If you asked me to name my favourite colour, I would immediately answer that it’s teal. I got married in a teal wedding dress and I find myself drawn to anything teal or aqua or blue-y greeny.
Funny thing is that whenever I make a quilt, I pretty much always choose a rainbow of colours. In fact, I’ve become known for my rainbow sensibilities. Some of my friends even call me Rainbow Bright.
And so, it was probably no surprise that chose to use a saturated Alison Glass rainbow for my Girt by Sea quilt. Most of my crafty peeps would have been surprised if I didn’t!
Perhaps what would surprise them though would be to learn why I chose a rainbow this time and what it really means to me.
This Girt quilt was a real labour of love, coming at one of the lowest times of my life. You see, I have been going through the most crippling anxiety and depression I have ever experienced.
Anxiety and I are old friends. I have lived most of my life on the edge – a high-functioning, always-with-me companion, driving me to do more, be more, have more.
I studied law, travelled the world, came home to practice law and then walked away from that path. I met my husband, got married, started a new career in recruitment, served on the board of a not-for-profit, had two children and then decided that I should start a business – or three. So I started an Executive Search business, founded a charity that makes quilts for women in domestic violence refuges and become a 1/3 founder of Modern Makers Retreat.
I had everything I could want. I was achieving in my career, in my personal life, being creative and involved in service to others.
In social situations, I’m the life of the party. I’m most comfortable around people, hidden in plain sight.
Storm clouds had been brewing for the longest time though… my fundamental belief in myself – that I was not enough – pushed me to stay busy, to keep achieving, to fill my brain with noise so I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts and the pain I was feeling.
Living with high functioning anxiety looks to the world like confidence, energy and achievement.
In reality, it feels like you are raw. Like every nerve ending is exposed and every emotion could set you on fire. It leaves you completely vulnerable – like you’re naked, flaws and all, in front of the people who mean the most to you. And you’re ashamed and don’t want anyone to know how bad it really is.
It sounds like “you’re not enough. You’re a bad person. You’re a terrible mum. No one likes you. They know you’re a fake. You’re fat and undisciplined. What sort of an example are you for your kids? – you’re a mess. You can’t run a company. Why can’t you get your shit together?”.
So I got busy as a way to drown out the voice in my head. My life became a finely choreographed dance designed to exhaust me and that voice. And suddenly, I was hustling for my worthiness.
Then… well… then I broke.
So I did the only thing I had been running from for the longest time. I stopped.
I stopped and stepped back from nearly everything, but especially from the busy. I started seeing a psychologist and I asked my friends and family for help. I exposed myself and was more vulnerable than ever before. I sat and just listened to what my body and my mind was trying to say.
I challenged the mean girl in my head and I let the storm rage inside of me.
Then… I looked for the rainbow.
The rainbow in new friends who stood by me, in a husband who loves me no matter what, in the beautiful children that adore me and the creative process that became this beautiful quilt.
I am Girt by love and storms and rainbows. I am learning to believe in my worthiness.
Some days it’s seems like an impossible task. Nevertheless, I persist. And I’ve discovered that vulnerability (just like Brene Brown says in her TEDx talk) is the birthplace of creativity and belonging.
My life looks a lot slower and more intentional now.
They say the greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow – my rainbow is practically radiant.
Mental health issues effect everyone and in different ways. I’ve learnt that it is ok not to be ok. If you are reading this and struggling, know that you’re not alone, that there is help and that in time things will get better.
If you need to – reach out and get the help you need:
Lifeline Australia 131114
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636