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, 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?


Cath said...

Hello Viv, lovely blog by the way. Just clicked on the link to 'the optimism bias' and noticed that most read article in Guardian Science over last 24 hours is 'how dangerous is space debris'?!!!
It reminded me of something I read recently which talked about how in today's society we are more aware than ever of the risks attached to our actions because of the sheer amount of information we are being bombarded with all the time! It's therefore hardly surprising that us sensitive intelligent souls feel a bit freaked out now and then and our thinking becomes overly threat focused.
So yes, maybe instead of being diagnosed as anxious we should be regaled as people who have a fully informed view of risk, here's to hoping I don't get struck down by a rogue bit of space debris today!

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Thanks Cath! The space debris thing is hilarious - one more potential death threat to add to the list!

You are so right about the information overload - every time I open the newspaper I read about all these tragic, terrible events that have happened to people all around the world, and I think if you are sensitive, as you say, it's hard to just ignore that - it all gets stored up somewhere in our amygdala and waits there like a time bomb until the next anxiety attack.

I actually tried to not read newspapers for a while to try to lessen my anxiety (on my psychiatrist's orders) but sadly I sort of need to be abreast of current affairs for my job, so that didn't really work out. Sigh.

Okay, I'm off now but will check the sky for space debris!

V x

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