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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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Put on your pearls, girls...

One for the laydees...

People with ovaries, I want to talk to you. Hear me now, for I want to talk to you about the MIGHTY power of the humble cosmetic in the war against anxiety and down-in-the-dumpedness. Don't get me wrong. You were all born with beautiful faces, and they look fan-bloody-tastic unadorned and unkempt. I love wild, patchy eyebrows, shiny non-mascara eyelashes and rosy cheeks, and there is nothing more liberating than showing your naked face to the world.

BUT. Maybe you've been crying. Maybe you've been up all night fighting the night terrors, or ruminating on your inability to get in a lift. Maybe you woke up with the horrible cheer-sucking dread, and thought you couldn't face the day.

Gentle women, days like these aren't 'nude look' days. On days like these, the nude look will be more like blotchy, puffy, engorged toad-face-look. On days like these, you need RED LIPSTICK.

(I like MAC's amazingly matte and forties Ruby Woo and Russian Red)

Look at Lucille - she knows the power of a good red lippy...

Lashings of black mascara (maybe waterproof if you're still feeling wobbly), some powder, and a spritz of your most expensive perfume later, and you will feel a million miles better - I promise.

And if not, at least you will be the hottest, most AWESOME, most mysterious looking troubled lady since Marilyn (evidence you can be bad, sad, and still very, very hot).

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sleep, sleep, sleep, PANIC!


It's 3am, and you're lying prostrate in your lovely bed. Deeply asleep - possibly alongside your long-suffering partner, possibly alongside your long-suffering microwavable-lavender-bellied stuffed monkey. There's a bit of drool on your chin. Probably (if you’re a bit prone to the old anxiety demons like me) having disgustingly, ridiculously horrific nightmares about kneecappings and arrows through the eyeballs.  Chickens are asleep on the roost, and small babies are snuffling gently into their softly-scented cream muslin things. A deep peace has settled gently over the land. And then...

BANG. You're awake, and suddenly transplanted smack in the middle of a panic attack. Your heart's racing, you're sweating like an overworked racehorse, you're going to lose control of your anus annnnny minute now, and it seems that death is basically upon you. You've got the whole works - pins and needles, disorientation, cold hands and feet, elephant on chest, and most of all, a HUGE TERROR LIKE THE SHADOW OF A GIANT SOUL-EATING MONSTER HAS APPEARED AND IT IS GOING TO KILL YOU SLOWLY, LIKE, RIGHT NOW, AND YOU WILL BE, LIKE, COMPLETELY DEADYBONES.

WTF?! How the hell does that happen you bastarding panic bastards? And what have you got to say about that CBT gurus, eh? No negative, catastrophic thinking going on there, just blissful unconsciouness and the occasional kneecapping.

Anyway, who cares about the wheres and whyfores.

You are having the nighttime panic terrors and you need JEEVES. I don't care if you're not English - this is the patented Aunty Viv's Wodehouse-Nighttime-Panic-Terror-Squeaky-Bum-Time-Cure and you're damn well going to take it and feel better. 

Read a few pages, you rotters...

...And before you know it, you will be back in the realm of the peaceful people, where shadows are just shadows, and the worst thing that can happen is that one's valet will go on holiday and leave one unable to pick out the right suit for Ascot.

NB: This cure also works with any sort of children's book. Don't think you're too cool for this - pick up some nice second-hand books you loved as a kid, and keep them by the bed (along with the sedatives, podcast headphones and placebo flower water)

Monday, 27 February 2012

Blind panic on the subway? Pop a podcast...

From this...

So. You're on the tube/subway, and have successfully managed to forget you're effectively buried hundreds of metres down into the bowels of the earth. You've put all thoughts of terrorism firmly out of your mind, and you're feeling pretty calm about the swarthy guy with the massive backpack - because hey, you're not racist - it's probably just a lovely guy carrying loads of his blind granny's clothes to the laundromat before his shift volunteering at a soup kitchen.

And then the guy comes over the tannoy and says there's been some kind of 'incident' up ahead, and you're going to be stuck for an unspecified amount of time. And suddenly, you realise you're throat's a bit dry, and you haven't got any water, and you're not quite sure, but you think perhaps the air's feeling a little thin, and actually, now you think of it, you might really need to empty your bowels pretty soon, and actually you'd really like to get out now, please - like NOW, goddamnit, before you choke on your swollen tongue and expire underground like a thirsty, diseased troll.

