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At this very moment, there’s two major events happening that I should be at. One is the third annual Mumsnet Blogfest in London (which I spoke at in 2012), a huge gathering of bloggers who have travelled from all over the country to network, learn and share information and the other is the Jack the Ripper Conference in Salisbury (which I spoke at in 2013), a huge gathering of Jack the Ripper researchers, who have travelled from all over the WORLD to network, learn and share information. I should be at both. I am at neither.

The reason for this is simple: I am depressed and my anxiety issues have worsened to the extent that I have panic attacks if I have to do anything more arduous than the daily school run, and even that is a hideous burden that I try to accomplish as quickly as possible, with my head down and earphones in so that I can get in and out of the playground as efficiently as possible. I don’t mean to be unfriendly but right now anything unexpected, like having to make small talk with someone I barely know or being delayed or being trapped in a tunnel is just too much for me to handle and will inevitably end in panic and tears. It’s even worse when I’m suffering one of my intermittent bouts of insomnia.

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I recently wrote about Juana of Castile on my Facebook page and was simultaneously saddened and heartened by the response. I mentioned in one comment that I suffer from severe depression and anxiety myself and other readers responded to say that they too feel the same way. I was surprised too – I suppose that I’d got so used to internalising my problems and resolutely not talking about them to anyone (no, not even my husband) that it was a bit of an overwhelming wake up call to be reminded that actually, no, I’m not alone and lots of you feel the same way.

People often tell me that they envy my life because I seem to get to do so many cool and amazing things, which I share here on my blog. I know that I am VERY fortunate and it is my absolute pleasure to share that with you guys as much as I can, but I suppose the flip side is that I should be more honest about how hard I find things too, that a lot of the time I very nearly don’t go to a lot of the events I feature because my anxiety overwhelms me so much. I do it though, because otherwise what would my life be? But it’s tough and often counter productive because I look at the sociable, cheerful, friendly way other bloggers and writers behave and feel like even more of a failure and social pariah – although you’d probably never know it to look at me.

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Anyway, there’s not really any point to this post other than to say that I’m struggling and that I’m here for those of you who are in the same miserable boat of woe.

And that next year I WILL be at Blogfest and Ripper Con as usual because I’m not going to let this illness set me back or defeat me any more.

Set against the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of autumn 1888 and based on the author’s own family history, From Whitechapel is a dark and sumptuous tale of bittersweet love, friendship, loss and redemption and is available NOW from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Burning Eye.

‘Frothy, light hearted, gorgeous. The perfect summer read.’ Minette, my young adult novel of 17th century posh doom and intrigue is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US and is CHEAP AS CHIPS as we like to say in dear old Blighty.

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59 thoughts on “Anxiety

  • Fran

    You’ve got exactly the same problems as me :( I’ve just had to take a few days out of sixth form because of it, and last year I had to leave year 12 because they got pretty bad. So basically, I know exactly how you are feeling!

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      I’m so sorry to hear about the problems you are having. I had much the same thing happen at school, sixth form and university and in fact it looked like I’d have to drop out of university altogether as things got so bad. I really hope things improve for you! xxx

  • Holley Calmes

    Dear Girl – Just read your post titled Anxiety. I have suffered from this same thing earlier in my life, and I know how terrifying and horrible it is! I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts…you will get better! It seems to run in our family, too. My brother and my daughter have suffered with it. Love yourself! You are a brilliant, wonderful lady. Big hugs from Georgia, USA.

  • Charlene

    Thank you for sharing. I thought it was some weird thing about me. I know it frustrates my husband when I change my mind about going somewhere because of the anxiety.

