Saturday, November 19, 2016

Anxiety | Ellen Bourne

It seems that it always crops up in the same way. Some kind of snowball effect - like when I have something on my mind. Whether that something is a minor or major chord in the forever oscillating harmonics (or rather, not-so-harmonics) of my existence does not seem to be the issue. Rather, the issue at hand becomes my self-sabotaging way of taking the blue pill and not. Dealing. With. It.

The problem, I often tell myself, is guilt. Guilt, because I know that many of these twisting and turning thought-paths meandering down through my brain are not in fact real, or really at all based in any assumption of logic. They are just that, trains of thought. A thicket of neurons that I have stopped at, bent to sample some low-lying fruit, found that it was rotting or wriggling underneath its blue-bruised skin, and for some reason latched it to my fear-based version of reality, allowing the thought to become multi-faceted and hydra-like in my mind; forever creeping back even after I have removed what I thought to be the first poisoned root of thought deep in my subliminal unconscious.

I taught my mind to be creative. To write, to imagine. To explore the wild inexplicable inside it. The pattern though, can turn on itself. I am so used to stories and fantasies, and vivid play. I can struggle to not use this imagination against myself in my most insecure and self-deprecating moments. My mind will come up with a million and one possibilities, a million ‘what if..?’ Scenarios. Of course, to find out which ones are real I have to dip a toe into the pool of questions to try and receive some answers, not that there are often any to be found.

These popping ideas, the roads that fill up the space next to the main path, are sometimes so close to the reality I am living in that it’s frightening. It spurs me into a state in which I am imagining my life with just a few adjustments and those adjustments are terrifying. Such small things could change everything, a flickering glance might reveal that the person who tells you he loves you is in fact watching and waiting after the other girl. Yet in the here and now, where you must live lest the and/or drive you crazy, he swears blind it’s you.

It’s like a million screens are showing up between naturally-occurring doorways into the ‘What If..?’ I used to find the power of fantasies encouraging, thinking only of fictional storylines and the castle I planned to build to write my books in. Now in my twenties the fantasy world has changed, and is no longer filled with the illusory dangers of dragons and magic, but those slight variations in rhythm and strings plucked, the horror that if THIS were swapped with THIS, or I with SOMEONE ELSE, or for this particular story to be told, perhaps, perhaps that might ring true the deep-seated fear that I am in fact not. Good. Enough. Not. Enough. Not. Right. Not. The. One.

Just the person who got told the different version of events. The person set up and thus sent to worry like Alice in her Wonderland,

‘I do hope this is my dream and not the Red Kings’. I hate being part of someone else’s dream!’


From the Miriam-Webster Dictionary:

Hypostatizing: Transitive verb. Meaning: To attribute a real identity to a concept.


In some states of sleep-paralysis or semi-lucid dreams I find myself in a dark forest, with shadowed branches and roots all around me, this layer being slightly darker than the horror-night my mind had conjured up behind it. I move through the tunnel, nothing is chasing me but I am running from something. Perhaps the twisted lumps of brain activity moving through these shadowy pathways.

This the place I return to when the world has built up around me, and all of a sudden with one sight-line peering down into a reality so similar but altered by just one thought, it all falls down. Now I am back in the dark tunnel.

That is, to me, what the thoughts that trigger these depressive episodes feel like. An imagining of a scenario that feels like staring down into a deep, dark, grotesque tunnel. Like I am in fact designing the path that will lead to that place, and that place is terrifying.


From the Beyond Blue website:

“Panic attacks

Panic attacks are surprisingly common. Up to 40 per cent of the population will experience a panic attack at some time in their life. Some of the common signs and symptoms of a panic attack include:
  • a sense of overwhelming panic or fear
  • the thought that you are dying, choking, ‘losing control’ or ‘going mad’
  • increased heart rate
  • difficulty breathing (feeling that there is not enough air)
  • feeling choked
  • excessive perspiration
  • dizziness, light-headedness or feeling faint.
People experiencing a panic attack may also experience ‘derealisation’; a sense that you or the world around you is not real. This symptom is thought to be associated with the physiological changes that occur in the body during the anxiety response.”

Panic attacks can also manifest as long periods of staring into space. See: Derealisation; and attacks of anger and/or sadness.

Anxiety, over analysis and overthinking has skewed and split my perspective. One year and six months ago this perspective had felt great, level. Clearly, however, nobody is to become their final reincarnation of themselves at twenty-three.

I walked past the building that houses the School of Life (Alain de Botton!) Melbourne chapter the other day. Printed in bright yellow across the window the school, like some perfectly modern homage to Ancient Greek philosophers, tells passersby: ‘Get excited about ideas, not people!’
I’m trying, because my anxiety seems to be my vanity, and I’m trying to focus on ideas, my own and those of the people that went before me, in order to tap into what Adam Smith wrote, ‘the great secret of education is to direct vanity toward proper objects’.

Read more, write more, continue to increase skill and intelligence. Be inspired. Be healthy. Practice painting and drawing to help keep the mind sharp.

When I do these things I seem to function better. I am able to stop myself crawling toward the dark places, tumbling down to nests wrought among insecure branches that hold unsteady during points of increased turbulence. Sometimes I feel as though I am oscillating between reality and unreality, the barrier between both is thin - psychotically thin.

Move forward. Look ahead. Imagine an invisible string holding your head up straight and pulling you forward. If you ever feel your head fall back and your ears touch the water tread harder. Breathe.

These things seem to help when the rabbit-hole yawns wide, and the lecherous roots that grow round its maw crook inwards and beckon.

Writing. Reading. Art therapy. Planning. Something. Big. Sketch. Keeping well away from the terrifying wonder-land.