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, 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'


Anonymous said...

I actually think this sounds like a plus in many ways. Sometimes it's hard to find any quiet time in a busy life. So if you are happier working hard and constantly doing stuff, like writing this great blog, maybe you shouldn't worry about it? When I get time alone, I like to go to the pictures etc, but I don't think anyone really sits around looking at their navel when their family is out of the house?

Rosie said...

' 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 had a slight wee accident laughing at this comment so even if you are turning into a blithering bearded lady you are still making people laugh (and smell slightly of urine)

In all seriousness though you are right. I was thinking the exact same thing this morning. I had a few days off work and then worked today and spent most of my time off worrying about going back. When I am lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling stressing all I know is that as soon as I get up and stop thinking about my list of worrys I will feel absolutely fine.
Do you think this will all go away? I am hoping so. I keep seeing years ahead of stressing and for nothing.
Hope you well anyhow, how is the pesky gallbladder?

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Hi Anonymous - you're right - maybe I should just keep busy (that includes watching endless boxsets and streaming crap US dramas)and accept that's the kind of person I am! That genuinely hadn't even occurred to me - I just assumed it was a bad thing, so thank you!

V x

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Rosie - I don't think I've ever been so happy to hear of someone losing bladder control in my life! I am so pleased to have made you wee! Incontinence is the ULTIMATE compliment for someone trying to make people laugh.

The gallbladder is still being pesky - had the worst pain I've ever had in my life the other night, (thank God I managed to stave off a simultaneous panic attack)but I've got an appt with a surgeon in a couple of weeks, and they'll be able to give me the lowdown. Still keep on reading terrible things about people having problems after having them out (like not being able to eat much fat, which would KILL me), so v. nervous. At the moment I'm on a strict low-fat diet which is so bloody miserable - no cheer-up lavender Victoria sponge for me. But thank God work is distracting me from my endless gall-related introspection, so that's a relief.

How are you? Hope all is okay with you? Maybe we should just embrace the fact we like to stay busy/distracted, and just accept that until we're fifty-something when we can go to India, and do some life-changing spiritual yoga retreat or something, after which we'll be able to sit quietly with ourselves on hilltops and never worry ever again...pffft :)

V x

Anonymous said...

Interesting ideas. I've always thought that taking on more would increase my anxiety but maybe not? I have this awful vision that if I don't stop myself doing stuff, I'll never be able to wind down ever. So I end up forcing a wind-down window into my schedule, but my anxiety is quite bad at the moment and I find winding down doesn't help. So maybe you've got the answer - just keep doing stuff...?

Vivre Sa Vie said...

I think it might be! I've recently come to a very important (to me) conclusion - that you have to be a little bit relaxed already in order to relax. If you are very, very VERY anxious, you need to distract yourself by doing stuff (doesn't need to be strenuous stuff, just as long as it's not lying on a daybed by a pool or on the sofa or something). It's no use lying around trying to relax as it's just going to bring the fact that you're NOT relaxed into sharper relief.

So my new thing is to judge what kind of anxiety it is. Extreme and a bit fear-tinged? Go out to a gallery, see friends, do work, go shopping etc (you have to force yourself to do this, by the way, because you're not going to want to).

If it's quite light and you just feel a wee bit strung out and as if you need a rest - then it's time to meditate, lie down and read, go to a spa etc.

I've finally realised this after trying twice to relax at a spa when I've been in mega anxiety mode, and actually ending up worse than I would have been at work. Hope it works for you, too!

V x

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Anonymous said...

Neuroscientist with GAD here. You're right about the adrenalin, but what it mostly is: when you perform executive function (work, solve a problem, speak to someone, really anything that isn't staring into space twiddling your hair) you engage the prefrontal cortex and that inhibits the limbic system, where your amygdala - fear's mecca and your dante's inferno - sits and does its prehistoric fight or flight nonsense, and where everything to do with emotion and goal/reward-directed behaviour sits too. Think dopamine and serotonin being dicks and skiving off but you don't notice as you're busy in a different department orchestrating a multidisciplinary team event. So this works long-term if a) you enjoy what you do and, combining with other healthy lifestyle choices, this helps rewire/lift your mood circuits to pleasant stability and b) you don't burn yourself out. I get what you mean about being scared to sit down with yourself in the toilet for 2 min in case you suddenly remember life is meaningless and that panicking is your new basal state that you somehow manage to avoid here and there. But first of all, that's not true (anxiety and low mood make your brain biased towards negative 'rationalising' and thought - yes also the other way round but it's important to see it that way first), second - your brain gets bored and moves on, even from the most life-shattering thoughts/'realisations'. In the end, Bake Off is equally if not far more interesting. So take home message: don't take your thoughts too seriously, let them pass you by like cars on the freeway (you can't focus on each and every car), carry on going about your daily life both at work and outside work (pack in as much fun and play as you can - the brain will go back to the kind of mindfulness we used to have as children engrossed in a game, in the now) and don't worry about relaxing into inactivity. A book and a bath with some calming natural sounds or music always effectively soothe and stop reality for me.
Side note: I am loving your blog. Thinking of starting my own one with sciency insight and also just to have somewhere to mind-vomit (as it doesn't work so well with the boss...).

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