You need PODCASTS, STAT*. 

Here are some good ones.

 Kirsty Young's soothing, dulcet Scottish tones will calm your nasty gremlins. Has got me through many a train journey, and I've even managed to forget that I'm trapped in an airless tin can surrounded by sweaty, aggressive commuters.

Sex and Other Human Activities

Again, I must doff my cap to the awesome Sara Benincasa and her pal Marcus. They talk about sex (quite graphically, so if you're not into dildo chat, I would steer clear), Doctor Who (oh, yes) and a bit about craziness too. It's like having your (inexplicably hilarious) mates chatting in the background. Another train gem.

David Mitchell's Soapbox

Short, sweet, and sarcastic mini-bites about all the grating, irritating, infuriating things in the world. You have to be in a certain kind of mood for this one, but is very funny if so.

New Yorker Fiction Podcast

Literary giants reading the works of other literary giants for your audio pleasure. Like a nice, long bedtime story for grown-ups.

To this...

* Warning. A note about relaxation music podcasts.'These are truly terrifying. I put one on whilst panicking on a train, and I felt I had a soundtrack of doom to accompany my slow death. Lots of ominous long synthesizer sounds and ethereal voices = magnifying of terror.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Where can we get these placebos?!

In the beginning, God created light, and a whole host of other very good things. And then, after a bit of a rest and a lie down, he blessed the earth with millions of teeming creatures, all thrilled to part of this wondrous creation. But by day 17, some of them became restless, and irritable, and unsettled and frankly - a little bit anxious about all sorts of different stuff. 

This carried on, unabated, for many moons.  And then, on day 17,061, God created tranquilizers. And that day was a good day, and all anxious animals and panic-plagued peoples rejoiced. 

Tranquilizers are awesome, but sadly (cue wailing and gnashing of teeth), the sadistic doctors won't let us take them all the time.

So what else is there? 

Rescue Remedy

Does this actually work? I have absolutely no idea. I pump it onto my tongue furiously whenever I'm starting to freak out, but it may well just be a placebo.  All I know is that if I'm *really* freaking out, nothing short of being shot with an elephant tranquiliser will help, so spritzing some flower water on my tongue feels a wee bit like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. But I'm happy to be proven wrong, so readers who have had success with the big RR - let me know!

Lavender Oil

I spray this all over my pillows and sheets, much to my boyfriend's chagrin. He protests that it's like sleeping with his Gran - and to be honest the sheets are just half of it. With a penchant for Agatha Christie's Poirot, and a liking for fusty vintage clothes and afternoon tea, he's essentially made a conjugal pact with a prematurely aged WI leader. But it's very soothing for scary nighttime, so I do it nonetheless.

 I also take a multi-vitamin, omega oils and probiotics, because my mum sent me a long article extolling the virtues of acidophilus etc. Apparently it helps the brain too, and can stave off depression? No idea, but no harm taking it (and obviously it's super good for your belly too). 

I have also bought a stuffed monkey. With a removable, microwavable, lavender sachet belly. I hope I don't need to explain why this is a good idea. 

Oh, and a nifty roller-ball hand mitt massager thing. The kind of thing that's advertised on day-time TV alongside no-win-no-pay legal cover and incontinence products. I found it on one of my regular excursions to Superdrug, and it's actually really cool for anxiety crippled neck and shoulders etc. Hooray for consumer gullibility - sometimes it really pays off!
Saturday, 25 February 2012

Some websites for your anxious monkey mind...

The online bible of panic and anxiety. Chatroom, huge forum and tons and tons of resources. You will find references to every single bizarre fear you've ever entertained, every side-effect of every medication, every strange sensation that's been plagueing you, and you will learn that you are certainly far from alone. BUT, there's a health warning attached to this. You can easily sink into an obsessive research spiral, where you plunge deeper and deeper into the forum and discover more and more awful possible symptoms, and can develop new worries you had hitherto not even been creative enough to imagine (i.e. wow - some people have trouble swallowing and get anxious about that. Wow, if I stop to think about it, that is quite anxiety-making. Shit)

So. Check it out, look up the things that relate to you, check out what joy people have had with various supplements and medications, and maybe see if there's a support group in your area. But don't spend hours on it, or you'll make yourself feel much worse. There's something to be said for leaving all this crap alone and getting some fresh air too.

Created to tie in with the launch of Daniel Smith's new book, this is a very funny, very neurotic look at a man GADing about (you see what I've done there?!). There's even an anxiety jukebox. His tweets are great too.

