The year that I turned 22, my parents went their separate ways. They’d been married for thirty years. My mother’s now an impressive, unstoppable force – I’m pretty sure she always was – but there are times when I can still picture the sadness. Life plans were obliterated and all sorts of crap came marching out of the woodwork. It was a seventeen piece orchestra at one point.
I’m not sure if I was a good enough daughter back then, I was too busy getting acquainted with panic and anxiety. I once tried a council-funded meeting for anxiety sufferers. An elderly woman spoke in soft tones about her husband’s death and the crippling anxiety that saw her struggle to make it to the nearest bus stop. They told us not to eat sugar or drink coffee. Someone called anxiety a prison sentence. I left early. I think there might’ve been a trail of dust behind me.
I haven’t seen anxiety in over ten years. Occasionally it comes scratching at my door but I’ve learnt to recognise the stench now. It can’t ever compete with the cold harsh lights of a children’s emergency ward and the discovery of true panic. When I recently read Jane Caro’s account of anxiety so much resonated. So much.
This week I briefly locked eyes with an older woman. She was sitting up high in the passenger seat of a large 4WD, her husband behind the wheel. I turned to look at my own husband behind the wheel. I thought about my mother and the woman in the council-funded meeting and I vowed to take control of the wheel more often.
Who takes control of the wheel in your house?