Anxiety has been getting to me of late. From issues with swimming during jellyfish season to hoping no-one is openly homophobic to me while walking around a city in a skirt, which unfortunately has happened. I’ve been having a bit of a year with my anxiety post Eurovision. I wonder if it’s because I’ve had more time to think, overthink, rethink, and think. Something to think about.
My anxiety over swimming with jellyfish was at its highest since records began, which means it somehow predates my existence, as vinyl has been around for some time now. In an effort to reduce it, I read a lot about breathing techniques and anxiety. I learned about how following thoughts of a curious nature rather than anxious can help reduce anxiety. A simple technique of bringing your attention to how it feels to breathe can be enough for your curious brain to fight back against your anxious brain. Has it worked? It’s all practice.
Another issue with anxiety is confirmation bias. Instead of dealing with the emotions in the moment, instead of feeling that flight or fight response and learning how to deal with it, I run to the internet to research. I find articles that support my ideas and feel good about having researched. The anxiety has not been addressed, though. What my brain has actually enjoyed is research. Having done this for years, I may have fallen into a habit whereby anxiety leads to research which leads to feeling good about research, which leads to not learning how to live. My brain wants the dopamine from researching more than it wants to deal with anxiety.
Can you guess what happened the week before I went to a 3-day music, science, and arts festival called Bluedot? Anxiety, which led to research which led to brief moments of feeling good until I had another anxious thought, and repeat. I spent days catastrophising about the weather forecast. Rain. Sometimes all weekend, and sometimes just one day. I kept worrying about what may happen. I never properly dealt with the anxiety and kept researching the best clothes to take, shoes, boots, wellies, socks, leggings, tights, skirts, trousers, camera, etc. Ideally, I wanted to dress as my flamboyant self, but that look wasn’t very weatherproof, unless I went with swimwear. Functional outdoor clothes are boring. So I stayed with the anxiety and researched. A week lost to fear, again. I overthought “What if” like it was free chocolate. More!
This can’t be my life. It can’t. I want to live, not sit at home living in fear and reading the best ways to cope. How do you cope? I’ll look into that and get back to you.
Arriving at the festival site, we found dry green fields and sunshine. I was glad I listened to my wife and bought my new fun space skirt, which absolutely goes spinny. We had a good, fun day. On Saturday, we awoke to find ourselves in a rain soaked tent. Dry inside, wet outside. I had to choose between wellies or boots. Both had issues. With solid internet access, I couldn’t spend the day researching. I had to make a choice. Taking weeks to decide on something is my autistic superpower. I had minutes, and decided boots, not wellies.
What I really picked wasn’t footwear. I decided to be OK with the circumstances. Instead of trying to control the environment, I chose to accept it. I did wear waterproof socks just in case, but if I got muddy and wet, I was fine with that. My bag had layers to change into and keep me warm. I reminded myself about the Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna, who was great in the rain because he was great at dealing with anxiety. It wasn’t the car that gave him the edge. It was his ability to manage his brain that did. So, that’s what I did. I accepted reality.
Remember when the iPod launched, and it had a shiny metal mirror like back? They sold iPod Socks to protect the device, so it never got scratched. Mine didn’t leave the house for weeks. It was too nice to use outside, despite that being the point. However, once it was scratched, that was it. It went everywhere, and it got so scratched up that it almost became a badge of honour. Those scratches were signs that you lived. The iPod and you had travelled.
This festival was that.
The forecast could have been so bad that I sold my ticket and stayed at home in fear. On the Sunday, the rain and mud was actually bad enough that they cancelled all the day trip tickets. I contemplated leaving, but told myself it will be OK. If it isn’t OK, that feeling won’t last forever, and it will eventually be OK. It was, and we saw Grace Jones hula-hoop half her set. On Monday, we awoke to find ourselves in a pond. The tent had flooded. Would the car even make it out of the field? I believed it would all be fine, and it was. Tricky, sure, but ultimately, it was all good. We lived.
In retrospect, that week I lost fearing the future actually paid off as I had a good setup. Here I am telling myself not to catastrophise about the future and live in the moment, when if I had not done the research I’d probably have had a terrible time. Maybe anxiety needs to be let out a little to run around, but it shouldn’t be your life. I gave it that time, and perhaps I shouldn’t have.
My slow adventures in learning how to be OK with the fact that I exist, despite never being asked (rude), continue… One day, I’ll be fine with reality, and then I’ll do some good. Until then, a bit of overthinking can be helpful, but it shouldn’t be life. Better to accept that life is an imperfect mess and then you die.