Wednesday’s thread on heart attacks prompted a comment from Will Radik about fear as part of anxiety disorder. Then Kiala chimed in, asking which comes first? An interest in writing or natural anxiety?
One of my most powerful memories from childhood is being in elementary school, searching frantically for my birthday cards before “assembly.” You probably call assembly something different over here, but assembly was when all the children went to the school hall to be talked to about Jesus and hand washing, if that makes it any clearer. So when it was your birthday you brought in a few cards, maybe did a show and tell about a gift you’d got at assembly. I think I was turning six, and I’d lost my cards, and I was just freaking the fuck out, and nobody would help me, and the teacher, I think, didn’t understand why I was so upset. BECAUSE I CAN’T FIND MY CARDS.
This was supposed to be my birthday but instead it was a huge source of anxiety. I’ve always been anxious, and I’m sure it’s genetic. My father used to spend his entire Sunday morning cleaning the house, while my mother cooked lunch. He did all the rooms, never asked for help, and it always seemed to be this huge outlet for anxious energy for him. Doing the hoovering. Dusting. We had a very clean house, and it always smelled great on Sunday by about noon, with polish on the polishable surfaces and a roast cooking in the kitchen. That was when Lost In Space was on Channel Four—I’d enjoy watching it even though it was clearly outdated and badly written, because there was a sense of calm in the house once the cleaning was done and the lunch was cooking. But I try nowadays not to get bothered by things being out of place or the dishes in the sink—it’s more important to focus on what’s important, I tell myself. MUST CLEAN UP. MUST POLISH SOMETHING. MUST etcetera. It’s a struggle.
Being anxious and being a journalist are natural for each other. The desire to always know what’s going on, to constantly check in with people to ensure you’re not missing anything, most of that comes from nervous energy. I think blogging comes from the same place—checking your blog feeds, reading everything to make sure you’re connected, then writing about it, although not taking too long to do that, because you’ve got to get on and do the next thing and shit, I haven’t updated my Twitter in six minutes, what next?
I try to focus a little more on things I’m writing than I used to, and take a more thoughtful approach. But the weird thing about being an anxious person is that when you start thinking, it can sometimes be such a break from the normal routine that you disappear down this K-hole of thought (K-hole is to do with Ketamine, a horse tranquilizer popular in gay clubs in London, I don’t know how popular it is here, but you often see guys passed out in the street outside the clubs, and ask them what’s up, and they’re just in there, “thinking”), not to come out. I’m in one of those after my vacation—just spending a lot of time in my head thinking about stuff and reflecting. It’s a rather nice change. I don’t think I’ve even checked Twitter in about two weeks.
Exercise really helps me control my anxiety and stress. So does talking about it. I don’t take happy pills daily any more, but if I’m having a panic attack (and I haven’t had one of these in a while) I’ll pop a Xanax. Gotta be careful of that shit though. It’ll hook ya. So: How do you cope with stress?