A really lovely blog written by a really lovely woman.  There are some religious posts, but don't be put off (if that's the kind of thing that puts you off) - Aimee certainly doesn't push anything, and only uses it to explain how faith has helped her overcome anxiety etc. Especially good if you're a parent - there are some really inspiring entries on here about Aimee's balancing of family life with anxiety etc.

Superb on medication info. Why has my libido died in the ass after taking Prozac? What other cocktail of drugs can I force into my body to breathe life back into the old dog? Will I get addicted to tranquilisers and end up homeless and eventually dead? Again - don't spend hours on here - just search if you've been put on a specific medication, and want to know more than your disinterested GP will tell you. But DON'T get hung up on side effects - just because they're listed does not mean you will get them...
Friday, 24 February 2012

Books for your anxious monkey mind...

Panicked bibliophiles rejoice, for today I have literary suggestions to soothe your fevered brow...

Self-help for your nerves

An absolutely fantastic book - if you can look past the slightly worrying 70's references. There's a lot of vaguely condescending asides about bored, pill-popping housewives, and you have to replace the word 'nerves' with 'anxiety' so you feel less like a hysterical stepford wife in a floral bedcoat breathing into a paper bag. But it's incredibly comforting, soothing and reassuring - especially in the early stages when you have absolutely no idea what is happening to you, and are wondering when you will be taken away and bundled into a loony bin. 

 The author suffered with panic attacks herself, and knows only too well that the 'snap yourself out of it' or 'be patient' prescriptions don't necessarily work when you are crippled by fear. So she takes you by the hand and offers very wise, calm advice in the 'float past it and accept' kind of vein. Like having your anxiety-expert gran wrap you up in her tufted chenille bedspread and whisper soothing words of wisdom. 

Anxiety and phobia workbook

An indispensable reference book. Definitely a must-have for anyone with GAD, panic disorder, or OCD. Has an absolutely huge but navigable amount of information about everything to do with anxiety - from nutrition and existing health complaints that can trigger anxiety, to visualisation techniques, self-talk recommendations, and exposure therapy etc. If you're lost in the horrifying vortex of the Amazon self-help section, let this be your anchor. Buy it.

The Compassionate Mind

If you're a bit of a self-flagellator, then this is the book for you. Stern words, bullying , and screeching at yourself to pull it together won't work - it will only make you freak out even more. 
Being compassionate towards youself is one of the best things you can do for your anxiety - but it's a pretty hard habit to learn. Especially if, like me, you have a red-faced, throbbing-veined, vicious headmaster inside you who jumps up and down and demands perfection and snaps a cane over the desk and says 'sort it OUT you crazy woman! It's just a plane - what is wrong with you??!! Look at all the nice, normal people enjoying their bloody Mary's and not imagining fireballs and emergency water landings in shark-infested waters!!'. 

Definitely a good move to replace that guy with a nice Buddhist monk who smiles and says 'it's okay - you're doing amazingly, incredibly well, and everything is going to be ALRIGHT. And you are the coolest person I have ever met, by the way...'

The Buddhist Barry White

So. Went to my second ever meditation class today (apart from the ones I was dragged to as a mewling infant by my lovely, hippy mother - who I think probably hoped to create a calm, centred child. Ha). The first one was a bit of a wash-out - I was dosed up with Lorazepam and anti-nausea pills, so had weird awake dreams, and totally passed out at one point. Tres embarrassing.

Today was more successful. The class was led by a man with the most absurdly deep voice I have ever heard. With eyes closed it was as though a reincarnated, spiritual Barry White had spurned vajajay in favour of incense, and was gently stroking our fevered brows with his voice. But the guy next to me was breathing so loudly (I mean, *really* over the top), so I was having very non-Buddhist feelings about him, and another woman obviously had forgotten to have a tofu energy ball before she came, and her digestive sounds were echoing around the room pretty much constantly, so more non-compassionate feelings there, whoops.

BUT, despite all that, I felt pretty amazing, and pretty calm, which is pretty, pretty rare for me. So thank you Barry - can't get enough of your (all-encompassing, compassionate, wish-fulfilling) love. I'll be on some mountain-top in Nepal before you know it...(but what if I got altitude sickness? Or was allergic to yak milk? Or looked terrible without hair? Or got some horrendous disease and couldn't be airlifted back to civilisation? Shit...) 
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