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.

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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.

Birthday bothers

birthday

So tomorrow, I turn the ripe old age of 28. One step closer to 30…

Personally, it’s not that big of a deal to me, but then birthdays in general have kind of been a bit of a non-event for me since I turned 21. With each year that’s passed, my “celebrations” have become smaller and smaller to the point that last year I didn’t even bother doing anything with my mates – instead I went out for a meal with mine and my girlfriend’s family (not that that’s a bad thing of course – it was lovely).

Losing time

I don’t know if this is just a normal process everyone goes through as they get older, but I don’t really see a birthday as much of a reason to celebrate anymore – I mean, after all, I’m just running out of time for me to do what I want to in life.

I’ve blogged about this feeling before where it kind of feels like I’ve hit a bit of a quarter-life crisis. I’ve got to an age now where I feel I should have my own place, have a decent career under my belt and maybe even be considering a family. I haven’t got any of those things right now. I still live in my mum’s house, I haven’t even completed two whole years of full-time work yet and quite frankly, having kids is a much more realistic option in about 5/6 years than it is right now.

I find it pretty hard to put these things to the back of my mind at the most of times, but it’s a particular problem when a birthday comes around. It just gets me thinking whether I’m doing the right thing in life. Do I really have a job I enjoy? Am I following the right career path in general? Why is it that my friends are so much better off than I am?

Under the spotlight

So already, I feel like it’s pretty easy to see why I never treat birthdays as much of a big deal. But on top of that, the general feeling I have on a birthday is that I’m under the spotlight.

“Of course you feel like that, it’s your birthday you doughnut”I hear you cry. The difference is that I feel like most people can deal with being centre of attention from time to time, but unfortunately I HATE that feeling so much that I actively avoid it in all situations.

To me, it’s the same kind of fear as being up on stage. Everyone is focused on you like they’re expectant of something good and you have to entertain them. On top of that, I feel like the birthday person is supposed to be the one getting people to mingle – which I’m not the best at doing because of the fact that I have friends from multiple friend groups. That means that when it comes to creating a guestlist, it becomes this mish-mash of people that have never met before. That just gets me panicking about how they’ll interact with each other. Will the atmosphere be uncomfortable? Will they get on? Is it my fault if they don’t?

Clinging on to my youth

After all of that complaining, I have a confession to make: this year I’ve decided to do something a bit proper and have gathered a small group of us to go to a ping pong bar in London.

Kind of counters my fears right?

Well I’ll tell you why I’m doing something this year: because I want to – and I’m not letting any of the feelings of anxiety that I usually have around this time get in the way. I’ve even gone as far as creating an official Facebook event and invited people to it (shock horror!) – although I did avoid making it for a good two weeks because I was too scared that a load of the people I invited would say they were busy…

As I said, it’s a ping pong bar but it also lets you play beer pong so me and my mates can all try and re-enact our years at university. I’m hoping it’ll just be like old times and from the eight close mates of mine that have already said they’re coming, I’m actually pretty excited that it will be.

Hopefully this will be a year I forget about all the anxiety and just enjoy my birthday!

Let’s see…

Speak soon.