For the past week I have been gripped by anxiety. Yes, I have had good times in that week but then when I least expect it a knot of tension will rise inside me and I will get the familiar urge to crawl into a dark space and just be for a bit.
It has been building for a while but last Thursday as I drove to Dublin for the book tour I felt it overwhelm me. I pulled over, felt my chest tighten and my head swim, and texted my husband and mammy to say that I just wanted to turn the car around and drive home. I had a feeling Very Bad Things were going to happen. I couldn't quantify the Very Bad Things - it was just that feeling and in that instance I didn't want to talk to anyone, drive anywhere or put on my happy smiley author face and run the gamut (is that spelled right?) of interviews and booksignings - all of which can be lovely but which can also make you feel like you are walking into your work stark naked and hoping no-one notices you.
My mammy - she who is wonderful - and my hubby - he who increasingly patient - both encouraged me to carry on with my journey. Yes, I was to take a little pit stop, breathe a little and then set off again and take it an hour at a time, an interview at a time and a bookshop at a time.
The feeling that Very Bad Things were going to happen didn't leave. In fact I was perhaps more paranoid than usual climbing into taxis and Darts and walking the mean streets of Dublin* that someone would rob me, or I would get lost or the few measly Euro secreted in my bag would not be enough to pay for ANYTHING (I have a pathological fear of the Euro... I have no understanding at all of its value. I just hand coins and notes to people and pray they don't laugh. In that respect I am an easy target for swizzers).
The interviews went well - helped by the fact that the interviewers were lovely - even the one who said "How come such a well educated person as you is writing chick lit?" in a tone which sounded a lot like "You kill puppies? For fun? How could you?"
Turns out he was just after a bit of banter. The banter was great also when I met the lovely people from Poolbeg for dinner (and perhaps too many drinks). I left feeling my ego had been pampered but also with a sobering (literally) picture of what the book market is like just now.
The booksellers were, as always, lovely. Like REALLY lovely but for the first time seeing my wee book there among the jillions of other new titles I felt sorry for it. I wanted to tell it never to worry, it will be okay and all it can do is it's best and sure that's good enough.... isn't it?
I drove home to Derry, mission accomplished, still with that Very Bad Feeling and it hasn't gone away, you know.
In the last three nights I have had every anxiety dream in the book - teeth falling out, remembering I've not cancelled the lease on my old student digs and owe 13 years rent, having to sit my A Levels again, being back in my old student house starting my degree again and wondering how I'll pay the mortgage, fighting with people yadda yadda yadda.
I look, and feel, zombified. I'm told the dreams are my internal fears about how I'm seen externally and I suppose that is true. The control freak in me does not like the lack of control which comes with books being out there and, well, generally with me a nutcase. I've been dosing the Prozac into me like a good 'un. Admittedly I've not been the best when it comes to taking it recently and that must have made an impact on my mood. I'm trying to get out and about more. I'm trying to assure myself that the Very Bad Things which might happen will not be insurmountable and in the grand scheme of things a book flopping is nothing as long as I have my kids and my health and - most importantly - their health.
Still, my head hurts and the desire to curl into a foetal position and wish away the days has not left and I feel as if I'm teetering on the edge of something. It could either be good or Very Bad Indeed but for now I'm just sitting here, arms outstretched, trying to keep my balance and hoping that very soon someone shows up with a safety net.
*I do not think all Dublin folk are robbers and murderers. I'm just a yokel from the North who is scared of all big cities. Even Belfast, which is quite wee really.On really bad days even Dungiven gives me the shakes.
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