One day, my mum and I went into our local town. We were only there for a short while, so I parked outside the shops on one of the main roads, where you can park for an hour for free.
When we got back to the car, the car wouldn’t start. I rang a friend who works with cars, and he immediately came out to look at it. The fix was easy… just tightening something up as there was an issue with a connection, and it had let a bit of fuel out.
Relieved that it was all fixed so quickly and that it had only been a simple issue, we went on our way to a supermarket in a nearby village.
By the time I had come out of the shop, I had begun worrying about the fuel that may have spilled out of the car… I couldn’t help but wonder, panic… How much fuel had leaked? Should we have cleaned it up? Should we have told someone?
My mum isn’t an anxiety sufferer, but with my incessant panicking, I had even convinced her that maybe we should have done something. I began wondering… who would we tell? Should we have told the fire department, would they be able to help with a clean up of a big fuel spillage?
I was worried it would set alight. It would be so easy… someone just flicking a cigarette end, not realising there was fuel on the floor. And then what? It could hurt someone really badly! And what about the other cars parked up too? It could be really bad. If there was a fire and then that spread to a parked up car…. Oh God, this could be bad!
I told my mum I wanted to go home via the point we had been parked, and she agreed, just so that we could check it was ok, or to decide from there what we should do.
As we drove back into town, my stomach was churning – replaying every possible scenario of what might happen, who could be hurt, what the consequences would be for me. It was an accident. I never meant to hurt anyone, but nevertheless, I was responsible. I could have done something. I should have done something.
As we hit some traffic lights, we heard sirens from an emergency services vehicle of some kind. My stomach dropped. I felt absolutely sick.
Finally, we reached the road where we had been parked, and as we drove up to it, there was absolutely no sign of where we had even been parked. Nothing. No sign at all of even the tiniest bit of fuel spillage.
The whole thing had been built up in my head. From essentially nothing, I had basically convinced myself I had neglected the safety of others and catastrophized, imagining people would be hurt and I would be in trouble.
This is anxiety. This is what it does. It does this over and over all day, every day with the smallest of things. It is exhausting. This is what it is like to live with anxiety. This is the reality of living with mental health issues, this is what it is like.