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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Saturday, 26 January 2013


Yep, he may have been a big old lily-livered-lefty-hater, but I'm afraid (see what I did there) John knows his onions when it comes to cojones...if that's not a mixed metaphor too far

I was having tea (peppermint, natch) with an old work colleague of mine who also has serious GAD issues (which, incidentally, I only found out about because I 'outed' myself to him on a whim, and he shocked me to the core by revealing he TOO suffered horribly with it), and is going through a bit of a bad patch at the moment. As we swapped war stories in the meditation centre cafe (ha, natch again), he shook his head and said my advice was all well and good, but that I was much braver than him, so he wasn't sure he could take it.

And this was enough to pierce through my panicked haze and make me forget my trembling hands on my teacup (still staggering up the Prozac ramp) momentarily, and I proceeded to give him a very stern lecture about bravery - the gist of which I will outline now, but in a much more lucid and Cicero-ish manner than I managed at the time.

No. NO! Listen up, Woody! You think you're a coward because you can't do things other people do without batting an eyelid? Think about it. The very concept or definition of bravery entails fear - it doesn't make any sense at all without it. As some bright spark once said, 'bravery is not the absence of fear, it is the mastery of fear' (or somesuch) or as John Wayne had it - 'bravery is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway'. Let's be clear: there's nothing remotely brave in not being frightened at all.  Courage is peering into the jaws of the beast - whether imaginary or real - and walking forward anyway.

Consider the person who travels in to work on the tube of a Monday morning, blissfully chomping through a pain au chocolat and listening to a comedy podcast. Would you call them brave? Or courageous? Of course not; it doesn't make sense to, because they are not afraid. They may be easygoing, or relaxed, or happy, or peaceful, or any number of things. What they are not, is brave.

Contrast that with the person with panic disorder, who arrives at work at the same time as person A, and says 'hi' to them at the coffee machine. This person set out for work maybe half an hour before person A, and was pacing the house a full three hours before that. This person woke up terrified after a few hours sleep, and was so full of fear and dread they were sick before breakfast. This person cried before leaving the house, because they were so petrified of getting on the tube and of what the day would bring. This person walked to the tube anyway. This person got on the tube, had a panic attack, believed they were going to run out of air and die, and got off again a few stops along. This person took a pill, phoned a friend, cried in the corner, waited for half an hour, and got back on the tube again. And off again, and on again, until they finally made it into work to start their day.

And this person thinks they are a coward. This person berates themselves for being weak, and this person worships person A for being brave. 

This person is not a coward. What this person is, is an eedjit! This person is conquering terror and fear EVERY SINGLE DAY on top of living the life everyone else finds so hard! This person does ten rounds with a slavering hell-beast before breakfast! This person has fought more truly, genuinely courageous and brave battles than person A has had happy, hot dinners! This person needs to wake up, smell the bloody coffee, and realise they are SUPERHUMANLY, OBSCENELY BRAVE, and could by all rights wear a cape and undies on the outside by now! 

This person is you. So suck it up, SuperYou, and stop calling yourself a coward. Or I'll come round there and knock some sense into you. And you don't want that, because I've fought the kind of demons that would make Buffy drop her stake, wet herself, and run home crying to Giles.

'Just got to quickly wrestle these before work, won't be a sec....'

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Prozac nation (is not my favourite nation)...

'YES! Yes I am!'
Greetings from a small, Viv-shaped Prozac nation!

My six months without antidepressants have been fairly hellish, so I finally surrendered and went to see my almost-hot psychiatrist who recommended a trial of Prozac. Cue much grinding of teeth and general nervousness. 'Me? On Prozac? Sounds so 'Girl Interrupted'! Why can't my brain do it itself goddamnit?! Why can't I just RELAXXX??!!' etc etc. Although pills aren't for everyone, there's no doubt that medication has provided a lifeline for millions of people around the world (myself included), and sometimes you've got to come to terms with needing a little help. See this article for a really clear-headed and inspiring take on an often maligned and misjudged thing.

I've been taking them for a week now, and...guess what?! They've made everything much, much worse! You've got to laugh - it is quite funny. Apparently they can do that (i.e. make you feel like you want to jump out of your skin for the first couple of weeks) before they make you better. If they make you better. 

