Sometimes you have to ride the storm

The other night I was tired and stressed.

And that was all the excuse my anxiety needed. The first ‘signal’ that anxiety had come knocking. I felt bad about myself. My vanity kicked up a gear, or insecurity anyway.

I become super vain at times like these, and stare at myself in the mirror, wishing I could change one thing or another about how I look.

But although I felt this stuff that night, this time, I told myself not look at the mirror. Instead, I told myself that if I went to sleep and got a good rest, the next day would be a new day … and mentally, I would most probably feel better about myself.

I knew that what I perceived on the outside of myself, was because of the anxiety I had on the inside.

I had to ride the storm.

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Many people who suffer mental illness experience highs and lows. Depending on the illness, some more than others. But generally there is a common feeling during the lows – that you’ll never come out of it.

Desperation, despondency and depression … they’re all part of the storm.

A storm no one else, not even loved ones, can seem to breach. A storm that blocks out their words of reason. A storm that hampers your ability to hear normal conversations in the same way. A storm that wants to drag you down into it, to behave the same way you always behave in the storm.

So if you experience that, I know it’s not easy, but you have to trust that you’ll come out of it. For me, it meant going to sleep and hoping that I would wake up in a different frame of mind. But I know, it’s not always that simple. And if you suffer from say depression, well that storm can continue for days weeks or months.

But the only way you can handle it is to face it, and not let yourself get drawn in. To distract yourself. To listen to a song. To ask a friend to drive you around for a bit. Or maybe just bake something.

I’ll admit that I fail sometimes. Often. I look at the mirror and hate what I see. But I know, that I have done this before. That I came through it and felt better.

So fuck the storm. You WILL get through. Just trust.

Turn off Anxiety’s Background Refresh

If your mind was the operating system of a phone, your anxiety would be like the worst app ever. Constantly draining its battery with annoying notifications, using up valuable processing power, and distracting your mind from more important tasks. 

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To continue this probably painful analogy, if you’re an anxiety sufferer you have to remember to go back to your settings and turn off your anxiety background app refresh setting.

“Oh, but that’s easier said than done Matt”, I hear you say.

Well, let’s look at the alternative. You ignore this particularly shit background refresh, and it doesn’t go away. In fact, it just gets more insistent, until it really ruins all your other app functions.

The app for concentrating on work.
The app for being present with your family.
The app for remembering to call your dry cleaner.
The app for getting all those little extra things done like walking the hound.

All the while, the app for bloody anxiety is nudging in, taking up much needed battery.

So check in with yourself. Acknowledge your anxiety. Then move on. You may not solve it while you are busy, but just being aware that it is running in the background, is enough to give it less power.

It’s F**king World Mental Health Day!!!

I almost forgot to post, on one of the most relevant days of the year for this blog.
I’ve focused today on telling all my negative thoughts to shut the fuck up, and I hope you have too :).

I’ve also started reading a new book called The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer.
it’s a really interesting book about getting to know your inner self. I know that sounds wanky, but I actually think it’s a quite special read … and forces you to think about how misguided your little internal anxiety voice is.

I’ll be posting more about it soon.
But for now my friends, I hope you’ve had a great World Mental Health Day!

👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

Triggers Should Be Handled With Caution

In the realms of psychology, the word trigger refers to something that elicits a cognitive event. Or put in layman’s terms, something that has an affect on the way you look at the world.

Triggers can be anything, and depend on the individual in question. They can be a social circumstance (shit, I said something dumb and now I’m going to be chucked out of the tribe!), a smell, something the person has consumed like alcohol or a certain drug.
The list goes on.

A fellow student at my old University had a fairly unusual trigger. Every time she saw an image of Rolf Harris, she’d have a nightmare. Okay so we didn’t know at the time, but her subconscious thoughts were scarily on the money.

Personally, if I drink too much beer after a heavy work week (which in advertising was pretty much an occupational hazard on a Friday night) I wake up very anxious the next day. For me, alcohol and work-related fatigue don’t mix well, but that’s not necessarily a rule of thumb for anyone else.

When it comes to being aware of your own ‘triggers’, the ones that cause you anxiety or otherwise, you have to be your own detective. A good detective sticks to the facts, and tries not to be too emotionally-led (difficult when you’re actually in the throws of an anxiety attack), by analytically and systematically compiling evidence. I know this because I’ve watched shitloads of detective programmes.

Think about the days that surround your most anxiety-ridden moments.
Was there a specific type of stressor? Work deadline? Did you eat before you went out drinking? Did someone say something that pushed specific kind of buttons? Did you get a sense of deja vu? Did you compound several things together (eg. being naked + on a busy bus + in the middle of Trafalgar Square)?

In the end, you’ll hopefully work out your triggers then adjust your lifestyle to avoid them.

Failing that, remember these sage words….

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The Great Disparity

The wealth of the rich is growing at a much faster rate than that of the poor.

But what does this mean?

It means that the wealth disparity between the haves and have nots is at an all time high.

And with the arrival of the pandemic and millions of people losing their jobs, often blue collar jobs, this disparity is going to grow even more.

When you consider that socioeconomic factors such as unemployment and poverty are correlated with a risk of mental illness, it’s truly concerning.

So what are the government doing to handle the mental health? I don’t think they are doing enough. In fact this article details a sad lack of meetings between the Health Minister and mental health organisations during the Covid crisis.

Sorry to write such an annoyed post, but this is an area I think that we as a society need to be doing better in.

And I’m going to think about all the things I can do personally to push the government to act.

I See You, Mara

I’m not an overly spiritual person, but there is something that interested me in buddhism with the story of a demon called Mara. Mara was the demon of self-doubt and appears in the story of the prince Siddhartha Gautama, on his journey to enlightenment (and becoming the Buddha). Ultimately, Mara tests him in battle, which is as much a physical battle as it is Siddhartha’s battle for liberating and disciplining his mind. Siddhartha prevails and becomes enlightened. However even after the battle, Mara still shows up from time to time in the now-Buddha’s life. And when he does, the Buddha simply says “I see you, Mara”.

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The Buddha has effectively recognised his enemy and as a result, that enemy loses his power.

Anxiety and depression are illnesses that any sufferer will do anything to avoid. We try to ignore them, distract ourselves from them or anaesthetise ourselves enough so we don’t feel anything. But just like the story of Mara, sometimes it is better to be consciously aware of the demons we face. And to face them, without self-judgement or blame.

This is called being ‘Mindful’. About living in the now.

And yes, it’s not that simple for many people who are facing these kinds of illnesses.

But if we can start to say “I see you” to our anxiety or depression, it does lose some of its power, because we no longer are letting it control us. We are facing up to it.