Anxiety Dates and The Worry Monster: in which Jess learns not to bottle things up

 

I’ve started making dates with my worry. Today, for example, at five o’clock in the evening I set an alarm, closed my eyes, and muttered, “I’m worried that I’m terrible at my job,” and went from there. The worry came slowly – it wasn’t used to being called up quite so decisively. I felt slightly annoyed: sure, my anxiety can come in a storm and a fury when I don’t want it; but when I ask for it, it is shy and retiring.

It seems counterproductive. My problem is that I worry. I work myself into a frenzy. I start at The Town of Minor Inconvenience  and end up — very, very quickly — at Everything Is Shitsville. Surely the solution isn’t more worry. Surely it is distraction. Logic. Exercise. Happy music. Dance. Something like that.

But here’s what happens when I ignore my worry: it doesn’t go away. Say I dismiss it, shove it into a corner, dance madly around my room, see a friend, walk the dogs, distract myself — it’s still there. It’s festering in the dark, feeding on itself, growing teeth and claws. I get worried again — nope, don’t want to think about that, it’s silly and trivial, shove it into the corner. And the worry monster gets bigger. Hungrier.

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Books to Read This Summer (Part II)

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The sky is blue, the sun is out, the wind has chilled — goodbye stagnant heat, hello bright and brisk summer. This is the sort of weather I love: warm, but not too warm; a breeze that blusters clouds over the sun, clears the office-cobwebs from my skull. I walk the dogs late in the evening, long blue shadows slanting over the path, birds twittering away in the bushes, blackberries fattening on the stem, fit to burst.

It’s a season for reading. So here are two books I’ve read recently, and why you should read them.

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How the NHS is Failing People With Mental Illness

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I am twenty years old, and the GP’s receptionist is telling me that they only have emergency appointments left: one, tomorrow, at half ten. I pause, with my tongue thick in my mouth and my shoulders scabbing over and I say, no, don’t worry, it’s not an emergency. Halfway to the door, the bright waiting room bulbs bearing down on me, I stop and shake my head. I imagine my friend, wide-eyed with concern, as I tell her hide the knives, hide them, I can’t look at them. I remember the words in my throat: I think I’m going to hurt myself. The brain has a wonderful way of papering over the past, soothing you, saying that your trauma was not all that bad. And by wonderful I mean self-destructive and cruel. Imagine climbing a mountain, arriving with hands bleeding and feet sore, then getting shoved down the other side, told to scale it once more — only you can’t recall the way.

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Pride is a Virtue

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Here’s an image of what my ideal mental state looks like

Women are taught to be self-effacing. We are taught that being humble is a virtue, and downplaying our achievements is an essential part of femininity. It’s become a sort of secret language among girls – you compliment a friend’s dress; she says oh it’s not that great; you tell someone you like her hair; she responds with I just ran a comb through it.

My go-to method of complimenting other my friends tends to have an element of self-deprecation to it. Something along the lines of: your cosplay is amazing; mine looks like absolute trash. I elevate their skills by dragging down my own, because the mutual language we share is one that considers pride somehow unfeminine; to brag is distasteful.

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Jess’s Guide To Self Care

Last week, I spoke about how I weathered a bad spell of anxiety: sinking into the bleak depths and clambering back upp the other side. Today, I am going to go into a little bit more detail about how to keep yourself going when tension sits in a hot, ugly knot in your stomach. I want to talk about the nitty-gritty, minute-by-minute annoyance of feeling shit for no reason.

My mental health issues annoy me; it’s so easy to talk about them like they’re this big, tragic thing – but the fact of the matter is that day-to-day they can be very annoying.

And so here is a little listicle about things that I find help.

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Some Advice for The Anxious

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Sometimes I think of my anxiety-brain as a stroppy, tantrum-wracked child. Feral, animalistic, it ploughs through my mind with tight-clenched fists, howling it isn’t fair, it just isn’t fair. It is raw and hurting, nerve-endings frayed open to the world, sizzling when anything touches them.

It sticks its metaphorical fingers in its metaphorical ears and sings la, la, la, I’m not listening, and also everything is terrible.

I’m writing this shortly after emerging from a particularly bad week. It doesn’t matter what set it off, because I have been sent into a vicious spiral over something as innocuous as buying the wrong coat.

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