What was Anxiety?

Much of this blog has concerned facets of my overcoming anxiety, though I have perhaps neglected to explain what that anxiety was like.

I did suffer from anxiety for years and years, without quite knowing what it was. I think I would have become aware exactly what it was if I felt free to talk about it, to get concrete answers from outside my own head. I did perceive a reluctance from people to talk about it,  it wasn’t given enough respect, people didn’t want to discuss it in enough depth, which is understandable, it’s not a fun thing to talk about. Sometimes if I pushed it into conversation too much, people would often distance themselves from you. so, if someone has a chronic anxiety it is easily not addressed and the anxious person keeps it inside their own head, where it lingers and festers.

Anxiety is really merely a label to cover a complex range of mental phenomenas. In many ways it is simply over-thinking. I am a deep thinker, it is something I enjoy, however sometimes such a questioning nature leads to not only a paranoia about other peoples feelings and motivations. This paranoia also extends into ones own thinking, a constant questioning about whether you as an individual are doing the right thing, so one becomes paranoid about your own feelings and motivations. so because you are never really happy doing anything all the time, almost any activity becomes tainted by these paranoid thoughts. This anxiety used to rarely go away, so activities are rarely enjoyed, they just become part of the escape so the journey kind of stops, as you are always questioning why you are doing it and negative thoughts pervade everything.

This anxiety is like building a wall inside your own mind, where your personality is trapped and kept away from even the things you love, even your own memories as you can eb anxious about those too. For example I love reading, especially novels, however often anxiety and fear, the wall, keeps a distance between an enjoyment of the story and the simple act of reading.

Staying behind this mental wall, seems a terrible way of being, what it does offer is a safe place, an escape from a constant nagging anxiety. Reading in itself can be done from this safe place, however a distance is kept from the story. It’s like watching a film but not allowing yourself to fully engage with the plot. Now I am no longer anxious I do find myself bursting into tears during sentimental moments in films which I never used to do, becuse i am properly engaged.

Of course, sometimes this anxiety is escaped, with a close group of friends, people who knew me well enough not to be perturbed by my behaviour and I was free to express myself, or drinking alcohol, also helped with this as it stops you over thinking. Such escapes were always blissful and I wanted them to last forever, so sometimes, when enjoying myself I would be the last to leave the party. So, the anxious person, is always looking for the next chance to escape for a little while from it and then desire that moment to last forever. Problems arose when I would meet people, whilst escaped and then meet them again and I would feel overcome by anxiety, I would feel a fraud and taken over by worries of how to behave and what to say.

The anxiety spread into social anxiety, where in conversation I would constantly fret about being appropriate, not upsetting people, paranoid about how I was being perceived, whether what I was saying was correct, or influenced by negative ideas. There are parallels with the autistic spectrum, anxiety causes you not to understand how other people are feeling (because you are not really engaged in the moment) and act due to your own reasons, rather than reacting to what is happening live.

I was worried that people only ever saw me as seeking a relationship with them, when all I wanted was to talk and hopefully get to know someone well enough so felt I could be myself. As such, I gave out signals that I ‘needed’ a relationship with such people, whereas now I am not so concerned whether I am understood or not, i can have ‘normal’ inter-relations with people.

Anyway, I was able to make the escape permanent! What I needed was to be escaped from anxiety for long enough for myself to recognise it as ‘normal’, that i could exist in a more or less anxiety free state. I achieved this by spending months living and working in tropical forests, in Madagascar and Honduras, the long term blissful experience I craved came about, away from the constant need to interact with such a range of different kinds of people, or with people I shared some core beliefs with. I was happy, not anxious long enough to make sense of it, to feel like  ‘normal’ person.

Transitioning to being a unanxious person, was itself quite a journey. Whilst I felt free to be myself, express myself and fully engage with things I am passionate about, this exuberant newness, the zest of a new convert did seem overwhelming to other people, especially the people who helped me realise not to be so anxious. I don’t think non-anxious people quite get how someone can be so thrilled to just be ‘normal’ or accepted, healthy to be able to fully engage and concentrate on tasks.

I know that people can be disturbed by someone overly being open with them, because I still had the habits of an anxious person, who clings desperately to each escape and each person that helps them escape anxiety. Now free of anxiety that openness is always available and doesn’t just come out during a drunken evening. People seem to perceive this behaviour as seeking a relationship, which it isn’t. Really, the whole politics of social interactions are suddenly opened up and one quickly realise that your skills and knowledge are far behind everybody else, but that you are learning quickly. i’m also aware of lacking such development by being an only child in a family that had anxiety issues and was poor at expressing their feelings. I have realised to not be concerned about any negativity towards me, it is simply that they don’t know where I am coming from and react to my behaviour according to sets of social rules that have been developed with non-anxious people.