I'm so bloody anxious, I could gnaw off my arm. I've been teetering on panic a number of times a day, and just feel jittery and speedy. I had two days of really bad nausea, which has now improved to simply not fancying eating anything apart from beige food. With cheese on top.

I'm persevering, because apparently I could exit the tunnel into bright daylight any day now. Please hurry up that day!

I have to remember that:

1. This will pass.
2. Sometimes the darkest night is just before the dawn.
3. Whatever happens, I can and will cope.
4. This will pass (again).

It's been a long old time in the tunnel, and I really just want to feel a bit better soon.

Whilst I'm waiting, I am consuming approximate 1kg of Rich Tea biscuits daily, laughing at the brilliant Twenty-Twelve spoof documentary, having loads of hugs, trudging into work in the snow, and crying into my decaf tea.

See? There are always bits of sunshine, even when things are shitty. 

'It'll wash your blues away! Or make you feel so anxious you feel like you can't breathe! Yay!'

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear...

"'We all want some figgy pudding' my arse..."

Guys! It's 2013! I've been lounging around, stuffing my face with Quality Street and sweaty cheeses (thank you Mr Gallbladder-Surgeon-Who-Gave-Me-Cake-And-Thus-My-Life-Back) and I have utterly failed in my blogging duties. So my last maudlin post has been languishing there, completely unrevised and depressing - not a good way to see in the new year! Sorry chaps!

How are you, beloved anxious peeps? Did you have banging festive frolics or big fat, figgy funks? Did you fend off Uncle Bill's crushing chest-to-breast hugs and Nana's racist outbursts? Did you panic over the possibility of undercooked-turkey poisonings and salmonella eggnog manslaughters? Did you fear you and your loved ones would die in the inevitable gnarly Christmas motorway deaths, because I know I certainly did!

Here are some things I learned over Christmas:

1. Kids are a good distraction from anxious self-obsession. I always thought having children would tip me over the edge into full-throttle nervous breakdown, but my niece-wrangling efforts this Christmas actually cheered me up (admittedly I disappeared swiftly every time one of them vomited/had explosive diarrhoea, so it wasn't an authentic parenting experience. But still...)

2. Stila's new liquid lipstick in 'Beso' (thanks, Santa) is a stunningly good matte 40's red. And it lasts (i.e. stood up to my rigorous, virtually lab-condition Christmas lunch testing).  If you're starring in an upcoming WWII biopic as a beautiful, ball-breaking SOE agent, this is the one I heartily recommend.

3. Shalom Auslander's memoir Foreskin's Lament  is a superb, brilliant, amazing, fanspectaculastic must-read for all anxious folk everywhere. The man is hugely traumatised as a result of his deeply misguided (and at times, abusive) Orthodox Jewish upbringing - and yet I related to every single, fucked-up, neurotic thought he puts to paper. BUY IT NOW. Makes Woody Allen look positively stable. And read his novel Hope - both books are the funniest things I've read all year. 

4. Don't play bingo if you're feeling a bit panicky. I lost my bingo virginity this Christmas (I know, I know, I'm prematurely aged) and almost had a heart-attack as a result. How the pensioners manage to not fall down dead in high-blood-pressured droves I have no idea. 21, 6, 14, 90...WAAAIT, ARGGGHHHHH! I went in a sort of smugly ironic, post-modern way, and ended up knee deep in screwed up tables of numbers and panting with genuine excitement. BINGO!  A v. good use for excess adrenaline.

5. We all now have an extra year's worth of intel about living with this malicious anxiety beast, so theoretically should be another 365 days cleverer at dealing with it. Go team! I've been thinking of my anxiety as a Boggart recently (HP again - please don't watch the films, they're bloody awful) - it changes shape and morphs so frequently (health anxiety to status anxiety to random phobia to depression anxiety and back again), but is the same old beast cowering underneath. It's the old Wizard of Oz behind the curtain trick - watch it and call it out!

I hope you all are feeling well and not too stressed about what 2013 holds. How about we make it the year we level a well-aimed kick at Mr Anxiety's cojones and get a bit of the upper hand back? And if we miss, let's just have some cake and gin and chat about it together. 

Happy new year!

V x

PS. You can't make me take the tree down.  How will I survive without its Prozac-y twinkly lights? Superstition is only magical thinking after all, and didn't my therapist say that was a no-no...?

Take Valium. I swear to God it's the only way you'll survive the night.

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