It's all me, me, me...

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Vivre Sa Vie
London, United Kingdom
Well hello there. My name is Viv (well, it's not really), and, like a lot of people, I'm ever so slightly neurotic... I have panic attacks and anxiety (ranging from mild to pretty intense), on and off. I also have an amazing and quite high-profile job, so I'm choosing to remain anonymous on here. Not because I'm ashamed of the aforementioned neuroses, but because I don't want to be googled and for my colleagues to read bizarre posts about me breathing into a paper bag and popping lorazepam. I've worked for bookshops, mixed arts festivals and charities, and have met (and still meet!) a lot of famous, fetching and fantabulous people for my job. (See, anxiety doesn't need to stop you being AWESOME and doing what you want to do) Here's hoping you'll find some helpful hints and tips on here which will help you tackle the evil panic heebiejeebs... PS. I'm an Australian, but I live in the UK, and have adopted tea-drinking, pubs, Wodehouse, and a Welsh man.
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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

To be (anxious), or not to be (anxious)...

People with panic disorder LOVE it when you tell them there's no escape. It's their favourite thing.

I went to see a special arty, much-hyped mash-up of Hamlet the other night. It was in an abandoned warehouse way out of town, and I really didn't want to go. I didn't want to go for the obvious anxiety reasons: it would be too crowded, there would be no easy escape route (different town and I had to be driven back by someone else), and besides, it just sounded ridiculously creepy.

But my boyfriend convinced me all would be well, so I plucked up my cowardly lion 'noive' and went.

When we arrived in the middle of nowhere, in the industrial estate, in the pouring rain, we were given a laminated card that said the following:

1) Make sure you use the toilets before the production begins, because there will be absolutely no readmittance during the show.
2) If you have to leave for any reason, bear in mind it will be dark and disorienting, so find your way to an usher near an exit - they only will be identifiable by a reflective armband.
3) You will have to stand for 90 minutes.
4) There will be a loud bang during the production.

I'm not joking. It's as if they looked up the symptoms of panic disorder and agoraphobia and literally created an event specifically designed to cause maximum panic. 'So - just when you think your diarrhoea won't stay in any longer, a loud bang will occur, and you will lose your shit in the most literal sense. You will not find it easy to escape once said shit has erupted, because an exit won't be immediately visible, and you will need to beg a strange dark figure with an armband to do so'

Obviously I wanted to run away, but it was too late. I was in the bloody industrial estate. No escape.

Then we went into the main auditorium. Which was mirrored, all around, so once the doors had closed, it was impossible to see which one was the exit. Then all the lights went out, and they played ominous music, and projected Hamlet senior's death scene all over the walls.

I'm not ashamed to say that in my panic, I closed my eyes and mentally intoned 'naarrrrr schwaaaammmmmm' because I read it in some hippy book somewhere, and it was the first thing that occurred to me, and I was desperate. God, I was desperate. After a number of panty breaths and heart palpitations, I miraculously started to calm down a bit.

Anyway, long story short - the show was AMAZING, and I was so distracted by how bloody brilliant it was, I forgot all about the panic.

The moral (for you and me) is this:

1. The annoying thing about anxiety is that you've always got to push yourself further than feels comfortable, and do things you passionately don't want to do. But do them, and MOSTLY things are far, far better than you feared and imagined.
2. I had a really good two, and now I've forgotten it. Just focus on number one then - I think it's pretty good on its own.

PS. How did the writing everything down experiment go? Did anyone try it?

I'm not comparing panic attacks to Nazis. But. You know. They are a bit.


Lucy said...

Wow, that note is absolutely hysterical. I told one my friends but she didn't get it. Must be an inside joke. Great that you managed to focus on the performance rather than your fear.

I myself am conquering my fears this sunday to go see some experimental dance performance. One of the dancers is my best friend's boyfriend so there's extra pressure to not ruin the show by jumping up in a moment of silence and starting to scream and wave my arms above my head (which is currently what I'm convinced will happen). Stocking up on valerian which unfortunately has lost its placebo effect slightly. Maybe an extra heavy dose will keep me calmly in my seat.

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Lucy, that's hilarious - the panic gods obviously want to challenge us with lots of claustrophobic avant-garde cultural performances!

I promise you that you won't jump up and down and scream. That's what we all fear (suddenly losing control and running amok and causing a massive scene) but it hardly ever, ever, EVER happens. Most of the time no-one would even notice if you were panicking. I bet you'll have an amazing time (it might actually be hilarious - I have a hard time taking experimental dance seriously) but if you have a panic, you can just excuse yourself and tiptoe out and get some fresh air outside.

And sadly - I think noone apart from panicky people really gets the 'having to have an escape route' thing. I think if you've never had panic attacks, that sort of thing doesn't even occur to you - in fact I know it doesn't, because before I had them I never even thought about stuff like that. Now I think about being in the middle of rows, and near exits and all sorts of other fretful nonsense. Anxiety is such a bitch!!

Let me know how it goes. V xx

Lucy said...

Well, that wasn't SO bad, but it wasn't great either. I cheated a bit by downing two glasses of prosecco and half a beer before the show (yes, yes, a slippery slope, I'm aware) but even that couldn't help me from being all sweaty and cramped up. That kind of experimental dance, where the only sound is the breath of the dancers just makes me so uneasy. I just can't stand silence when I'm in a room full of people. Or that's what I've told myself to the point of believing it.

Anyway, I did pull through and did not have to leave the room to splash cold water in my face.

My coach - yes, I have a coach. I must sound so corporate - sternly advised me to do a lengthy and quite expensive mindfulness course. Do you have any experience with that? It seems like a good fit but I'm a bit weary of becoming one of those vegan hippies that wants to give birth in a pool where dolphins swim while chanting in Nepali (if this applies to anyone here, I mean no offense).


Vivre Sa Vie said...

Hey Lucy - sounds like you did a great job! I definitely won't be censorious about the booze - I think it's fine to have a wee bit of dutch courage in these situations.

Despite being HUGELY skeptical about mindfulness and meditation, I've actually had amazing results with it. And I promise I don't smell of patchouli or have mouldy dreadlocks.

It's very hard when you're really, really panicking, but if you practise when you're feeling okay, you can get better so that you can use it in difficult situations.

It's definitely something you have to work at, as you don't just *get* it all of a sudden, but I PROMISE you, it's definitely worthwhile.

I've written a couple of posts about it - check them out!


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