You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

of Certain Disaster and getting Back on Horses

Last week, I was still buzzing on the high of all the excitement of this blogging caper, when disaster struck, and pfft, the bubble was burst. Well, it had to happen sometime.

I'm sure I don't need to bore anyone with the technical details. Suffice to say, there was a glitch or two, and I was unable to use the Internet connection for a couple of days. I had realised that I was going to be left at the mercy of a capricious machine and its unfathomable goings-on once I started this blog, and I had figured that this part of it would not be fun at all. So as I stared at the frozen screen in despair, my careful plans for the next fabulous post were laid waste, and I just watched what happened.

I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the basic process of anxiety running riot in one's mind and growing into a full-blown panic attack. It starts as a little niggling thought or feeling, possibly about something that's not really important anyway, in the grand scheme of things. But soon those thoughts have established a terrific momentum, and washed away all one's security and composure in a great jumbled panic, and we end up with something like this:
The computer is not responding to my directions. It doesn't work. This is wrong. It's all wrong. Everything is wrong, the whole world is wrong, reality isn't real, how can I ever believe in anything, I'm lost in a swirling world of uncertainty and failure.

Surely, I can see how unreasonable that is. Well, yes I can, and after several years of studying and practising CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), that is usually enough to light up the way back to reality and sensibility. In the usual course of things, I can spot a potentially troubling thought pattern before it's even formed a proper syntax in my train of thought, formulate a CBT defense and squash it back into oblivion in two seconds flat. Sounds impressive? Well, it was many years of extremely devoted and disciplined practise of the CBT principles to get to that point. And still, if the original problem involves a computer, or a telephone, or something with a screen, it's next to no use at all. The technophobia seems to override all my training and establish itself as a real, adrenalin-fed panic in an even shorter time space than my thought process could come up with a line of thought to support or explain such a shocking reaction.

Eventually, of course, I managed to calm down. I even had a plan. I intended to write a post about my technophobic panic once I got the computer sorted out. I did what I used to do in the days of the extremely-recent-past before we had Internet. I read a book.

(You've got to love an old-fashioned, hard-copy book. They never suddenly or mysteriously stop working. They can endure such extremes of conditions, even considerable neglect and abuse, before they are lost beyond their purpose, ie, become illegible. And they come in handy for all sorts of stop-gap jobs, holding up the uneven ends of tables, blocking draughts or pressing flowers. All that before we even begin to consider the content.)

So far, all this was to be expected. It was bound to happen at some point, and I had accepted this, so I got on with letting it go. It was when I got back online and in front of a blank 'compose post' field that the unexpected part happened.

This time, it was me that was frozen. Why would that be? I asked myself. And the answer was as clear as it was surprising to me. I just didn't WANT to write about anxiety, mental illness, phobia, all that dark stuff. It was a lot easier to blog about fun stuff, like the cushion covers, about which I did end up managing to put together this post. I thought perhaps that would get me back on the horse, but, no, here we are a few days later and I still don't want to do it. I know my procrastination has reached serious resistance issues when I find myself thinking, 'oh, I'll just do some dishes first.' Well guess what folks, my kitchen sink is all cleaned out. Time to confess.

Of course, it did occur to me that I didn't have to write a post about an anxiety attack if I didn't want to. Hey, it's my blog, I could just blog about cushion covers every day if I wanted to. But that would have contradicted my Principles, which I take very seriously. One of my intentions around having this blog was to share my experience of living with mental illness, of living a great life in spite of it, and of caring for others experiencing mental illness. I think it's an issue that needs a lot more awareness and sharing of experience, and I thought that this would be a great medium in which to 'become the change I want to see in the world.' I thought it would be easy. I even thought it would be enjoyable, as a cathartic release kind of thing. I thought I would feel pride in sharing my struggles and some of my victories along the way. Now I think I was kidding myself on that one. Now that I'm here, with just one little panic attack story, it feels yucky and shameful and I want to run and hide from these plans. I have always had a lot of respect and appreciation for people who publicly share their experiences with mental and chronic illness - and that has just increased by about tenfold since I sat down to force myself to write this post.

I won't be running and hiding. This is something that is too important to me and my nearest and dearest. And, if it takes me a while to marshall my resolve, well then, in the meantime, I'll have a clean kitchen sink. There's always a bright side.

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