Bethan talks about dealing with losing those important people in your life and how she dealt with this, as someone with anxiety.
Losing my glasses in my handbag makes me anxious. Forgetting where I’ve put my car keys makes me panic. Leaving my phone in the wrong place makes my blood pressure rise. But losing two loved ones in the same month? Nothing can compare to the anxiety, devastation and heartbreak you feel when that happens.
It’s hard even trying to put what happened into words but I’ll give it a go.
"The first person taken away from us was my partner’s brother."
He was 34, living in New York and enjoying everything life had to offer. Despite being so far away, he was always on the phone in one way or another to our family and was coming home for Christmas this year.
Then came the phone call we weren’t expecting.
Ant had passed away suddenly in his sleep. Nothing can prepare you for that. Nothing can prepare you for having to get past your own anxiety, shock and feelings to make sure that your partner and his family are supported.
Within 10 minutes of getting the call at 5am, we were in the car and on the way to tell his Mum, sister and brother. For something like this, you have to put your feelings to one side and focus all of your attention on others.
The worst thing? There’s nothing you can do to make it any better. And as a born worrier, an anxious person and general panicker, all I wanted to do was to make things more bearable for them.
Those few weeks were really hard for everyone. Karl and I went to New York to sort things out while trying to organise the funeral back at home.
"There were sleepless nights, emotional outbursts and still, I felt the overwhelming sense of not being able to help."
Those weeks were hard and admittedly, my anxiety was at a an all-time high. I know this because flying’s never phased me, I love it. But getting on that plane to New York, I’ve never felt so sick or on edge. Someone like me with extreme anxiety and depression was now responsible for helping to support someone who’d lost someone close to them. And I couldn’t make it better.
We managed to get through the week, making arrangements as best as we could. It was a really emotional and difficult time. By the end of the week, we were ready to get back on the plane to Manchester and see our families.
"Then my mum rang us at 7am US time to say that my Nan had died in hospital."
She was in hospital for a few weeks but, as far as I knew, it wasn’t life-threatening. Only a week before, I’d spent every night going in to see her, bringing her sandwiches and trying to solve the problem of her missing false teeth.
She became more unwell the day before we left for New York but I didn’t realise the last time I’d see her alive would be right then.
It was one tragedy after another. Now, not only did we have to think about planning Ant’s funeral, we had to plan my Nan’s too. Seeing two funeral directors in one day, collecting death certificates, listening to songs that might fit for the services and trying to find the words to write for both of them, took it out of us.
"Losing my Nan was like losing my best friend."
She’d always be there for me when I needed her and she was there when I had one of my first memorable panic attacks. I told her everything about my anxiety and depression and she was always there to listen and tell me it was ok. She was everything to me and I’m missing her so much.
After the funerals (the day after each other) and the scatterings took place, we felt a weight had been lifted. However, with Christmas on its way, it’s becoming really hard for us again.
I find myself feeling really anxious and feeling like I should be doing something… I used to visit Nan when I felt like this and had done for years.
While everything was going on, I needed something to do or I’d hide away and not come out.
"I’m not very good at dealing with things. I like to do plenty of other things to avoid dealing with the situation at hand."
So, I decided to audition for a part in a local amateur dramatics production. A part involving me saying lines and singing a song.
I was the centre of attention at one point. It was emotionally very difficult. All I wanted to do was curl up and hide away. But, having said I would take on the part, it made me leave the house in the evening and actually socialise.
If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have gone out. It’s strange isn’t it, how someone with raging anxiety chose to appear on stage in front of hundreds of people which is totally nerve wracking? I had to do it.
After months of practicing and getting over singing in front of people, show week came around and I was terrified. Though this time, instead of the anxiety being a bad thing, I used it as a positive thing and got up on that stage.
"My Nan used to love coming to see me in plays when I was younger and I just kept thinking she was there with me, watching me take on the challenge."
If you feel like you want to hide from the world, maybe go for a walk? Read a book? Watch a film? It’s ok to spend time alone, we all need that. And it’s ok not to be ok. I’ve struggled for years to realise that.
I’m accepting that this Christmas, Karl and I won’t be ok. We’re going to feel the loss but we’ve decided to still decorate the house, buy lots of presents and eat lots of beige food.
Both my Nan and Ant loved Christmas and we think we should celebrate them and their memories.
Cheesy as it sounds, I’ve realised how important time with family is. And how amazing they are. If it wasn’t for Karl, our families and my friends, I wouldn’t be dealing with things as well. I might’ve lost my best friend in the world but I’m lucky I’ve got amazing people around me who are my world.
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