AUTHOR INSIGHT: MEET KERRI SACKVILLE

WHEN Kerri Sackville set out to write The Little Book of Anxiety (released May, 2012) she had in mind something funny, something anecdotal – certainly not a book that focused on her own struggle with anxiety. Not too much anyway.

What she ended up doing was “putting herself out there”, digging deep into her anxiety experience in a way that surprised her and prompted many readers to say, “I know how that feels”.”It wasn’t how I set out for this book to be,” Kerri said. “It’s very different to my first book. I kept the humour, but it turned into something different.””It did turn out to be therapeutic and I hadn’t expected that at all. It turned out to be quite deep. There was a lot of revelation for me in writing it.””It was scary for me because it’s so personal. But, it’s just amazing how many people out there experience anxiety and can relate to the book. Some have said it’s given them insights into their kids and what they went through, which surprised me. The result has been really positive so far.”

While this book did end up being therapeutic for Kerri, a freelance writer, blogger and columnist for Australian Jewish News, she says writing is more than just therapy.

“I love to write. Sometimes I’ve got something funny to say and sometimes I’ve got a point to make,” she said. “I’ve always kept diaries. I still do sometimes. I tend to resort to writing (for therapy) when things are getting really rough. With diaries you can look back at what you’ve written – it can be a good learning tool and you can see that issues you were anxious about  have been resolved.”

Despite her relaxed manner over the phone, Kerri readily describes herself as “extremely nervous and uptight”; as she says, she is a self-confessed chronic nail biter who experiences anxiety when she has to get in a lift, or go somewhere new, or use an unfamiliar toilet…or when she gets a pimple, or her husband is home late. … anxiety flare-ups are like people who turn up when you least expect them.

“With anxiety it’s your own mind getting out of control,” she explained. “At times, I’ve got an endless loop of thoughts that run through from beginning to end. Anxiety is to me a kind of a charged energy – it’s a negative energy, but it’s an energy, and it’s a fear of the unknown.”As a mother-of-three, she emphasised how crucial it was for her to learn to manage her anxiety: “If I’m falling apart, then what’s going to happen to them?”

“I get all sorts of advice,” she added. “”Don’t sweat the small stuff’, ‘Be grateful for what you’ve got’. All the twee things like, ‘Everything happens for a reason’. Well, it doesn’t. That’s a very circular argument. If it’s good then it was for a reason, if it’s bad then it was for a reason…these kinds of sloganistic things might be useful for people who only experience everyday levels of anxiety, but…people are very well meaning but they can’t understand it unless they’ve really experienced it.”

“It’s like managing a chronic disease like diabetes. I think it’s always under there. All you can do is manage it better. I can be emotionally robust – I am at the moment – and then there are periods out of the blue where I am just completely anxious, fragile, where reading the news stories will affect me and I find it hard to separate myself from them. I’ll have this forever but I’m learning to manage it. It takes a really brave and smart person to step away from situations that make them anxious.”

Kerri credits her husband for being supportive during the times when anxiety gets the better of her, but admits that sometimes he gets frustrated. It’s something she has learnt to accept – well, maybe not right when anxiety is crushing her.

“I’d like him to comfort me and say, ‘Everything’s going to be OK, don’t worry’. To cuddle me, pat me on the head, to say, ‘It’s just anxiety’, to reassure me. But, he’s got his own issues, he doesn’t always have the emotional energy to give me what I want…but then, doing that all the time would lead to dependence. It kind of forces me to cope at times.”

Right now, she’s in a good place; she’s happy that her book appears to be helping people and she is trying to not be too anxious about the fact that people are already asking when her next book is due. Or “that the problem with writing columns and blogs is that you’re only as good as your last column. What happens if my blog doesn’t have the desired response?”

She laughed as she thought over the things that did not worry her at all.

“I don’t worry about…flying (it’s not the flight that bothers me, though I do get very unsettled travelling), my health in the long term, public speaking, meeting new people and I’m not obsessively tidy…surprising things. I think we have these weird pockets we’re highly anxious about and others we’re not.”

Check out Kerri’s blog.