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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Friday, 28 September 2012

Boils and burps and blues, oh my!

'No, I can't come out from behind the couch. No, I can't tell you why, because nice girls don't tell tales about their  hypothetical boils that aren't covered by their hypothetical stockings on their hypothetical legs'

Things I gleaned from the universe this week:

  • I should stick to my day job. I get BBC job alerts (I love my job, but just in case), and one of them was 'Researcher on Silent Witness'. This actually made me laugh out loud. Can you think of a job that comes less recommended for an anxious person? 'Hmmm, let me just see how I can make this grisly murder look more convincing and true to life - *Googles real life murder details. Faints and never leaves the house again*.
  • I should never again swallow peppermint oil capsules that are not covered in enteric coating. Basically they just explode halfway down your unsuspecting oesophagus, and create a burning lining of peppermint everywhere in your digestive system. Painful peppermint burps and blistering heartburn ensue - I feel like I've rinsed my intestines with industrial-strength mouthwash. And apparently now (I Googled my symptoms even though my family has tried to ban me from consulting Dr Google) I get to look forward to 'anal itching and burning' when said peppermint finally vacates my system. Fabulous.
  • It's hard to feel glamorous when you have managed to harbour a BOIL on your leg (in the middle ages I believe they were referred to as carbuncles, arg) - in all likelihood exacerbated by a shamefully lax shaving regime. As I applied my Chanel lipstick and pouted in the mirror, I realised I was painting a very thin and insufficient veneer of artificial glamour over an angry body full of weird, stifled gallstone sludge and carbuncle pus (sorry chaps). Sexy!
  • Having a doctor as your upstairs neighbour is a mixed blessing. On the plus-side, I find it ridiculously comforting hearing him padding around upstairs - essentially I know I can bang on his door and get an emergency tracheostomy STAT should I ever need one. On the downside, his ghoulish medical mailings are in the communal post area. 'Nasal-gastric tube errors: avoiding the risks' screams out from the latest issue's cover, with grainy black and white pictures of perforated lungs underneath. Shudder.
  • Tomorrow is another day. The hardest thing to cope with at the moment (ironically) is my endless fretting about how I will cope with this for a possible five months until the operation (worst-case scenario of course - this is me we're talking about). But the fact is, I AM coping. I AM getting to the end of each wretched, crappy day, so all I need to do is carry on with what I'm doing, and inevitably the days will snowball and roll into weeks, which will turn into months, and I'll arrive at my promised surgical land of manna and scalpels in the end. *  

Check me out, being all Buddhist and accepting. This is a blatant lie, of course - I hope you spotted it. Inside (and outside, to be honest) I am screaming 'HOW THE BLOODY BEJESUS AM I GOING TO COPE WITH THIS FOR MONTHS ON END???!!!!' but I'm trying on my beatific monk's robe for size. Fake it 'til you make it, kids!!!        

I tell you what, they'll keep you 'aglow' all right...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Half-full?! There IS no bloody glass!

'And THIS ONE'S CLEAN TOO?! Is there no end to the gifts and blessings God will bestow upon me?!'


I realise this statement is ironic in itself. I can sustain the bright, sunshine-y thing for about half an hour, or during the day, but by the time I get home from work, I'm back in the land where everything is awful, where nothing will ever be right again, and where I am a dysfunctional, horrible poison wafting around the house and emptying vitriol over my boyfriend. 

If something is wrong, I just find it really hard to believe that everything isn't 100% terrible and an utter catastrophe. I re-tread this miserable little neural path over and over and over again, and I despair of anything ever changing it (which itself is completely catastrophic and further grist to my specially patented self-pity mill). I get myself tangled into a net of woe and anger and fury about the situation, and about my inability to change it, and about how horrendous the whole mess is, and end up so beyond exhausted I can't even comprehend what exhausted means.

I have spent at least half an hour sobbing every day since about two months ago. I can never believe it when I read those twenty question interviews in the Guardian and they ask the person 'when was the last time you cried?' And they say 'oh, ten years ago when I watched Free Willy' or something. I would be like 'oh, five minutes ago in the taxi on the way to the interview, and before that, ten hours ago in the shower, and before that five hours ago when eating my dinner' etc etc etc ad nauseam. Will I ever get to the point where I can't remember the last time I cried? Can you get repetitive tear duct syndrome (RTDS) or early-onset blindness from too much YSL mascara in the retinas?

I've been googling positive thinking, and all I can find are these blogs with people who've got fibromyalgia and cancer and two amputated limbs and lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and a heart condition and a drug addiction and an abusive childhood - and they're all UNBELIEVABLY F*&KING POSITIVE! Which makes me think I'm a horrible, ungrateful, twisted little self-pitier with a black steam of smoke for a heart and Eeyore for a God.

(You can tell I'm desperate by the following sentence, which actually hurts me to type out) Do any of you have any mantras or sayings or prayers or anything that keep you upbeat and out of the asylum? I'm running through depressive treacle here and could do with your advice.

So far, the only one that has come naturally to me, was when I was curled up in the foetal position in the corner of my open-plan office, being watched by my colleagues, and crying with gallstone pain this Tuesday. It was 'This will soon be over and I'll be watching the Great British Bake-off with my boyfriend this evening, this will soon be over and I'll be watching the Great British Bake-off with my boyfriend this evening'

Which, I think you'll agree, needs some work.

'THE TOAST IS BURNED! My life as I know it is over. I might as well throw myself into the bin with it now and wait for the dustmen of doom to take me to the scrapheap of suffering'

Friday, 14 September 2012

How (not) to be alone...

