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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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The interwebs can cheer us up!

' Gee whiz, now I've got these inspiring blogs to read I can cut down on the barbiturates  and unsavoury menfolk!' 

We interrupt this most fascinating of all fascinating blog streams about gallstones to bring you news of inspirational, anxiety-busting blogs and websites elsewhere in the world.

Firstly: XO Jane. Have I mentioned this one before? Sorry gents, it's definitely a ladies only one, this. Ladies - listen up. I've just discovered it - full of hilarious, sassy (I really hate that word, so why would I use it?), feisty (if anything I hate this even more than sassy, grrrr) and strident (ah, forget it) articles written by clever, funny women.  

Okay, so I've just somehow managed to make it sound really terrible (remind me not to write a review of your book if you ever publish one), so just go there and see. It's not remotely all about mental health, but there are some bits and pieces that are really pertinent to us worry-warts: Anxiety hero Sara Benincasa has written a great article on there about panic attacks, there's this one  and this one about depression, and even one about GALLSTONES, who'd-a-thunk-it?! 

Use the search bar - it's your friend. If you're in the UK it will probably try to steer you to the new UK version, but I personally prefer the US one (which still features a lot of the UK articles).

Nextly: The Big Scary C Word. It's actually a breast cancer blog that popped up on Huffington Post UK, but is such an inspiring and brave account of a young woman coping (well, hell, she more than copes) that it deserves inclusion in the push-up bra (uplifting, see what I did there) section.

 I initially internally shrieked with self-hatred after seeing how phenomenally well she was dealing with something infinitely more terrifying than anything I worry about, but then I realised - she doesn't have an anxiety condition! Or depression! Her boatload of shit is very different to our boatload of shit, but you can certainly draw a hell of a lot of inspiration from this woman's sunny outlook - I certainly have.

Nextly nextly: Panic about Anxiety. Summer Beretsky blogs at Psych Central about her agoraphobia and panic attacks. Loads of great, clear, honest (she doesn't hide behind anonymity, hmmm) articles there about anxiety in all its gnarly forms.

Question: Is an anxiety blogger blogging about other great anxiety blogs a little like a woman telling her boyfriend how gorgeous other women are and then giving him their numbers? Guys, guys - where are you all going...hang on, can I just.....guyyyyyys...? 

V x

Blogs: for when life feels like a metaphorical budgie is crapping on your metaphorical head

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Operation Fawkes (aka Operation Operation)

''Ooooo-eee! Honey, you've got yourself a bad case of the SURGEON-GONNA-CUT-ME-UP-WILLIES - your anxiety temperature is th-rough the roof!'

Okay, I know my gallbladder has completely hijacked this blog, and I promise I will only write around two more organ-related posts. I'm sick to the back teeth of hearing about the bastard thing - so you guys must be begging for the scalpels too.

Long story short: I'm going nuclear - going private, because I can't live like this any more, and all my relatives are going to all pitch in with a bit of cash to make this happen. Should I put up a JustGiving page at work? I get them ALL the time (lots of athletic, overachieving, worthy colleagues, puke) so why not put together my own...? 'Hi All. Yep, you got it, it's another request for a needy cause, sort of. Just give me your card details and I'll post pics of my 'marathon' later...'

So will be having operation on the 5th of November. I am now, predictably, terrified, and my anxiety bugaboos (isn't that a type of pram? I've definitely got the wrong word there) have flown in to roost beside me.

'Remember, remember, the 5th of November' just sounds bloody terrifying now - is it an omen?! Am going to go the way of  Mr Fawkes, but minus the plucky heroism and fireworks? Am I going to wake up from the operation and not know where I am and have the worst panic attack ever and vomit into my hospital gowned lap? 

But it can't come soon enough really. Today I had an attack in the middle of preparing a VIP for an event - I went all 'show must go on' and gritted my teeth, smiled, chatted and managed to get them out on the stage before hobbling upstairs and collapsing underneath my desk. I stripped down to my singlet, popped some codeine, writhed there with my headphones on for a while (had to keep tabs on the event, what a control freak), covered in sweat from head to toe, and after 3/4 of an hour it completely passed and I went back down, said I'd been watching from the booth and no-one was the wiser.  But enough! Lady Macbeth of the Gallbladder says 'out, damn sac'!!