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Thank you for your comment! My husband gets very frustrated with me as well but things are getting easier as he gets more used to it, I suppose. Big hugs to you! xxx

  • Leigh

    All right, darlin’, here’s the thing: you. do not have. to go. anywhere. or do anything you don’t want to do. And anyone who gives you shite about it is no friend of yours. Or ours, for that matter. You _should_ take care of yourself first; first, and before ‘taking care of us’. You do what you need and if that means, leaving your fuzzy slippers on, and spending the next three days with the crossword then you do it. We’ll all be right here; glad for what you chose to share and happy for you when you do something cool. But never, ever wishing you to wear yourself out. And always wishing you happiness and peace. Find someone to talk to; pay ’em, so you can start taking away the layers of anxiety. The good therapists: worth their weight in gold. ❤️

  • Rich Ubert

    You have the best blog going. As a history lover, I love your post and the way you bring individuals long gone, not as hIstorical characters but as real people, different times and circumstances, but none the less as rel people. Take care of yourself. You may not realize it, but you have made a lot of friends !

  • arkadyrose

    Chances are that those other bloggers are doing much the same – showing only the bright, cheerful, exciting things in their lives and hiding away the darker side. It actually takes quite a bit of mental strength and fortitude to stand up and say “Actually, no, things aren’t great,” and to admit to depression and anxiety. There’s still a huge stigma against mental illness despite the fact that 1 in 4 adults will suffer from clinical depression at some point in their lives. So well done for having the courage and fortitude to make this post; I imagine it wasn’t easy.

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Hello! That’s very true – and I should know that as it’s not as if I haven’t been pretending that everything is fine and dandy too. Like I said, no one would ever know from looking at me that I’m a mess inside and can barely bring myself to leave the house most days. I should remember that lots of other people are silently suffering too and stop comparing myself to how they seem externally.

      It was SO hard to write this down. I can barely even bring myself to talk to Dave about it, let alone share it with loads of other people! ;) xxx

  • Tru Dillon

    I sometimes think this feeling is due to hormones. After Menopause my anxiety got better. It got worse as I went through Menopause, but in general it got better. Also being an artist you are taking in more stimulus than the average person. That is what makes you unique and able to channel your thoughts into your art. I feel that anxiety is a result of being a sensitive being. Thanks for letting us all feel a little less alone in our sensitivities, by revealing yours to us : )

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      I’ve been wondering if it is hormonal. I wonder if taking supplements again would help? I’ll look into that! :)

      I am SO sensitive, which definitely doesn’t help! I’ve never thought of myself of having an artistic temperament before! How splendid! Thanks! :)

      • arkadyrose

        You *must* have an artistic temperament or you wouldn’t be able to write the way you do. Writing is as much an art and a talent as painting or playing a musical instrument, and is just as dependent on having that “spark” inside. You have a gift that many would envy, and you’re *good* at it – you must be, or people wouldn’t buy your books. ;-)

  • Loulou

    Just to say I can completely relate. I have had anxiety in the past and managed to overcome it quite recently. So don’t give up hope! I really enjoy your blog by the way.

    • 5katie5

      Fear not, Dear Lady.
      You don’t need to suffer so. There are effective medications. Not habit forming, not toxic, but they must begiven by a Psychiatrist who is also a Pharmocologist. (sp) I’m sure there are great ones in London. I am in NY and if you contact me privately, I can give you his name and you can look him up on Google. He may have a referral in UK or give you some direction. It takes a while to balance
      ( essential) the proper meds for you…..They keep you out of the well .
      PS. I have been following your Blog for some time with great joy. Our history is so limited here for many reasons. I think I would have enjoyed History in School if I knew how raunchy it could be.

      • Madame Guillotine Post author

        Thanks so much! I’m looking for a therapist in my local area, but thank you for the very kind offer!

        Aw, thanks so much! I really try to make the stories on my blog as colourful and interesting as possible! :)

  • Karen Tutcher Austin

    I understand exactly what you’re going through. Do what you have to do to make yourself feel better. I know just taking the kids to school or walking the dog is too much sometimes. When I was bad off everything I loved to do went by the wayside. Art, sewing, walking. I did keep sane during that time by being able to read. I couldn’t concentrate on just anything when I read – it had to be a certain genre, and it got me through. I hope you have one thing you can do until this gets better – and it really will get better. Don’t feel guilty, just accept and love yourself and be patient.

