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, 1 August 2012

Do I have anxiety because I'm bad at maths?

'And if I just put this here, like so, it is now 10,000 billion trillion to one. Which means it's pretty likely, right?'


I've got a theory.

I think it may well be possible that my entire anxiety disorder stems from a basic misunderstanding of statistics. I'm talking about the generalised anxiety here; the day-to-day neuroses, fears and worry-wartishness.  I wander around the world, clucking like a traumatised, paranoid hen, living in perpetual fear of terrible things happening to me, or the people I love, or the people they love (ad infinitum). But is it all because I can't get my head around the numbers?

Observe.

My boyfriend tells me he's been feeling run-down a lot lately - I immediately start planning my tragic life post-boyfriend-dying-of-cancer. I have a splitting headache and two red dots on my hand - I wail that I'm too young to die and start mentally dividing my (non-existent) assets. I read an article about pavements exploding - I walk along the sunny streets imagining what death by explosion might be like. I see that someone drowned on the news - I get in the ocean but don't go in past my shins. My boyfriend travels abroad - I say goodbye and cry because he's going to die in a horrific, fiery plane crash.

Benign things take on a sinister alternate aspect according to random news stories I've absorbed along the way. A tube of hair dye is a terrible allergic reaction; a patch of sunburn is terminal skin cancer; a mung bean salad is a potentially fatal dose of food poisoning; a motorway car trip is ten car pile up; a tube ride is a terrorist explosion; a knife poking out of the dishwasher is a fatal impaling; a day stuck at the desk is a deep vein thrombosis in the leg. The world becomes one huge Final Destination obstacle course, with a trillion different ways and means of  jumping up and killing me/loved ones/anyone etc etc.

But is all of this simply a combination of a globalised, hysterical bad-news media, and my terrible grasp of statistics and chance? Why does my brain read the headline "Woman dies of no-symptom-cat-virus in Peru'' and then automatically assume that is something that is likely to happen to me? Because I never paid attention in Grade 9 maths?

A logical mind acknowledges that these tragedies are RARE, and that they're extracted from the entire global news pool - so the likelihood of a fatal badger biting/pole-dance neck breaking is probably 1 in 7 billion or something. But to my chaotic, artsy mind, all of these horrible incidences seep into my consciousness (as much as I try not to read about them), and add to the general sense of the world being a terrible, dangerous, hazardous sort of place.

My boyfriend is a scientist, and so is pretty hot on the old numbers. He's also, without a shadow of a doubt, the sanest, happiest, and most mentally healthy person I have ever met in my life. Is this no mere coincidence? Does he forge ahead, anxiety-free, fearing nothing - all because he has an accurate sense of likelihood and chance?

Do I need ditch the drugs and hypnosis, and simply pick up my  high-school maths textbooks instead? How about you guys - can any of you add up? Am I onto something here?




You thought playing outside was safe?! Ha! Even an innocent kite is a death-trap waiting to happen...

5 comments:

sara crowley said...

Reading this I can only conclude that you are me. Except for the scientist boyfriend. I have a very logical husband though. I am shit at maths. I think *all* the things that you do, and more, all the time. It's exhausting. Terrifying. And lately I find myself thinking "What if I wasn't afraid?" in a longing fashion.

(By the way, I removed the previous comment as I was trying to link to your post on Facebook and for some bizarre reason the link showed my comment instead of your post. Deleting it didn't help so here it is again.)

Anonymous said...

Sara you're a writer so your mind is constantly on the go, thinking of the what if's. At the times you want to switch off and relax it won't. There's only so much a mind can take! It's happened to me....mind working overtime with a bit of added stress brings on the anxiety and it's hard to let go. I can relate to that. Viv!!! If you've got a high powered job you're probably pretty much in the same boat. What you both need is time out to relax and think of nothing!!! (ha..in an ideal world maybe!)

Anonymous said...

Re Maths - Maths is everywhere!! Basically there's too much information & stress in our lives for us to cope with!!

Vivre Sa Vie said...

Thanks Sara and lovely Anonymouses (?!). That's the best thing about this blogging lark - you spill out the madness that's in your head, and it turns out loads of lovely, normal people feel the same way too! Time out to relax and think of nothing sounds wonderful - Sara - shall we go on a meditation retreat together?! x

andrea chiu said...

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