COMMENT: When worrying is your one and ONLY childhood hobby

Discussion surrounding anxiety and the lived experience of those who suffer through it has, thankfully, become part of society's daily discourse.

From well-meaning memes and heartfelt Tumblr posts illustrating the agony of an anxious mind to oratory from high-profile individuals campaigning for further awareness of the issue – all are incredibly worthy contributions to a discussion which desperately needs to maintain – if not gain – momentum.

Encouraging communication with friends appears to be a key theme in removing the stigma, and while undoubtedly sound advice, for a child it's unfortunately not that simple. 

You can't exactly shuffle up to your colour group leader and be all: "Oh hey Ciaran, only me. So basically, I'm worrying myself into an early grave because I think Claire looked at me funny during long division. Any advice?"

Other kids played GAA after school or did Speech and Drama at the weekend. Me, I worried for a hobby. 

I was often riddled with unwarranted guilt and unnecessary anxiety, but as far as I can see, nothing sparked it or indeed accelerated it, and yet it manifested itself in primary school, and is as vivid a childhood association as Fat Frog ice pops, light-up runners and rip-off tracksuit bottoms.

And I didn't help myself – I was super creative when it came to tying myself in knots and ruining all my own after-school down-time. 

         I remember asking myself how Ginger Spice would pose for this shot…nailed it.

Kenan and Kel was spent creating a worry, Sister Sister was spent turning it over in my mind and Sabrina the Teenage Witch signalled the alarm for full-on nausea. I mean, I was exhausting to be, and exhausting to be around.

"But, Mam what if this happens?" "But Mam what if that happens?"

I managed to invent ludicrous worries – incidents which never actually happened and were very, very unlikely to – and then worried myself sick until I got distracted by another conjured concern and focussed all of my attention on that.

I used rifle through my books before lending them to the school library incase there was anything of a questionable nature nestled inside. 

What did I think I might have hidden in there? A spliff? a condom? My dastardly plan for world domination?

I once outted myself and was punished – minus five points for my colour group but whatever – for not having practiced my recorder the night before despite the fact I had been complimented on my performance and no one would have been any the wiser. 

I did it simply because another pupil had been snared for not practicing and the injustice nearly sent me over the edge.

I would regularly decline invitations to slumber parties because I was convinced something would happen to my family If I left for the night. 

As if my chubby presence in teddy bear pyjamas and mismatched socks would protect my home and all who dwelled within against the litany of things I had imagined, but my mind was made up – I'll be staying at home, thanks. The fam need me.

My third class teacher picked up on it – I say, picked up on it but it was as obvious as the glasses perched on my round, worried face – and remarked on it in an end of year report. 

"Niamh tends to be a worrier, and needs a little bit of minding", she wrote.  A little bit of minding? I was in permanent need of a carer. 

I got into the habit of leaving my mother notes outlining that day's biggest concerns.

"I called Sarah's name in the line but she didn't hear me and now what if she remembers and thinks I was talking about her?"

I'd like to say I'm exaggerating but if I'm honest, I'm sugar coating.

I'm hugely grateful that this level of anxiety and the regularity with which it presented itself in my childhood didn't follow me into my adult years, but there's no denying that Niamh from third class still appears every now and again.

And while these new – and often irrational – worries are no longer accompanied by the sound of classroom chitchat or Nickelodeon's canned laughter, they can, at times, feel as all-consuming as they did back then … until I remember I probably just need a little bit of minding.

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