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Thanks so much! I know just what you mean – my concentration levels are SO low right now that I can only really read quite lightweight fiction and mindless films. It gets me through though! ;)

  • Andrea

    I am in an anxiety flare right now as well. I seem to do it every fall. I pull myself together enough to go to work, but i don’t leave the house on weekends. think it is partially hormones, partially genetics, a couplecof auto-immune diseases, with some other stuff thrown in.

    Have you ever had your hormones and thyroid levels evaluated? High or low, they exacerbate my anxiety.

    I also see a Naturopathic physician. Last fall she started me on the supplement GABA. It decreased my anxiety from my chronic 7-8 out of 10 to a 3. Don’t take more than 750 mg a day. And it is best to have medical advice before taking it. I also take the homeopathic remedy Hylands Kali Phos or Bachs Flower Essence. They take the edge off.

    I love your blog and I love your books! You aren’t alone!


    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Oh no, I’m so sorry that you are having issues as well. Mine is exacerbated by hormonal stuff and a couple of long term health issues as well as Aspergers/dyspraxia, so I totally get where you are coming from. I find it so hard to leave the house as well – if I didn’t have to do school runs, I’d probably never leave! ;)

      I’ve had my hormones and thyroid levels tested a number of times and they are always normal.

      Thanks so much! I’ll have a look into the remedies you mention! I hope you feel better soon. xxx

  • Lisa

    Just wanted to drop by and offer you words of love and encouragement. I struggle w/anxiety as well. I am familiar with the thoughts and feelings you describe. Hang in there and be you. Never feel guilty or like you are “less than” because of your anxiety and depression. Please know you are very valuable. I very rarely post here, but I follow your blog and FB page religiously. I enjoy them very much. Sending you thoughts of love and peace. Hang in there. It will get better.

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Thanks so much for such a lovely comment! I’m so sorry that you have the same problems and hope you are feeling well at the moment and remain so! Much love to you too! xxx

  • isabelle

    God bless you. I also feel pretty down, but I can get around. It’s tricky though because it makes people think you are better off than you actually are. I hope all the love and concern from others sends you some healing. I’m rooting for you!

  • Becky

    In addition to yours, I read a lot of quilting blogs and it seems like all of them are written by these skinny, happy blondes with gorgeous husbands and cute kids. Social media is great, but it can be deceiving. I have to keep reminding myself that the perfect lives they chronicle on their blogs are only slivers of the whole. Everyone has problems, rashes, and sorrows and it’s so brave of you to share yours with strangers like me.

    You didn’t ask for it but to even things out, here’s my deal: I’m a smart, talented, successful 37 year old and I feel like I’m so ugly I’ll never find anyone to share my life with. I wear the mask; no one close to me knows I feel this way or how lonely I am. I’ve never said this out loud or in print, but it feels…okay. Maybe just acknowledging it is the first step. Thank you for that, and good luck.

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Thank you! Yes, you are SO right – it can be so deceiving as I don’t think ANYONE really has the perfect lives that some bloggers seem to have! And if they did then it would be really boring (and kind of annoying!).

      I am so sorry to read the rest of your comment. I can actually totally relate as well – I feel similarly negative about myself too and find it so hard to say out loud or even type! Instead it festers away in my head, that little voice telling me that I’m ugly and my friends all hate me and I don’t deserve to be happy. It’s horrible. I feel so sad that you feel that way too and am sure that the voice is a big fat liar. :(

