Pointless pondering

rumination

What a few months have passed me by. It’s been pretty good for my New Year’s resolutions – I’ve moved out of my mum’s house and into a place with my girlfriend; I’ve kept on reading and writing (the latter has been on another blog of mine); I’ve crammed a lot of friend time in; and I’ve had the time to spend some quality time with myself. I’ve also been feeling a bit more confident in general and feel like my newly found independence has given me a certain freedom of expression that wasn’t there before. God knows why.

So why the title? Well, to be honest, it’s to do with something that very recently happened to me which spurred me to get something off my chest.

A break from the norm

The ‘event’ happened at Gatwick Airport a couple of days ago on my way back from a work conference in Barcelona. My colleague and I had just got off the plane and rounded the corner to within sight of the passport control bit of the airport. As I’m walking towards where the queue begins, I notice there’s a queue of people coming from the opposite direction to us going towards the same queueing point.

At this point, I was unsure of what to do. On the one hand, I feel the compulsion to join the back of the queue coming from the opposite direction – a line of around 200 people. On the other, I watch as people from my flight walk straight towards the beginning of the queue and just kind of merge with the other line.

I decide I’m going to merge with the line but in between both the end of the opposite line and the start of the queue. I join the line and it’s moving pretty freely, some people are coming from the opposite direction and just walk straight into the beginning of the queue with no issue. I then start thinking, well if they can do that then is this line actually a queue? Like, why are we deciding to form a line before the actual queue starts?

So, in a move that is a break from the norm for me, I then begin walking my normal pace which naturally had me walking a bit faster than those directly in front of me. I don’t particularly think this is an issue considering the line itself is a few people wide and the sheer number of people ahead of us totalled another few hundred.

I get to the beginning of the queue point and I hear someone shout “Oi! You!”. I turn around and see this guy who strongly resembled a teacher from my old secondary school pointing directly at me. “Yeh, you! Quit pushing in!” I kind of freeze, not sure of what to do, just kind of looking at this guy. I decide to walk back to where my colleague is and join back in behind this guy, on the way back remarking “calm down mate, it’s not like I would’ve made much difference to you.”

Rumination

Since that happened, the scenario has played through my head a countless number of times as I continue to break the situation down, replay it, and question whether I was in the right or not, beating myself up about it when I arrive at the “I was in the wrong” conclusion, and become frustrated I didn’t defend myself when I decide I was in the right.

Whether I was, in fact, right or wrong (I’m sure you’ll have your own opinion on it) isn’t the point of me telling this story. It’s the fact that I actually give too much of a shit sometimes.

You see, one of the first things I did was explain it to my girlfriend to get her opinion on the situation. Because I’d been through the scenario so many times in my head, I was expecting a really in-depth conversation about it. Instead, I just got a few response texts making light of the situation before moving on to a different subject. As a result, I feel frustrated that I don’t have a conclusive answer to my worries. That isn’t any fault of my girlfriend’s – it’s entirely mine.

Setting myself up for failure

And this is something I do with pretty much any situation I find myself in. Be it a brief exchange (friendly or not) with someone or an entire evening or interaction with someone.

The problem is, it’s not at all helpful. I think I’m helping myself when actually all I’m doing is setting myself up for failure. I will never get the response I want because I will never stop thinking about it and I’m the only one who has seen the scenario from my point of view.

The only thing I can really do is apply what I learned in my CBT sessions and try and break the thought cycle. I have to actively interject in the frantic thoughts and ask questions like “was it really that bad?” or “what can I actually do about it now?”And the answers are almost always no and nothing. It does help in most cases to help tone down the ruminating, although those scenarios do tend to randomly pop back into my memory every now and then.

Life lessons

I suppose that’s the ‘lesson’ I can suggest others to follow: challenge the perspective of your thought process. I know what ruminating is like and it almost feels like a chaotic cloud of different thoughts all playing at once in your head.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. They’re your thoughts and you can do what you want with them, so interject. Look at your thoughts logically, identify which ones are illogical/unactionable, and question them, then see what positives you can take from them. In this particular situation, I thought everyone in that line must hate me for what I’d done. But really, whether they do or don’t, what can I do about that? In terms of the ‘good’ thing I can take from it, perhaps I can just be more patient next time – like a life lesson.

So that’s where I’ll leave it. I hope this post actually made some sense.

Speak soon.

Advertisements

New Year, new resolutions

2017

It’s that time of year again – time to set some new resolutions.

Like seemingly most people, 2016 isn’t one I’m particularly eager to remember (not least because I was a Remainer and I bloody loved Alan Rickman in everything I ever saw him in).

That isn’t to say that 2016 was a bad year for me. On the contrary, I got myself a new job and I’ve made some progress towards moving on with my life. In that sense, it’s been a bit of a forgetful, part-of-a-larger-puzzle kind of year, rather than one that’s been full of incredible, life-changing events.

In a way, that’s a good thing though. It just means that this year will be when all of last year’s progress will pay off. I’ve got some pretty high hopes about getting a new job pretty soonish, I’m currently looking for a flat to rent my with girlfriend, and I’m determined to finally get in shape (which I made some pretty good progress doing last year up until about mid-November, at which point I decided to pig out until New Year’s…).

New targets

So what are my new resolutions? Looking back on my targets last year, my two biggest aims were to read more and write more. Well, I’ve read a few books and graphic novels this year which I’m going to say is enough to have achieved the former goal, and I’ve written a pretty decent amount of blog posts on here so I’d say the latter goal was achieved too.

