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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, 22 June 2012

Here comes the sun REDUX...


Okay. It is 20 minutes since I wrote that last post, and I have cried like a baby, and apologised to my boyfriend yet again about Berlin. I have also realised something (both on my own, and with his help). That last post was only half of the story - but that's the bit I keep torturing myself with. I'm going to use all of my super panic-busting skills and re-tell that in a different (and much more accurate) way.

When I went to Berlin, I'd had no CBT therapy at all for my panic attacks. I still thought there was a possibility I might die. It was also minus 18 degrees, and was actually painful to breathe outside - panic attacks or not.  I have learned so much since then, and I will never again be in that early, terrified place I inhabited when the panic disorder first started.

I also only had about three Lorazepam which I tried to eke out over a week. I also thought I would become an addict if I took them.

And I didn't stay in my hotel all week. Despite my terror, I got out of bed every day, and walked out of doors in the bitter cold and discovered new things. I would have panic attacks along the way, and I would sit down and cry. I would then get up, wipe my face, and carry on again. I haggled in a market, I had hot chocolate with brandy in it, I ate kasespatzel, I went to a cafe where resistance groups used to hang out back when Berlin actually was a genuinely terrifying place to be. So it wasn't even a complete and utter disaster - because I was brave, I clawed some great experiences back from it. And that was the absolute WORST it will ever be, because I can never again go back to that place of confusion about my condition.

And since Berlin, I have had a wonderful holiday in Granada for a friend's wedding, a lovely family holiday in France for another friend's wedding (a panic attack here or there in both, but nothing terrible), and flew both to and from Cannes film festival on my own with no troubles at all.

I spent my entire childhood and adolescence on planes (between the UK and Australia) - often on my own. I LOVED planes, and I LOVED travelling. My mum took me backpacking around the world when I was four, and I loved every second of it - and was apparently never anxious, worried or nervous for a single moment. That is the true me - strong and tough and rough and brave - and this is just a blip.

I'm going to have an AMAZING holiday. And even if for some reason, I don't - it won't be the end of the world. I'll get back up and keep on going and keep on trying until I do.

'Take THAT'

Here comes the sun (and attendant free-floating anxiety)...

'Pssst, hey, girls, are any of you finding it hard to breathe right now?'

Hi guys. I know I'm getting slow with these posts, but I'm having some very boring and predictable anxiety of the self-pitying breed, and pretty sure no-one's really reading them anyway. Yawn.

I'm in a bit of a grump because I'm going on holiday.

Now how ridiculous does that sound?

Ever since the dawning of my new age of anxiety, the wonderful, incredible, blessing that is an annual holiday now fills me with fear and dread. And that fact fills me with fury and anxiety.

It's ever since I went to Berlin with my boyfriend and spent the plane ride in the grip of one of the worst attacks I've ever had, and then the rest of the week sobbing and panicking and sobbing and panicking, and ringing my mum in Australia and sobbing, and ringing my therapist every evening and sobbing, and walking down the street and thinking I was going to die and sobbing and panicking. We were in a five star hotel (the Ritz Carlton) and it was meant to be romantic. I felt so guilty I can't even tell you. How would you feel if you were my boyfriend and you'd got all ready for a romantic break after working hard all year, and your girlfriend totally and utterly freaked out and cocked everything up? No sexy time, no romantic dinner time, just getting places, panicking, and going home to the hotel and sobbing. And wanting to go home, but being petrified of the plane ride, so planning a land-crossing instead. Oh my sweet Jesus, it makes me feel sick to even think of it.

And of course then there was my most recent claustroholiday.

So despite the fact that I've had hundreds of amazing holidays in my life, and I have had a couple of reasonable ones since, I now can't get rid of the worry that this may be another horror movie like Berlin.

I went to my hypnotherapist last night, and he made it all better - and I felt amazing. But then this morning I woke up and was terrified again. We're leaving tomorrow morning.

Please God let it be okay. Let me not ruin things for my boyfriend. Let me not ruin things for myself. Let me not waste all of our money. Let me summon up my adventurous spirit that I USED to have in spades before all of this crap. Let the statistics be right and Berlin just sink into history as an aberration. Let me relax and enjoy this - because there is nothing to worry about, nothing to fear, nothing to feel unsafe about. Please God let me just be normal and enjoy this! And if anyone is reading this, if you could send some general good vibes in my direction as well that would be really, really very much appreciated.

V x

'Hey, let's play a really cool game - let's pretend that  sharks and body hatred and skin cancer don't even exist!'

Friday, 15 June 2012

Anxiety hero trading card #7...