      Mega hugs to you my friend. xxx

  • Sandra

    Nothing quite like having your own personal ‘IT’ is there! Just a thought from one of the many things I found helpful. You like to write. Have you written to ‘IT’?
    I used to write to my ‘IT’, I made it into a ‘thing’ I could converse with. I also wrote lists of what I could and would do to ‘IT’. It helped me fight off the paralysing effect of fear and got some anger going which as you know, is full of energy and can help even more.
    The writing helped me identify triggers and we all have them, which I used to get angry and ‘turn around’ so the damned thing couldn’t sneak up on me anymore. It got to the point where I’d say, ‘ok I know you’re there and I know exactly what you’re trying to do but you’re pretty damned pathetic so come on, bring it on so I can wipe the floor with you and you can bugger off. OK?’ And that is what helped me defeat ‘IT’. Sounds simple but it took time and being vigilant and above all, using my anger constructively. I’d grown up believing anger is a bad thing but it isn’t if you use it constructively. Flight or fight. Fight is better for this!
    Not saying ‘IT’ won’t come back but I’m armed and dangerous, y’know? ‘IT’ is raw fear which aims to stop you having a great life. You’re job is to flog the daylights out of it so it can’t achieve that aim.
    Just thought I’d write and let you know what worked for me.

  • rebeeka

    I have enjoyed your writing for years and want you to know that it never fails to brighten my day! I also have similar challenges and think it is common for creative, over thinking types. I wish I had some great advice on how to handle it, but just know that you are not alone!

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Aw, thanks! That’s so very kind of you and I’m so sorry that you have been experiencing the same issues! I’ve had some great advice and I’ll try to make a post collating some of it as I think quite a few of us would find it useful! It really helps to know that I’m not alone and I hope it helps you too! xxxx

  • linottemelodieuse

    I have the same issues you do with both anxiety and depression, and with the right medication and therapy, it can be managed and you can feel like yourself again. I still have good and bad days, but the bad ones aren’t as bad as they used to be. Trust me, it does get better! <3

  • Rachel Taylor-Price

    I’m totally in sympathy here….have exactly the same issues and have done ever since my thyroid ceased to function three years ago. I’ve been following your blog for the last eighteen months and it’s always fascinating so don’t lose sight of your creative brilliance..though I know that’s hard when you feel rotten. Sending you positive thoughts and virtual hugs

  • The Anchorite

    Once you start talking about this kind of thing, it’s amazing (but tragically so) how many people are in a similar situation; I found that too, and couldn’t believe how common it is. It is so awful when the panic and the anxiety prevent basic interactions, but people who care will understand. Thinking of you, and I just want to say how impressed I am that you keep writing and blogging – and producing such material of a very high quality as well – even as you feel so terrible. Take care!

  • Robin

    I think it’s easy to see how many of us suffer from the same thing. Thank you for sharing your feelings. And as far as looking at the other happy bloggers and comparing yourself to them – you are unique and wonderful and original and brilliant – because of who you are. We read what you have to say because of who YOU are. Big hugs to you from across the pond. xo

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Thanks so much! You’re right – I really need to stop comparing myself to other people and remind myself that we’re all unique and that no one comes completely problem free either!

      Big hugs to you too! xx

  • Kate M

    Reading your blog takes my mind off my troubles – it’s great and it always makes me research interesting people and places. Many thanks for this!

  • jgbaumgartner1925

    Hey Melanie – I never hear back from you when i comment, so I hope you get this. Millions of people suffer from depression in todays world. Who knows all the reasons. But you are a beautiful, intelligent person and I love your blogs. I see you are maturing even more now. It seems like I have been watching your blogs for about 7 or 8 years now. I remember your pics with pink hair and your beautiful smile. Now that smile is a little dim. I hope you are checking out some medications to help. Unfortunately this is often the only real and tangible help so you don’t have to live with depression so much. You are an artist and you need to be able to write and take photos and just be your creative self. Depression paralyzes a person. From a distance I love you and hope you can find a way of dealing with this. I think medication is the first line of action. Blessings to you. Johanna

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Sorry for not replying before – I often get really overwhelmed by all the comments and emails and hide for a bit! I’m trying to stay more on top of things now as I think that actually really helps to keep me busy and feeling more in control! :)

      Thank you so much for your lovely words. I’m so very touched that people think so highly of me – especially as, as you can probably imagine, my opinion of myself is extremely low right now. I really appreciate it that so many of you have taken the time to get in contact! xxx

