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, 13 November 2012

And on the third day, she crashed (with apologies to Jesus and ELO)

No ruby slippers, no wonderful wizard; just terror and bright backlighting...
Well, talk about talking too soon. After the general 'I'm alive!' joy of days one and two, I plummeted like a burning, nervy, post-chop Icarus tangled in charred plumage and mixed metaphors. 

Wednesday morning I woke up, and suddenly all was not well. I felt anxious - really, really anxious -  I didn't want the operation to have happened, and I was almost fainting with squeamishness about the wounds on my body and the notion of what had gone on internally when I was not there to see it. It reminded me of my poor childhood cat when he had an abscess on his back - he kept on twisting and turning and shivering his skin along his backbone to try and slide it off and get out from under it somehow. I wanted it all not to have happened, and I wanted to get out from under it. 

I fell into a massive, familiar pile of panic and anxiety, and took a Lorazepam to try to dull the edges, but somehow it combined with the leftover anaesthetic and took me in a horrible way - all wide-awake crazy thoughts and palpitations and trembles.

I couldn't sleep, I couldn't sit still, I couldn't breathe. I couldn't listen to my post-surgery relaxation CD because it made me want to faint, I couldn't take a Lorazepam because I was frightened of making it worse, I couldn't lie still because I was petrified of clots forming in my legs, and I felt absolute, complete, suffocating despair. I tried all the old tricks, and they didn't work. I got disassociation - my whole familiar world started looming and stretching in sinister ways, and I felt trapped in a waking nightmare. It was like a big, fat, supersized Ecstasy comedown (apologies for mature references!) but without the ecstasy (with a small or a big e). All agony, no ecstasy?

I convinced myself I had post-surgery trauma syndrome, that I had clots in my legs and internal bleeding, that I had an infection, that I was going mad, that I would have to have another surgery to fix this one and this would all happen again, and above all - that I was a colossal, self-indulgent hypochondriac who couldn't handle a routine operation like the rest of humanity. My thoughts were just completely and utterly out of control - the horse was galloping away towards the inferno and the rider was just freaking out on the sidelines with wet jodhpurs and a frayed whip. 

Needless to say, it wasn't a vintage few days. It turns out that it's not such an unusual reaction after all - apparently the body's hormonal and endocrine systems go haywire after surgery - and couple that with the general anaesthetic wearing off and some anxiety about recovery and you have a perfect recipe for panic-a-go-go. I just wish I knew that beforehand! 

It, however, remind me of a couple of panic-related things that are worth repeating:

1. Nothing REALLY works in a panic the way you want it to - because the body is specifically designed to create terror that is virtually impossible to override.  The whole point is that you're not meant to easily cognitively disassemble it - you're meant to fucking RUN. So I was reminded, at a cost, that the best thing to do is to grab on to something and hold on, and wait it out. To weather the storm and try desperately to hear the tiny, squeaky voice a mile off that stutters 'this will pass' in the face of the terrifying succubus screaming 'IT WILL NOT' in front of your face.

2. It does pass. I felt like I was in a horror film last week, and I'm calmly typing this now after a relatively happy couple of days. Yes, I'm still a bit quivery, but that always happens for a while after a storm of panic - I know I just have to wait it out until it completely passes again.

3. Anxiety and panic don't make you weak. This one is thanks to my stepmother, who came downstairs and wrapped me in a tight hug when she found me sobbing uncontrollably on my own, and told me about her experiences with panic and anxiety (she's also hard as fucking nails, and you would never, ever characterise her as weak or even approaching it) and shook me back to reality and self-respect. Everyone is flawed. Everyone has their vulnerable moments. But that's not what people remember of them, and that's not what they should remember of themselves. 

So. That's it. I think I've earned a bit of a relax at long last, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Ingrid Bergman give weird, face bruising non-kiss kisses to Cary Grant - I've got a week's worth of recovery DVDs to catch up on...

Nope, that's still not it - we can clearly see your lips aren't touching, guys...


Sheryn said...

Awww ya poor baby going through all that.I truly hate the feeling of despair.Love the way you fully describe your feelings though.It helps to know that fabulous girls like you suffer through yucky feelings like that.Hang in there baby girl.Its a vulnerable time after an op.xx

Anthony said...

Scarlett said...

I am really sorry you've had such a hard time. However, I don't know what you feel, but I wonder if some of it is due to a lack of people talking about this stuff? Some people are just irritatingly insensitive. A friend's husband had an op recently and when I saw him I gave him a big hug and asked all the concerned questions. He was all "oh, it's just an operation, no big deal". I think these people make life harder for the sensitive amongst us!

take gentle care, do whatever you need to do
big hugs

Nat said...

You are hilarious :)

Cath said...

Hello Viv, sorry to hear you felt panicky after your op. Sounds horrible but well done for still raising a smile. I suffer from anxiety too and really appreciate your point about the panic not being something that's easy to deal with, it's designed to do exactly the opposite! Sounds obvious when you think about it but good to be reminded!

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Sheryn. said...

I hope you are ok Viv.We havent heard from you in awhile.xx

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Hi guys - so, so SO sorry for my horrible tardiness in responding to these lovely notes. Everything got incredibly hectic returning to work and catching up after my operation, and I just haven't had a chance to even check the blog.

SO sorry! A new post should be coming very soon!

Thanks so much Sheryn, Anthony, Scarlett, Nat Cath for your super-thoughtful and massively helpful words. Anthony, I checked out that episode - brilliant! Have you heard Sara Benincasa's one on WTF as well?

Thanks again guys - new post coming soon (and I'm feeling loads better, Sheryn, phew, thanks so much for asking)

V xxx

chintz said...

Hiiii Viv! *waves*

Time To Change are lovely but slow at moderating comments so I only just got the comment you left on my blog back in October (This one:

I commented on your blog a while ago actually, I was the one who gave you a huge long comment about my appendectomy this year and how you're going to be OK!

So glad you are OK :) Yes, let's be blog friends... x

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Chintz! Hello!

Wow, that was ages ago - they really do need to get their act together on the moderation boards! But who can be annoyed, really, when they do such fab work. Your post was absolutely brilliant - I hope you had tons of great feedback?

How funny that we're already blog (and organ removal) friends! Now I just need to actually get my act together and write something so this blog is worthy of the name, arghhh... x

Billy said...

I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before. I enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing.

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Thanks Billy! x

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