On the anxiety front, I've been finding it difficult to breathe, randomly, here and there. I REALLY hate that one. Just sitting there quietly and then suddenly, wheeze, wheeze, 'is my chest tight? Why can't I breathe? Shit'. I know it's just anxiety, and if I ignore it, it goes, but it's so bloody unsettling.

Onwards and upwards, though, hey?! No more gallbladder talk soon - promise! Only one more update about the operation (and maybe one afterwards, what the hell) and then back on track!

Hope all of you guys are fit and well and anxiety-free (ha - are we ever?!). And if you're not - screw it - grit your teeth, get through it, wait for time to pass, and better things will transpire for all of us soon. I'm a faithless, hippie-raised heathen but I'm trying on a bit of hope and faith for size! And weirdly, it kind of works! 

V x 

Don't pretend to be cute. You're going down, bitch.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Crying in hospital corridors (good potential band name?) ...

Nothing has changed in British hospitals since this picture was taken, except that the buildings have decayed and the instruments have grown rusty. And I don't think you get nuns now, more's the pity.

I had my appointment with the surgeon today. 

Managed to hyperventilate as soon as I started wandering through the hot, claustrophobic corridors  - American and Australian (hell, anything but British) readers, I know you're picturing a clean, bright, modern hospital right now, but please know that British hospitals are still using equipment from the 1930's, in buildings from the 1800's, and that that is truly terrifying. 

Burst into tears as soon as I got into the waiting room as it was full of hundreds of geriatric people coughing their wet lungs out. Was sweating so profusely I had to rip off all my layers, so was sitting there crying, practically naked in front of 100 staring old person eyes. I googled ' cute kittens' and flicked through those whilst I cried and waited and chastised myself for being a ridiculous wuss.

Half an hour later I see the surgeon, who is twelve. I just knew I would get a bloody junior doctor. No joke, he then launches into his special nightmarish bedtime story about EVERY SINGLE complication that has EVER occurred to people who don't get their gallbladder out. Terrifying things. Things even Google didn't tell me. He then told me EVERY SINGLE horrific complication that could occur with the surgery. At one point, when he was mentioning perforated somethings, drainage tubes, pus explosions, deranged sphincters (really) and mistakenly cut livers - tears just started pouring from my eyes (as in, I was silently crying). He got me some tissues, said nothing and proceeded with his list - nothing was going to deter him from the list.

I then get sent to the other side of the hospital for blood tests. Get to the desk and there's no-one there. Finally someone comes and points to a handmade sign that says 'No more blood tests'. No more blood tests? When I explain that a surgeon has sent me to get urgent tests, another harassed nurse comes up and starts shouting at nobody in particular 'Look at all these people! We just can't do it! There's too many people! Enough! We're closed! It's impossible!' and the guy nods and says 'nope, we're too busy'.  No sorries, and that's it.

So I go back to the 'digestive diseases' ugh, department, and tell them that apparently the blood test department is shut down for the day. So a very camp nurse takes me into a storage closet (I'm not joking), tells me he hasn't had a day off in three weeks, and does it there and then. The 'room' was so small we had to put together a military strategy for both of us to get out.

Okay, I don't want to be the standard NHS moaner, and apologies to all those of you who've had good experiences (and who will be affronted by bad language), but WHAT. THE. FUCK?! Is this country trying to kill its inhabitants so as to save money on welfare? Is there a grand genocidal, money-saving scheme going on that I don't know anything about?  

I have to wait FOUR MONTHS for the surgery. 

And I feel so ashamed  and furious with myself for having an anxiety attack (didn't quite reach the level that it needs to be to be classified a bowel-shuddering panic attack in my book) simply from walking through a hospital. How am I going to stay in it long enough to have surgery?! I feel like I've let myself down. I feel like I'm not a properly functioning adult - like I'm too sensitive and soft to cope with the harsh realities of the world. I feel different, and not in a good way.  

