Thinking In The Dark : Living With Anxiety

Anxiety and I go back a long way. A very long way. Such a long way that I struggle to actually remember a time in my life when I wasn’t anxious. When I’m not anxious though (or in a depression), I fucking radiate joy. I really do. Part of it is to do with the sheer relief of not feeling anxious, and part of it’s to do with the fact that, despite everything, I think life can be pretty fucking marvellous.

This joy, however, was a problem in Sweden. Swedes thought my ‘joy’ meant either A: I was flirting with them or B: There was something seriously wrong with me and they should get the fuck away as fast as their lithe legs could carry them. Enthusiasm and outright joy can be extremely dangerous in Sweden. Of course, the fact that my happiness would be entirely misrepresented made me all the more anxious, and I just ended up being a quivering wreak who rarely raised her head pretty much all the time.

This year my anxiety has been particularly severe. The worst anxiety I’ve ever suffered was in 2016 and 2019 is close behind. But after half a year of intense struggle, I’ve been trying, in this past week, to be brave enough to do things that my anxiety has tried to keep me from.

I Got A New Phone & A Contract

This might come as a surprise to you folks, but I’ve never owned a fully-functional Smartphone. Nor have I ever had a phone contact. The two Smartphone’s I’ve had since 2015 have been hand-me-downs, and the second one only had a working number because someone felt sorry for me and bought me a sim card.

I remember having my Dad’s hand-me-down Nokia back in the day – I didn’t want it, but my parents insisted – and having it switched off pretty much all the time because I just wanted to be left alone.

The idea of not having a phone and being free of that pressure to always ‘be on call’ appealed to me massively. I also liked the detachment I could have from the internet. When I closed down my laptop, I closed down my internet access.

So the other day I was in town with my Ma and Saga, when Ma swerved into the Virgin Media store and started to inquire about me getting a phone and a contract on the spot. I froze and started to stammer that I could do it online. That I could do it online. THAT I COULD DO IT ONLINE.

Ten minutes earlier, I’d had an anxiety attack in Sports Direct while trying to choose a pair of hiking boots – the place was too vast, the dance music too loud, the air too stifling – and I could feel another one brewing. Before I knew what was happening, I was directed to a chair and shown the ‘last’ black Samsung A40 that they had in the store. (Three cheers to me for remembering the model off the top of my head.)

Before I knew it, I was agreeing to a contract, signing my name on a screen and watching, wide-eyed, as the customer service lady set up my phone, tapping away at the screen with almost inhuman speed. I didn’t feel happy walking away from the store. I didn’t really want the phone or the contract. For a few days, I didn’t touch it, worried I would break it, worried I wouldn’t know what the hell to do with it and its countless features. I decided that I needed to have a protective wallet before I even started to use it.

The wallet came (black faux leather, in case you were wondering). I put my phone in it and left it there. I would glance at it from a distance from time to time, but it still took a few days before I picked it up and got to grips with it. As I write this, I’m more familiar with my phone. I’m getting quite excited about the fact I can talk to it and it can give me answers – I asked if I went to the butchers and asked for bones if they’d give me some. (It said ‘yes.’) I’m also quite excited about the photo and video quality and the fact that I can use the internet when I’m out and about if I really, really need to.

The enormous benefits – I can’t believe I’m saying this – of having a fully functional smartphone are starting to make themselves apparent. Though like my Ma told me on the day I bought it, I don’t have to always answer it when it rings, and that’s a reassuring thought.

I Went Into The Shop Where I had My Septum Pierced And Asked For Help

Way back in February I had my septum pierced. I don’t entirely know what compelled me to have it done, but I thought it would help me to love my face. (For those not in the know, I don’t have a good relationship with my face.)

Anyway, I had the piercing done, and was told that I could go back when it had healed and they’d help me change it. Giddy about my new piercing, I agreed, despite a little voice in my head saying ‘they think you’re a fucking tool. You can’t come back here.’

The weeks passed. The piercing healed. I would buck myself up to make the trip to the little shop and get some help with changing the piercing. But that little voice just got louder and louder until all I knew was that I couldn’t go back because they thought I was a joke, a fraud (?), a waste of time.

The other day though, after numerous failed attempts at removing the piercing myself to change it, I decided that I would HAVE TO GO, anxiety or not. So I spent a few hours boosting myself up, and I went. I’ll readily admit I didn’t feel comfortable – I still thought the owners thought I was a tool – but I smiled and I talked and I laughed and I sat there while the kind lady helped me get my old jewellery out and put some new jewellery in.

When I left, I had conflicting feelings of euphoria that I’d actually gone in, and panic about what they would say about me. But as the day went on, I started to feel myself glow, from the inside out, with pride.

I Let Myself Experiment With Making Crystals & Jewellery

I love making jewellery. I love the whole process, from finding the materials to the craftwork to wearing the finished piece. But allowing myself the time to do so is pretty much always a battle.

I’ll start to make something and before even five minutes has passed, a little voice will say ‘you should be doing something else more productive, you’re wasting your time, you fucking idiot!’ And I’ll start to feel my heart beat faster and I’ll start to sweat and my hands will become slippery and I’ll find it harder to keep hold of the fiddly little pieces that I use to make the jewellery. And then, more often than not, I’ll pack it in and go and do something ‘more productive.’

Crafting usually comes into my life after a difficult time, and this year has been a shitstorm. So some crafting was long overdue. Last week I could feel it in my bones, that I needed to give myself some space to make things with my hands. Things I could be proud of. Things I could keep forever, or pass on to people I love.

It started with me wanting to make a nose chain and then inspiration and my ideas that followed bloomed and bloomed and bloomed. I wanted to experiment with growing borax crystals so I could use the crystals for jewellery, and before my anxiety dug in deep, I flung myself out of the front door and went in search of the materials I needed.

I tried to make the crystals, my anxiety creeping around me as I stirred borax into hot water and shaped pipe cleaners into odd shapes. But I continued until I’d finished what I’d set out to do. The crystals never did form and while I’m understandably heartbroken that I don’t have my epic borax crystals, the likes of which reside on YouTube, I’m PROUD I tried and saw it through.

Although I don’t have impressive borax crystals to hand to craft with, I have been upcycling old belts and necklaces and when my anxiety isn’t too deafening, I’m really enjoying myself. (I’ll be doing some DIY In The Dark posts for you, showing how I’m making my craft.) I’m sourcing bones, crystals, and feathers, flowers, sea glass and wood. I’m wandering through endless Pinterest boards and blogs, gathering joy and hope and incentive as I go along. I have things in my Amazon basket, including some materials for making resin jewelry, just waiting for me to have that moment when I feel that impulsive spark which anxiety is unable to touch.

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