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Kerri Sackville believes that if she repeatedly visualises something bad happening, it won't actually happen.

She also thinks that if she worries about the worst-case scenario then she will be far more prepared if it occurs and believes it will hurt much less.

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The Australian author suffers from anxiety, or what her husband refers to as "Kerriness".

"Anxiety is in my genes, as much as my curly hair, thick eyebrows, sticky-out ears, and the ability to drink scalding-hot liquids very quickly," she writes in The Little Book of Anxiety.

She was born to be a worrier, and living in an anxious family normalised her worries, she says.

Even though while growing up Sackville knew she was different from her friends, and that she was scared of the world in a way they weren't, it never occurred to her to try to change.

Now, after years of therapy, Sackville not only understands her disorder better but also wants to shed more light on it.

Before writing The Little Book of Anxiety, which follows her successful first book When My Husband Does the Dishes, not many people knew Sackville worried more than the average person.

"I've been living with anxiety my whole life and had never talked about it," she says.

"I'd revealed so many other details of my life through my blog and through the first book and all my columns, but I'd never ever, ever talked about this and I thought, 'You know what, it's time I think to start people talking about anxiety'."

Sackville discovered she suffered from anxiety when she was in her late 20s.

Since then, she has tried a number of ways to deal with it, including meditation, reading self-help books and therapy.

The therapy helped Sackville recognise her anxious thoughts, when she was jumping to worst-case scenarios, and to combat negative self-talk.

"I'll never be a calm person, it's not in my genetic make-up but it helps enormously," she says of therapy. "It's made huge changes."

When someone feels anxious, Sackville says they are constantly anticipating problems; they're not allowing themselves to relax and live in the moment.

After beginning therapy, the mother-of-three realised that perhaps there was something wrong with her thought processes and not with her environment.

For people with anxiety, she says, their thoughts are logical and rational.

"The conclusions you're jumping to are so ingrained in you that you can't see that there's another way and that's why you need therapy."

Everyone worries to some degree, she says, but the time to seek help is if your anxiety is becoming a problem for you; if it's limiting your life.

For Sackville, other people's emotions significantly affect her; she absorbs them like a sponge, she says.

"I think we're very highly attuned to our environment.

"For me, I pick up enormously on the stress and anxiety of people around me."

If her husband comes home in a bad mood, for example, it is almost impossible for Sackville to stay happy.

She deals with this type of scenario, and when she begins to worry about her children, by distracting herself, even if that means simply reading a book.

"I knew when I had kids that I would be more open to anxiety than ever before, so I made a real commitment to try and deal with that so I wouldn't put it onto them."

Sackville decided to write her very personal book when she realised there was little written about anxiety. She also believes it still carries a stigma and is considered shameful, and so wanted to get people talking about it.

Until this point she hasn't been ready to reveal her disorder, and says it's still scary releasing the book to the world.

"There's part of me that wants to take it back and say, 'No, I'm not ready'. But I do feel it's important.

"I do feel that there are so many of us out there who suffer from quite serious anxiety and then everybody else suffers from anxiety at some point."

The Little Book of Anxiety isn't, however, a self-help book that preaches solutions. Instead, it's a story of somebody's journey with anxiety she hopes will show people they're not alone.

Although the topic is serious, Sackville has written about her experiences with humour, believing it is important not to take ourselves too seriously.

"You just have to laugh, or you'll cry, and I'd rather laugh," she says.

"So I want people to be able to laugh at, or with, me and hopefully feel better about what they're going through."

  • Readers seeking support and information about anxiety can contact SANE on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or www.sane.org

The West Australian

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