kindness, that I write of today.
The most surprising and emotionally curative of the backing I have received over the years, came from my mother-in-law. Of course, not a real mother in law, not in the legal sense. Crippling anxiety has ensured that, despite a baby on the way and an ever tightening engagement ring having been presented more than a decade ago, my forgiving fiancé and I still float on in the middle-ground of matrimonial limbo. something that would, without doubt, be a bone of contention were she not instantly forgiving of my many frailties.
But hey, this isn’t about her, this is about someone who has far less of an obligation when it comes to being so understanding.
In fact, I had never expected any kind of help from my FMIL (faux-mother-in-law). Please understand, this is anything but a judgement of her personality, she is a delight, caring person who clearly wants nothing but the best for those in her life. But, when it comes to dealing with those of us who have been stroked with the mad brush, I think we can all understand and expect that the ‘norms’ of this world may want to steer clear, in case any of said madness should rub off.
So, what exactly did FMIL do? Nothing more than proving this to be a fallacy. Another fictitious invention of my self-damning mind.
She didn’t need to she frog march me to a GP in search of professional help and a handful of quick-fix meds. She didn’t have to pull the proverbial blade from my hand as I wallowed in a pit of despair. Nothing so forthright was needed. No miracle cure. No words of magical healing wisdom. Instead, what my FMIL did for me was to simply present me with a printout and audio CD aimed at helping with social anxiety.
The audio course certainly helped. It provided some short term goals I could focus on in a time of great struggle. But, of course, it wasn’t the content of this gift that mattered, in was the intent. The intent that changed the way I looked at others in a big way. It was the sentiment and demonstration of care that meant so much more.
Saying we care is easy. If like me, you have anxiety problems, you no doubt find it hard to believe in the good of others. A misanthrope I am not. But I reserve the right to question anyone overtly eager to offer their own specific brand of “advice”. For me, the proof is in the pudding and my FMIL makes a fabulous dessert.
Anxiety isolates, it differentiates, it harbours guilt and it tells you that you are alone. Sometimes, it is the little things that mean the most. That tell you that someone cares for you, even if they don’t understand your heartache.
I have a lot of thank you letters to pass on. This particular letter is for that small act of kindness that was no doubt carried out with the natural instinct of a good hearted FMIL. But, it meant so much. It meant I wasn’t simply a burden, an embarrassment, something to shy away from.
It meant that I had been given the opportunity to step onto the first rung of a ladder I continue to climb to this day.
Thanks, FMIL. I expect you had no idea…
This post was originally a guest post for the wonderful people at Rethink.Org