But I also know that empathy and sensitivity are what make me ME. I think deeply about people's experiences (too much maybe) and care about them - even if I don't know them - and most people don't. Maybe that makes me cry when I see sick people, and freak out when I'm in hospitals, but I'd rather be that than oblivious to suffering. 

And crying doesn't make you weak - everyone over the age of 13 knows that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I might go off and do it some more.*

*NB. Since writing this, some beautiful, charitable genius commented below and snapped me back to reality - so no more anxious self-pity and self-blame going on any more! I'll let this post stand as a perfect example of how easy it is for us GAD sufferers (and really anyone who sets far too high standards for themselves) to blame ourselves unnecessarily. Apparently, sometimes freaking out is normal and justifiable - particularly when surrounded by dying people! That does actually make sense, come to think of it. Thank god for you guys - you are all absolutely AWESOME and amazing and fantastic and I love that we almost have a bit of a community going here. Bring your nervous friends!  V x

This is me, hugging all of you (a little bit too tightly and needily). Awww.  <3

Friday, 5 October 2012

Guys - are we the only sane ones?!

'If I leave the house I could be struck by an out-of-control motorcar, or be attacked by a grubby urchin. Far better to sit here and wait for the TB to take hold'

I have a (half-baked, biased, not thoroughly researched) theory. Admittedly it sounds like the textbook ravings of a madwoman, but stick with me.

 It is my contention that anxious and depressed people are actually the sane, in-touch-with-reality ones, and those odd, glowing balls of Pollyanna-ish, panic-free light you see around are actually completely deluded and inured to the realities of the world.

Ever wonder if maybe crippling anxiety is a normal and justifiable response to a world in which we we are painfully squidgy and breakable in the face of disease and tragedy and accident and heartbreak? Tali Sharot, author of 'The Optimism Bias' argues that most people grossly underestimate risk, and wildly overestimate their capacity to survive life's gauntlet unscathed. 

Her research shows that clinically depressed people have a much firmer grasp of statistical probability and the likelihood of negative outcomes, whereas non-depressed people consistently under-predict those outcomes, or assume they will happen to other people . These results were so convincing and predictable, that she argues that what is often called pessimism is actually far closer to realism, and what is called 'normal' is actually dangerously deluded.

I also read in the paper the other day that mildly depressed people are viewed as being far more practical and grounded and useful in the workplace, because of the aforementioned ability to assess risk and potential threats. (As long as they're not crying into their sushi, presumably).

 Perhaps if we'd had more depressives and neurotics in the banking industry, the global economic temperature would be far healthier - if there were more of us on the trading floors, we would have been ominously whispering 'God, let's not sell these sub-prime mortgage-backed securities - imagine if there were a global crash and loads of people ended up penniless and destitute and lost their houses and killed themselves!!'

Essentially, anxious folk are having a normal and natural response to a world in which cancer and divorce statistics are terrifyingly loaded, random, life-altering accidents are sadly commonplace, and where our mortality is under threat in a thousand different ways, a thousand times a day. We KNOW what can happen to us. We appreciate the risks. We have accurately taken the measure of our squidgy selves and our spiky habitat. We have seen the nature of the world, as it is, and so we don't want to leave our bloody houses, thanks very much!

It's cold comfort, but the next time your doctor sighs, and says 'ah, yes, looks like you're suffering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder' you can flash right back like a latter-day Dorothy Parker and say 'Actually doc, research shows that I have a far greater grasp of risk and the limits of my own mortality than you do, so you could hardly call it a 'disorder', but sadly I live in a society where we have medicalised normality and put mass-scale madness and denial on a pedestal. Now just give me my repeat prescription for a lifetime's supply of Valium and we'll say nothing more of it...'*

*NB. This is meant to be a reasssuring, empowering post for the already-worried, but now I'm worried it's going to make you more worried... 

Oh, bugger off, Pollyanna, you crazy, deluded loon. Don't you know that your chances of DVT go up with having to lie around in that bathchair all day?

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