 

 

Town mice and Country mice

When I was a little boy my grandmother helped me learn to read with the Beatrix Potter books. in one of these tales “The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse” concerns how a country mouse visits the city and struggles to cope and escapes back to the country. The country mouse then invites the town mouse they be-friended to the country, the town mouse also struggles and escapes back to the city. This is true for me, the longer I spend in town the more I yearn to escape back to the country.

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It always takes time to mentally adapt to new places, change patterns of thought and new ways of living. Living organisms are hugely adaptable and find ways of surviving in new habitats. Human beings often have the choice about where they live, and will make compromises about living places they don’t particularly like for the sake of their career or their partner.

Generally there is a trend towards urban living as the worlds population expands. However, at least in the UK, they’re is a significant shift of people moving away from the cities to the countryside. These movers are generally relatively wealthy and highly skilled so the transition is possible without a drop in living standards. So, whilst much of humanity has or is undergoing adaptation to urban living there are also ‘town mice trying to live in the country’.

Having looked through various message boards and read about some of the issues city folk have with living in the country, it seems as though country folk have often the opposite attitude to issues with city living. It is perhaps that country folk grew up with the countryside and have found a sense of comfort and belonging with it and it is these very things that city folk struggle with and vice versa. To put it another way, it seems as though the things the country person misses about the country are the very things the city person struggles with in the country (again and vice versa).

Some examples:

Isolation and everybody knowing your business is a country issue, with the city opposite of too many big crowds and a sense of anonymity when walking down the street. Country folk being at ease with the former and uncomfortable with the latter (and vice versa).

Having to take the car everywhere and only walking for pleasure in the country, compared with having facilities close by and accessible via public transportation.

Having to talk to the locals, compared with only ever speaking to people in my social circle. As a country person I like and think it’s a good thing to talk to everyone, rather than just people we find interesting or similar to ourselves.

Feeling the need to be able to escape back the country/city.

Power cuts and bad weather, compared with  the opportunity  being forced to share wonderful candlelit evenings and get the board games out!

As a country lad myself, after having having lived in big towns and cities, I have learned and adapted, but never quite achieving the sense of becoming a city person. Cities are places I tolerate rather than derive energy from. It is a mental adjustment that people have to give up things they learnt strongly in childhood, they are hard and seem scary to shift.

I don’t get the City dwellers perception of distances. For example, I can say, I don’t miss out culturally in the countryside as I can drive to the city in two hours, an 80 odd mile journey. However it seems that City dwellers express shock at an 160 mile round trip just to go to a concert. However the City dweller may spend the same two hours travelling to a concert, that is perhaps 15 miles away, but the other side of the city. It’s still two hours, perhaps the city dweller has the expectation that things are close at hand and not far away. I wrote recently about where I grew up having to drive 8 miles to the supermarket. Well I’m currently in a large town, where it takes the same time to get to the supermarket, progress is slower due to the traffic.

Perhaps this is the issue. When I was a child i imagined cities to be these wonderful places, where everything was much more efficient, you had access to more wonderful experiences. I have grown up to discover that this isn’t true. It seems that as cities become more crowded, they become even less efficient, whilst things are getting easier in the countryside (we’ve even got broadband too now in most places). Perhaps this is partly the reason for these movement or aspiration of people moving back to the countryside?

When I was at school I went on work experience, during this the boss was describing why he’s rather be a big fish in a small pool, than a small fish in a big pool (i.e he preferred being responsible for his decisions in a Welsh backwater, rather than be at the centre of the company by working at the head office. This is analogous of the big cultural difference between the Country and the City.

City dwellers seem to argue that they have the concerts by the great artists on their doorstep, whilst in the country we attend concerts by local artists or put on concerts ourselves. The Country way seems better as they is a greater sense of involvement, a greater intimacy with other people and greater insight because of it. Rather than begin a mere passive observer of a great artist at a distance. Another example of this is food, city dwellers have easier access to more exotic foods and a wider range, whilst in the Country there is more time to cook things ourselves or be handmade locally.

Actually, objectively, perhaps neither is superior to the other, it’s just what people are used to and i think they’re is a human need for a bit of familiarity from time to time, so we can appreciate the joy of different experiences.