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, 13 July 2012

Sweet (inner) child of mine...

Awwwwwww. But you wouldn't want a whole one...
Wow, well, it looks like I just can't stop the cheesiness from flowing this week! Today, kids, I'm going to talk to you about your INNER CHILD. Before you bring up your lunch, WAIT just a few seconds, and hear me out...

I know not all of you can afford therapy (hell, I'm not sure I really can either), so I'm going to maximise the efficiency of my therapy by telling you all the good tips I get given (you save money, face, and time this way). Good idea, huh?

I am (and I'm guessing a lot of you are as well) a bit of a big bully - to myself. To everyone else I'm like a soft, fluffy rabbit of empathy and joy. To myself I'm like a fiery ball of relentless, violent, satanic fury. Anyway, the gist of quite a few of my shrink sessions involved me trying to visualise my younger self (don't do this at work BTW- it can make your eyes leak a bit) and imagining saying the sorts of horrible things I say to myself NOW to that person. I find the best sort of age to remember back to is 5ish - maximum cuteness and innocence, and I personally can't relate to anything much younger than that.

If you do genuinely try and close your eyes and imagine saying 'You're pathetic, there's nothing to be afraid of, you're crazy, you're a loser, you're a waste of space' etc etc etc to this shining little blonde bundle of loveliness, it just feels abusive and utterly wrong.
And it's a pretty good lesson, because essentially, you ARE STILL that person, believe it or not, and your squidgy, vulnerable bits (the bits you shout at) are still about that sort of mental age, really, if you know what I mean. Ugh, I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well.

All I know is that the more I've made a conscious decision to take care of myself, as I would a fearful child; the more relaxed I've been a panicky situation. You wouldn't scream 'DON'T FUCKING PANIC YOU CRAZY BITCH!!' to a five year old if they said they were scared (and if you would, perhaps you should fork out for some therapy after all...). It is literally the most counter-productive and adrenaline-raising option available to you. You need to shush, and swaddle, and stroke, and hum to, and cuddle that petrified thing inside.

 If you want the science rather than the hippy version, it turns out that being angry with yourself causes just the same physical and emotional response as someone else being angry with you or shouting at you (tight chest, adrenaline, cortisol, fear, anxiety etc etc), so is a perfect cocktail for escalating your panic if it's beginning to rear its head.

I know it's hard to get out of the abusive patterns if you've spent a lifetime trudging up and down them, but the almighty God of science ALSO shows us that neural pathways CAN be rebuilt, and behaviours CAN change, so it IS possible to start again.

So go on, give yourselves a big cuddle y'all! Because inside, you are still that cute, innocent, freckly little ball of loveliness.  And, of course, because deep, deep down, you know you're worth it....*

If your inner child is this creepy, then you might need to shout at it to make it go away again..

*This blog post was in no way brought to you by L'Oreal or any other you-hating haircare or beauty conglomerate.

Monday, 9 July 2012

By jove - I did it!

'Smile! All together now, say HEAT RASH!'

Hey chaps. It's Viv calling. From England. After having got back from her HOLIDAY. Which she successfully went on without a single full-blown panic attack. Sure, she almost had one at the boarding gate, and she cried, and she about four more wobbles (mostly blood-sugar related) when she was there - but she DIDN'T have a big momma nasty one. She used her CBT, and her million other tricks and techniques, and actually had an AMAZING HOLIDAY despite her fears.

Guys - it wasn't like Berlin! Bad experiences can be one-offs! Things don't have to repeat themselves! I had a glorious, beautiful, relaxing holiday. My pre-panic disorder self woke up, and was like 'where are we? This is amazing - we LIKE going to new places and exploring things. Gee-up girl!' I swam in a freezing cold ocean that made my heart race - like in a panic attack, so I had to deal with that and rationalise that. I went to gorgeous restaurants (one of my panic stressors - I hate feeling trapped, and once you order you sort of have to sit and wait, and I used to get really freaked out about that sometimes) and bars on the beach. I walked down hundreds of steps to a REMOTE beach, which was hugely stressful, but totally worth it.

It's going to sound unforgivably cheesey, but I really lived in the moment (urgh, sorry - told you). There was one particular moment when I was lying by the pool, in the sun, with shade sails flapping above me, the waves crashing in the background and the boyfriend stroking my back, and I really felt an 'I am just here' sort of feeling. Not worrying about the future, not stressing about the past, just enjoying being an animal lying in the sun, feeling the breeze, and slipping in and out of sleep.

I don't want to be solipsistic about this, so the message is (for all of us): just because you've had a bad experience in the past, doesn't mean it will happen in the same way again. So you had a panic attack on a plane once. Doesn't mean you'll necessarily have another one. I did have a horrific one once, and I haven't had one since (although I've spent many, many wasted hours worrying about that very possibility). So you freaked out on the tube once - doesn't mean you will again. In fact, the only thing that will make you freak out, is freaking out about the possibility of freaking out again. 

So let's try to break all the bad, phobic associations we've made with places and people and things and start afresh, and act like the future will be different. Because nothing stays the same forever, and you never know - you may be in your room, sobbing and panicking and in pain today - but next week, or month, or year, you may be lying on a beautiful beach somewhere, peaceful and in the moment, with panic a million miles away.

                               'Goodness, Jean, what a glorious day this is!'                                                                    'Pffft. Let's just smile and get this over with and pray to God there aren't any sea lice...'
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