Anxiety: a user guide

I’ve been really struggling with anxiety this week. I haven’t been able to settle myself down most of the week. And I haven’t felt comfortable asking for the help I’ve needed most.

This is anxiety. It’s with me quite a lot of the time, because living with autism is stressful.


Each day I am Sisyphus – pushing my burden up a hill for all eternity. And as I push it, it gathers snow, getting more difficult to push.

Breathing and visualisation exercises help to melt the snow; to make my task manageable again.

And most of the time I can get to the top of the mountain. I can push anxiety back down the slopes at the end of the day and watch it fall.

Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my task is too much.

People can help me lighten my load. They can help me push my burden or help remove some of the snow, so I can continue up the mountain on my own.

But if there is too much snow, if my burden becomes too heavy, it can knock me down the mountain. I know when this is coming because there is a physical sensation that builds up within me. It’s difficult to describe exactly, but it’s a bit like really bad pins and needles across my shoulders and in my chest. It’s similar to the electric spiders I get when I’m in sensory overload but much worse – absolutely unbearable.

And if it knocks me down, and pins me to the ground, I need someone to dig me out and offer tea and sympathy. Someone to talk random rubbish with once I’m over the worst but until I feel ready to head back up the mountain.

If there is no-one then I will struggle – unsuccessfully and to the point of exhaustion – to free myself. When the physical sensations become too much, I will try ever more extreme solutions to make them go away. Eventually all I can do is sleep and hope the snow melts overnight.

Then the next day it all starts again.

If the snow hasn’t melted overnight, that makes the next day even harder. Because my burden is heavier before I even start. It makes it even more likely that I will fall.

I’ve fallen every day for the last two months.

And I am absolutely exhausted now.


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