    • Katherine Stephens

      to repeat and add to my first reply…please please,please just research this illness. It its Chronic Depression and/or Clinical Depression….treatable with a Phyciatrist who specializes in this together with Pharmacologist who is trained with the best medications ot combinations for you. I too, was resistant, telling my doctor, it was ‘this years diagonosis’. His answer was, “No, we have know about depression since ancient Greece but had nothing to treat it with “. You owe it to yourself to make this information a priority. You don’t have to take it but why not, at least, get more information ?
      I with you very well. Name it ? I call mine a ‘Visitation from the Devil’..he arrives along with the dependable three, hormones,extreme fatigue and a third thing….sometimes only the additive of a bad head cold.
      Good luck to ALL of you. It took me awhile but is is worth it. It Is Your Life!

      • Madame Guillotine Post author

        Thank you. I’ve had extensive treatment already from a psychologist (which actually made me much, much worse!) but these days it is virtually impossible to get referred for counselling from GPs. I am currently looking for a private therapist that I can see instead.

      • Katherine Stephens

        Over here, a Phychologist cannot prescribe medication. Only a Medical Doctor…and even he is not versed in the treatment of Depression. Today, we have the luxury of Google,,,ing everrhing. Read the symptoms of both Depression and Clinical Depression. They are two related but different illnesses. I know how hard it is to just get one leg out of bed and touch the floor. A specialist CAN help you !
        Please just research. You don’t have to do anything about it unless you decide that you want to.

        • Madame Guillotine Post author

          It’s the same over here and I was referred on one occasion to a psychologist for this purpose, however due to my anxiety, I have always refused to take any form of medication for my issues. My anxiety also means that it’s a bad idea for me to Google ANY health symptoms as it sets my hypochondria off. I prefer to use other means to alleviate my symptoms. Thanks for your concern, but it’s really all in hand and I’m already starting to feel better.

  • Tracey

    Having read this post I was so encourage to see the positive & supportive comments you have received – it makes it easier for those with mental health challenges to ‘come out’ in the knowledge that there a level of awareness absent in previous decades.
    I recall my father being committed in the 70’s due to a suicide attempt, the huge amounts of shame & secrecy surrounding these issues cast long shadows, (it was only last month that I revealed these facts to my 20yr old daughter). Sufferers and their families found it embarrassing to ask for help or discuss the condition due to the social stigma it could cause. I suppose even now I avoid admitting up to my own mental health difficulties (hereditary depression/agoraphobia/social anxiety) – and am so impressed by your honesty in this post.

    We are so fortunate now as treatment was far worse for women (and men) in previous eras i.e. Rosemary Kennedy (given a frontal lobotomy in 1941, approved by her father without informing her mother, it was unsuccessful and she was committed to an institution for the rest of her life) and also Genevieve Pilarski committed by her parents in 1944. These are just two of the stolen lives of those incarcerated in Mental Health Institutions whose condition could have been managed in a more compassionate & tolerant matter. Apologies for coming over all political :/

    I do hope you are on the up Melanie & remember ‘be kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can’. xxx On a daft note, maybe we should all form a support group & call ourselves ‘The Bi-Polar-Bears’

  • Katrina

    I suffer from similar issues. Its never easy, but I also find that sometimes the people who suffer the most, are the most in tune to the world around them, a gift and a curse, no? I also wanted to say I love the way you ended your post, resonated very deeply with me.
    I love my life, I am very blessed to attend a school I love, study things that fascinate me, I am very privileged in many ways, so sometimes when I ‘complain’ about the things that I struggle with, I feel like a fraud. While I wouldn’t give up much of what I have in life, its not a far stretch to say I would very much like to go a day without physical and mental pain.
    In conclusion, thought I would pass on a favorite quote of mine, and just say that I really love your work.

    Take courage friends.
    The way is often hard,
    the path is never clear,
    and the stakes are very high.
    Take courage.
    For deep down,
    there is another truth.
    You are not alone.

    — Rev. Wayne Arnason

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