'Thank goodness I've got a million and one things to do - now I don't have to endure the horrible darkness of my own mind. Hurrah!'

I discovered something confusing this week. I hope this is not too much of a solipsistic post, but I'm really describing my own brittle mind to see if any of you struggle in similar ways.

So. Apparently, the more work I have on, the less anxious I am, and the more things I HAVE to do, the less depressed I get. And that extends to 12 hour days and huge professional pressure that would make even His Holiness the D. Lama himself get a bit hot under the collar.

Why is that? How ridiculous! Is it because my flood of adrenaline finally actually has a legitimate output? Does my body suddenly recognise the 'dangerous' scenarios it has been planning so steadily for?  Is it a perfect context match between stressful situation and stressed person, so my body can finally relax into a sort of natural symmetry?

It explains why holidays are always tricky for me, and why a week working from home sends me into a tailspin.

I'm a bit fearful of this discovery (quelle surprise). Because what it means, ultimately (I think), is that I'm not very good on my own. If left alone with my mind for too long, I end up panting and sweating and writhing in agony with a frenzied worry monkey on my back and a tranquilliser hissing in my stomach.

But this is terrible news! Because we HAVE to be able to sit with ourselves, alone, without going mad! Surely that's a fundamental life skill!

 Imagine me, on a desert island - I'd have only been gone for three days, and they'd find me looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway - incontinent, bearded, and talking to a coconut. Jesus, God forbid I go to Mauritius or something on my honeymoon - my new husband will have just popped out for a Daiquiri and I would suddenly descend into a hairy, sweaty mass tangled in a cheap sarong.

I can't believe I'm saying this out loud, but I think I may hate my own company. If you do, too (hate your own company, not mine - that's just cruel) - tell me, so I can feel less unhinged.

And if you don't, please, for the love of God and all that is sacred, give me some sort of insight into how you've managed it.

'But darling, I was only gone for...!' 'You should never have left me alone , Marmaduke. I told you this when we were courting. I CANNOT be left alone'

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A mean case of the 'shoulds'...

I WANT YOU to do everything differently and to not do that and to do that a bit more and feel grateful that you didn't fight in WWII and that you're not dying of cancer and to pull yourself together and stop being so much like that.

I'm in my twenties, but they're almost over.

I should be having fun.
I shouldn't be sick.
I shouldn't be depressed.
I shouldn't have to take medication.
I should be carefree.
I should be crazy and thoughtless.
 I should be spontaneous and capricious.
 I shouldn't be anxious. 
I should be able to do that easily.
I should be having sex twenty times a week.
I should look like that.
I should be a better girlfriend.
I should be successful by now.
I should make the most of this.
I should think about myself less.
 I should have more friends.
I should be more like her.
I should be almost ready to have kids by now.
I should go to that thing.
I should buy that thing.
 I should change this.
 I should read that.
 I should do that more. 
I should eat more of that.
I should take more of those.
I should stop staying should so much.

I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should.I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should I should.


Am I the only one being pursued by a rabid Shouldasaurus?

'Hi, is that NHS Direct? I keep having recurrent and distressing thoughts that all begin with the words "I SHOULD" and now I've got a touch of self-hating hysteria. Can you send someone with a medical license over to the house straightaway?'

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I worry, therefore I am...

Phew. See, she was worrying unnecessarily. Don't let yourself fall into that silly lady-trap, tsk tsk, there's a pretty thing.

'Cognitive fusion' sounds like an exciting thing that happens in clever brains, but is actually a stupid bitch of a neuro-thing, and here's why.

Apparently when you start worrying about something (i.e. 'argh, my wife is going to divorce me because we had a big argument') your brain and body cannot distinguish between your imagining of the horrors of the event, and the actual event itself. To the brain and the adrenal system, when you imagine all the terrifying things that could happen during a divorce (brain screaming 'I'll be alone!' 'I'll lose my kids!' I'll never have sex again!'), you are literally experiencing all the same emotions and affective hormones etc you would experience during an actual divorce.

You've essentially created a nightmare-ish fantasy world that your body cannot divorce (ha) from reality.

So a day spent worrying about the possibility of a divorce, is a day where you've voluntarily propelled yourself into an unpleasant almost-genuine experience that either;

a) is never going to happen, in which case you've given yourself a traumatic fake divorce completely unnecessarily. (The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that this is the most likely option, particularly if your worries involve obscure, disastrous outcomes with infinitesimally small chances of ever occurring like mine do)

b) IS going to happen, in which case you've not only got to go through it once in your horrible pretend-land, but AGAIN in the real world.

The reason this is a bitch is that

a) it's destructive and horrible and nasty
b) knowing all about it doesn't stop me worrying in the slightest.

Well, maybe a little bit. I'm working on it.

The upside (it genuinely took me more than a day to hit on this, I'm such an Eeyore!) is that it works in reverse - i.e. imagining lovely things produces all the warm fuzzy good vibes you'd get if you were really doing those lovely things. Hence the popularity of visualisation ('you're lying on a warm beach in the Caribbean feeling the sand between your toes etc').

So all we need to do, is stop imagining horrible things, and start imagining wonderful things! Our anxiety will not only dissipate, we'll actually go from almost-genuinely experiencing divorces and gnarly deaths to almost-genuinely experiencing beach holidays and winning the lottery!

I told you there would be an easy solution to this anxiety lark! Stick with me, kids, and we'll soon have it licked.

V x

'I can finally see my happy-ever-afters clearly with these special rose-tinted spectacles on. Hurrah!'

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