Have You Got The Welcome Mat Out For Anxiety?

It dawned on me the other day that the reason for my (comparative) inertia when it comes to grabbing the bull by the horns (or indeed any other colloquialism for getting off your backside and acting), is that I have probably been suffering from anxiety for most of my life.

Can cats teach us how to cope with our anxiety?

I carry a vague sense of unease around with me most of the time.  I’ve even given it a name – “The Fear”.  It is a shapeless, amorphous blob which lurks behind doors and curtains and casts a shadow on the gloomiest day.

I could write a list of things that could have triggered it.  But, you know, nobody lives to the age of 53 without having had something unpleasant happen to them, a loss, a scare, a disappointment.  That is, to quote one of my mother’s more annoying truisms, “all part of life’s rich pattern”.

I carry “The Fear” around with me most of the time and it makes itself known in strange symptoms like my “glasses thing” (or OCD), my inability to leave fluff on the carpet (whilst being completely able to ignore dusting), my requirement for absolute darkness and silence at night.

Anyone who leaves the empty cardboard tube from the toilet roll on the floor of the toilet feels my wrath.  I cannot bear wet towels on beds, shoes on in the house, toothpaste lids left off.

It’s all about control.

And, more specifically, controlling “The Fear”.

Lots of us, of course, would medicate it away somehow.  Or read endless self-help tomes (“When I loved myself enough to knit my own yoghurt”).  Or seek therapy. (And how does that make you feel? Well, crap, actually).

I’m not entirely convinced acknowledging “The Fear” helps.

We are all battling the human condition and (to quote mum again), we all have our cross to bear.

There’s one of those motivational postcards I often see on Facebook which says something like “be kind because everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about”.

I suspect that is entirely true.

Which means, some of us have developed more effective strategies for dealing with “The Fear”.

Or are we so far in denial we think we can get to Narnia through the wardrobe.  (You can’t, I’ve tried).

Perhaps this is why there are so many videos of cats doing, well, cat things.

I love that quote about cats by the French Renaissance write Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) who said:

“Quand je me joue à ma chatte, qui sçait si elle passe son temps de moy plus que je ne fay d’elle?

(When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?)

Cats really don’t, to use the vernacular, give a stuff.  They do what they want and bugger the consequences.  In fact, most cats would sniff, scag your tights with their claws and then say”what consequences” whilst yawning.

Montaigne also said “There is no passion so contagious as that of fear” and “The thing I fear most is fear”.

And that’s the thing about anxiety too.  You get anxious about whether you’re anxious. And then you are.

I often theorise that lots of ‘odd’ behaviours are simply displacement activities to avoid looking within and admitting that you are anxious.

Lots of us simply hide away.  Or leave parties early.  Or ‘forget’ to turn up at all.  That old saying about “always finding me in the kitchen at parties” is a neat metaphor for social anxiety.

You’ll always spot the anxious at children’s parties because they’ll be the ones clearing up the remnants of sausage rolls and half eaten pizza armed with black bags and an air of determination not seen since the Blitz.

The anxious will always give themselves away by hating things that everyone else likes – just in case they have to join in. Christmas?  Too commercial.  Ditto Valentines Day. Any major sporting tournament, big event in the social calendar, spontaneous knees-up…. “I can’t be bothered with all that”, they’ll say.  ” All that fuss and unnecessary expense”.

Hell would be joining the Parent Teachers Association.  Or being invited up on stage during a live show.  (I’m seeing Derren Brown in April so fingers’ crossed he doesn’t spot me!).

We anxious ones always stand apart like statues.  We avoid eye contact.  If someone speaks to us, sometimes it’s so surprising we actually jump.

At conferences we anxious avoid eye contact.  We take urgent phone calls.  We write notes.

We anxious ones like to end even the most terse email or text with a row of kisses.  “I hate you, you bastard” xxxx

The thought of upsetting someone and having to deal with the consequences is always far scarier than standing up for ourselves, claiming what’s ours, demanding to count.

It’s a shame there’s no secret handshake to announce you are suffering from “The Fear”.

Social Media is very fond of urging you to find your “tribe”.

My tribe would be named (and this is one of my dad’s favourite jokes), the “Elawi”.  Ask them where they are and they say “we’re the Elawi” (where the hell are we)?  

Since I’ve had “The Fear” for well over 40 years, I guess I had better get used to it.

And as a parent, the last thing I want to do is pass it on to the kids.