#7 Sara Benincasa

And you thought Bruce Springsteen was the only ridiculously hot genius to come out of New Jersey...

Vital anxiety statistics: Trust me - Sara Benincasa is anxious. Her panic attack catalysts include (but are not limited to) trains, planes and automobiles, tunnels, tubes, food, sex, having a wet head, being pregnant, and just generally leaving the house. She once peed in cereal bowls because she was too afraid to leave her bedroom.

Career highlights: Her exceptional funny, brave, and inspiring stand-up show Agorafabulous. Her exceptionally funny, brave and inspiring book Agorafabulous. Her ridiculously hilarious, wonderful and candid podcast Sex and Other Human Activities

Why she's an AWESOME anxiety hero: She's beautiful, she's frank, she's filthy, she's funny, and she's single-handedly breaking down the stigma and embarrassment surrounding panic attacks, agoraphobia and anxiety. She is the Rita Hayworth of ritualistic hyperventilation. 

What you can learn from her: How to be open and honest and shout about your panic from the rooftops. How to live a fulfilling and full life with a gremlin sitting on your shoulder. How to make nutritious, grown-up-baby smoothies when you can't eat. Also, how to perform 'hairapy' on yourself, and amazing sex acts on other people.

Best anxiety quote: 'There are few things less pleasant than sobbing on the toilet, naked and shivering, as your heart pounds out of your chest and you piss out of your asshole'

Further reading: Get thee to a bookery and buy Agorafabulous NOW. And watch this.

'Goddamnit, I'm so panictastic I could puke'
Sunday, 10 June 2012

A bad case of the mean reds...

Let's not kid ourselves - I don't think Audrey ate many croissants and full-fat lattes in her time...

Is there no end to the things that Breakfast at Tiffany's can teach us about life?

Apart from the fact that quaffing champagne before breakfast is perfectly decent and normal, and that you must never, ever give your heart to a wild thing, B at T also has important things to say about free-floating anxiety and panic.


Holly 'You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul 'The mean reds, you mean like the blues?'
Holly 'No, the blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of.'

Holly explains that for her, a trip to Tiffany's is the only thing that can shake off the mighty mean reds.

'Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that'd make me feel like Tiffany's, then - then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name!'

Needless to say, Truman Capote suffered from severe anxiety (no-one who hasn't experienced it could have written that), and went to some pretty extreme measures to keep it in check.

Sadly, this isn't late-50s New York (and for me, it's not even 21st century New York, and I feel like heading to Harrods in the rain just wouldn't have the same effect), so what I want to know is - when you get a bad bout of the mean reds, what's your very own real-life Tiffany's? 

Oh, go on then, I'll have a chocolate covered danish. Seeing as how you twisted my arm.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Cheesy self-help alert - introducing the 'Happy Box'...

This woman does NOT own a Happy Box.

 My therapist told me to make a happy box. A hamper of cheerful delights - a 'break-in-case-of-emergency' toolkit to thrill me out of any depression and misery associated with bad panic attack days. I thought it sounded like a really, really stupid idea. Somewhere for girly girls to put their posters of Leonardo DiCaprio and uplifting cartoons and horoscopes.

But I did it anyway (you may see a recurring theme on my blog - my panicked desperation leads me to do things I would normally scoff at  i.e. creepy hypnosis, non-ironic meditation, giving up smoking, eating healthily, swearing off caffeine etc etc. And surprise, surprise - some of them have even worked a little bit!).

So I got a lovely, huge vintage suitcase from a flea market in Cambridge, and have stuffed it with 'you GO girl!' notes I've written to myself in odd empowered moments, expensive chocolate truffles, love-heart sweets, photos, music, self-help books, stuffed toys from childhood (sent over from Australia by my mum) and all manner of other random things. Essentially you're meant to cover all the 'sense' bases - i.e. scented candles, luscious chocolates, funny films, uplifting CDs, and any other things that make you feel safe/strong/happy/loved/horny (just kidding - although, whatever works...).

Only problem is that I keep raiding it for chocolate truffles on good days, so Mother Hubbard's happy cupboard is bare on the bad days.

Apart from that, I think it's a GREAT idea, and highly recommend it to those of you who are prone to the old post-and-pre-and-during-panic-blues.

And you know - it's not like you need to TELL everyone what you're doing. It can be your own special, self-helpy secret.

It's also a pretty fun thing to put together. And you can keep adding to it whenever you see something else that perks you up. Now how good does that sound? Go on. Have a go. You know you want to. Jooooooiiin ussssss...

V x

You NEED me.
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