As well as those two goals though, I had a couple of other, smaller targets. I wanted to complete a 12-month weightlifting programme which unfortunately I didn’t (I got 9 months into it which I would say is a pretty good effort), and I wanted to eat healthier which, again, I lasted a good 9 months doing. Again, I’m pretty happy with the effort I made.

This year, I’m going to continue with last year’s aims. I want to read even more, I want to write even more, and I want to get healthier. On top of those resolutions though, I have a few more to add, based on the past few months:

  • See my friends more – my recent birthday party in London just reminded me how much I used to enjoy my friends’ company and, although it’s getting more and more difficult the older we all get, I think it’s important to rekindle the friendships we all had.
  • Move out of my mum’s house – the past year has made me realise just how much I yearn for the next chapter of my life. I want to get moving with the next chapter of my life and move in somewhere with my girlfriend.
  • Spend more quality time with myself – I’ve always felt a bit guilty if I have a night alone to myself but actually, I’m starting to realise just how helpful they are for letting me get things done and think things through properly. I’ve had quite a lot of holiday from work over November and December which have given me the time to really start to get into gear with developing a project I’m working on (which hopefully I’ll be sharing with you at some point this year…).
  • Slow down – this is more a general aim but I’ve noticed I have a tendency to want to do things as fast as possible. Whether that’s reading a book, travelling somewhere or having a conversation – I always veer on the side of reaching the end goal rather than enjoying the journey. I started doing mindfulness meditation halfway through last year with an app called Headspace which really helped me appreciate slowing down through daily 10-minute meditation breaks. Unfortunately, it slowly became an afterthought rather than something to prioritise, but I’m going to make a concerted effort to start it up again.

So like last year, I’m keeping my goals grounded and fairly simple, hopefully meaning I can achieve them or at least make a decent attempt to.

In general, I’m unusually optimistic about 2017 (which is pretty weird seeing as I’m a born pessimist). Here’s to it being as memorable a year as I hope.

Speak soon.

Too old for anxiety

age-clock

As we all know, mental health issues have a stigma surrounding them. We might not like to admit it, but they do. Even though the number of people reportedly dealing with their own iterations of mental health problems is scarily high – and no doubt a lot higher than we actually think – talking about mental health remains an activity to be conducted behind closed doors.

It is improving, albeit painfully slowly. I imagine the stigma surrounding it being similar to the one that barely exists around cancer. What was once a disease people would be ashamed to have is now openly discussed and supported publically, as it should be. Unfortunately, talking about mental health issues exists as cancer’s former self – a subject to be brushed under the carpet and written off as the result of ‘stress’ or ‘upbringing issues’.

It’s a hard wall to break down. Even I – someone who is fairly open about the fact that he has feelings of anxiety in most situations – find it hard to tell someone about my mental health issues in certain instances, even though I know talking about these things is the only solution to relieving the stigma surrounding them.

Embarrassment

Part of my hesitation to breach the subject is as a result of my age. As a 28-year-old man, there’s a certain embarrassment associated with having anxiety. I think many people believe that a man of my age should be able to handle stressful situations, that I shouldn’t feel nervous simply talking to a cashier or barber; that I should feel entirely comfortable conversing with a next door neighbour; that I shouldn’t be stumbling over my words talking to new people; or that a simple phone call shouldn’t result in me having to leave a room full of people before I can properly talk to whoever is on the other end of the line.

It’s almost like by a certain age, society expects you to have dealt with the major issues in your life and ironed out the paranoia and uncertainty you’ve experienced up until then. Particularly by 28, you should be mature and conform with society’s ideal image of an ‘adult’.

Fuelling the fire

Of course, part of this embarrassment – like anxiety itself – is fuelled by my own thoughts. This is all what I think people believe, not what I know. But then, those thoughts exist for a reason. They exist as a result of conversations I’ve had over the years, the minor remarks that people say and don’t even think about, and the numerous sources of information that have existed throughout my life. Comments I hear every day like ‘he’s so weird’ and ‘he’s so boring’ aimed at someone that I know has anxiety issues but the person saying the remarks doesn’t. Or ‘she’s so depressing’ and ‘why doesn’t she just cheer up’ in reference to someone I know is struggling with depression.

Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of those comments which makes me hyper-paranoid that they’re being said about me too. Just going on social media, where pretty much everything is over-exaggerated, will tell you that those kinds of comments are rife in today’s supposedly over-PC society.

Compassion

I suppose the reason for this post is two-fold.

The first reason is to say that having anxiety as an adult is not weird or strange or bizarre, just like it’s not weird or strange of bizarre for someone younger to have it. I’m an example of someone with anxiety and I can tell you now, since my diagnosis and me deciding to be open about it, the number of people with the same issues is overwhelming and, quite frankly, worrying. Anxiety is isolating in both how society deals with it and how it makes you live your life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it.

The second reason is to inspire some sort of compassion. It’s too easy in this day and age to judge something as something else based on superficial evidence, to share your opinion quickly and to have your opinion – whether it’s valid or not – enforced by others making the same snap judgement as yourself. So, before you come to a conclusion, just take a step back. Consider their position, their emotions, their possible mental health issues and their possible life experiences.

It’s hard to type that without feeling massively hypocritical because I know I’ve fallen into exactly the same trap as I’ve just explained above. But I’m going to make a real effort to try and be more compassionate from now on. And I think everyone else needs to too.

Speak soon.