Kids have superheroes to help them synthesize their fear, to give them role models for, to quote Percy in one of my favourite historical sitcoms, Richard Curtis’ Blackadder, “putting ice cubes down the vest of fear”.

Perhaps in later life we just need to say “sod it – The Fear is part of me.  It is who I am”. Perhaps acknowledging the intruder will take away a little of the horrid antsy, unsettled feeling. Perhaps after all we just need to put the welcome mat out for anxiety and some days, just some days, it may go and visit someone else for a change.

The late Helen Gurley Brown, founder and later editor in chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine said that when she was upset she would lie on her sofa with her cat and talk it out, a bit like a court hearing.  I did this, he said that and so forth.  She would do this until she felt better.

I think I want to get another cat.

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18 Comments on "Have You Got The Welcome Mat Out For Anxiety?"

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Lubka Henry
Guest

I have come to similar conclusions, that I’ve grown up in depression and most probably have had anxiety in long quite periods of time.
I guess you’re right. At some point of our lives, we just learn to live with it 😉

Bryanna Skye
Guest

thank you so much for sharing — I have “The Fear” as well, and it can make things incredibly difficult and stressful, but I shall try to be more like a cat when I can!

MissPond
Guest

I’ve worked hard to keep my anxiety under control. It is definitely something you have to learn to live with. It doesn’t make it entirely easy, but gaining coping mechanisms helps.

Starlight+and+Stories
Guest

I can relate to pretty much everything in this post. Especially the part about trying to cover it up so as not to pass it on to the children x

Laura+Dove
Guest

I have had anxiety ever since I was a child, it goes back right from being around 4 or 5 and has got progressively worse with age. I notice my children are quite anxious and worry it’s my fault.

La+French+Connection
Guest

I can be very anxious too. Sometimes I just feel like something is going wrong but I don’t know what exactly. But with time I have managed to listen to it a bit less.

Mika

Melanie
Guest

What an interesting read regarding the fear and anxiety this is great and will put others in a similar situation at ease x

Rhian+Westbury
Guest

I have a small fear about having a lack of control so it does make me anxious sometimes. I think you should get another cat x

Lynne+Harper
Guest

I suffer from this as well and I really hate it when it comes over me. I have learnt to live it with it but I dont like it at all x

Emily Leary
Guest

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about ‘The Fear’ which I’m sure many will empathise with. It is a very insightful piece of writing.

Bethany
Guest

I couldn’t agree more, I suffer from depression, stress and anxiety mostly because of my illnesses, it’s all becoming so normal now that I don’t know what my old self used to be like.

kirsty
Guest

I went for years with depression without being diagnosed and it took me almost 10 years to learn why and what causes my moods to drop and how to build myself back up again. I’ve been off my meds for 2 years now so it is possible to take control of.

leah Lander-Shafik
Guest

I loved this post…I wouldn’t say i relate to it but it definitely helped me understand that people have these anxious moments and that it’s not uncommon either.

Louise
Guest
I am sorry you suffer so badly. I suffer quite a bit but when I moved house last year it took hold like I could never imagine. I ended up going and talking to someone about it. A counsellor. It really helped. Sometimes we think it’s one that’s the trigger but actually it can be something else. My anxiety that raises is when I have my hair cut. I used to be terrible as a child but grew out of it quite a bit. When my little boy started with severe anxiety it completely set me off. I can’t really… Read more »
Tanya
Guest

I’m sorry to hear you struggle so badly but I love that you wrote such an open and honest post about your anxiety. I think this will be a great read for anyone suffering too. I have struggled with bouts of depression throughout my life and it has definitely got to a point where I have just learnt to live with it

Louise
Guest

I’ve never really thought of myself as being an anxious sort of person, but reading this I was nodding along in agreement to pretty much everything. Maybe I’m in denial. It might explain why I haven’t been feeling myself recently. I can’t explain how I feel though. Lost, maybe? Like I’m just a number and that no one really gives a damn 🙁

Louise x

Jake+Ferrer
Guest

Great post. Everyone is suffering from it I guess, and we can’t help it. I need to share this to my mom and aunt. It will surely be of help for them. Thanks for sharing it.

Liz
Guest

This is so true…I have only just realised that ‘the fear’ has been with me for too long now…I know when it came, a few months ago and it made me ill wondering how to get rid of it without anyone else knowing! Well…I’ve taken steps, they didn’t kill me and I’m slowly shoving it out of the door…like you say…so that it can go and visit someone else. I might recognise it next time and shut it out? ❤️