Amy Worthington

TAAS Legacies and In Memory Executive

In 2015, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, simply put, this means I have no trigger warnings, I can be fine one moment, and the next minute, I can’t breathe, I suffer with chest pains, dizziness, and nausea, and on extreme days, can feel like I’m having a heart attack. On these days, getting out of bed can feel like climbing Everest.

Anxiety has been a debilitating mental illness, but comes with such strong physical symptoms where it feels like a disability, the smallest tasks to some such as leaving their home, getting into a car, even going to the shop, can be gargantuan to me, and not only do I have to have a handbag full of treatments to get through the day, I have to know where the exits are and how I can get home if I need, as I can’t handle being in a place I can’t get out of. There are days where it’s difficult to imagine carrying on like this for the rest of my life, because I always need a safety net.

My biggest safety net was a woman called Elizabeth Gelston, she was my best friend, my hero and most importantly, my Nan.

Have you ever known a person who you could believe had a heart made of gold? She was an angel, she lived for her seven children and all her grandchildren and great grandchildren, she could have £1 left in her purse, and she’d give it to a homeless man to get some food, and if we were sad, she felt it for us all.

In 2006, she was a pillar of strength for everyone when we lost my grandad at the young age of 59 to a battle with cancer, but she remained strong for all those around her. My favourite part of everyday was my lunchtime visits with her. We’d drink tea, eat toasties, and laugh watching Bargain Hunt at the funny items some of the teams would buy, and twice a week, I’d leave her house four stone heavier after a meal meant for nine.

She was amazingly funny, she’d dance in the kitchen and once, threw an egg at me to catch in a colander, playing kitchen baseball, it made a mess. She loved to laugh, always finding silly things to make us smile, I have a hundred stories of times she reduced us to tears laughing. She didn’t have the easiest life, but she never showed it, she raised a kind, considerate, and tight knit family. She was a true matriarch, and if I could show even an ounce of the strength she showed daily, I’d consider myself the strongest person in the world.

On Friday 27 November, I spent the night sat with her in her living room, we were laughing so hard at one point I started to choke, I’d joked about how she’d live until she was 102, and she’d replied with “I’m not sitting in the corner like some drippy raisin at the age! But I suppose you could decorate me with Christmas decorations!” I was crying with laughter, and so was she, I kissed her goodbye and said I’d be back tomorrow, had I had known it would be our last night together, I’d have stayed forever. The next day, 28 November 2020, my world ended when my beautiful hero suffered a heart attack, I watched as they wheeled her out of the house, praying that she would return, unfortunately, that Friday night would be the last of our memories together, she was 78. And my family was broken.

My story for International Women’s Day is for two parts, one, because I hope that everyone has at least one woman in their life they consider their hero, and I hope that people are lucky enough to have had a hero like my Nan, and the second part, is for those who need to be their own hero, I lost my safety net, much too soon and with no warning, and now, I walk this tightrope called life with only my own strength keeping me balanced. Generalised anxiety disorder may not be a full disability, but it has truly disabled my life.

I work for the Air Ambulance as an In-Memory executive, when I lost my hero, I decided to set up a tribute page for her, because she loved the work they do and was always astonished they relied on donations, especially after they attended my cousin’s accident, and when I set the page up, I received a handwritten sympathy card, and the sentiment that went into it just showed me how much the team cared, and when the opportunity came up to work for them, I summoned some strength to apply for the job, because, if I could show a bereaved family the support and kindness I received, it would help with my own grief, consoling others who felt the pain I did, and hoping that my Nan would be proud of me, and that her lifetime of kindness, compassion, and love would live on through me helping others.

Every day, I try hard not to let the anxiety win, because people need me to be strong, and for any other women out there, who struggles with their mental health, you are strong, because nothing is harder than battling your own head every day. Be proud and keep going.