#1 Que Sera Sera!

Most people in western society like to drink alcohol; it’s unavoidable at times; on adverts, pubs on every corner, the life and soul of most parties. Drinking was a big part of how I socialised and navigated the world for a lot of years. The day I found I’d pushed it too far was a dark day for me; it left me with an indelible mark that I’ll never be fully rid of; anxiety. Anxiety is a regular occurrence in everyone’s lives; it motivates us, pushes us to be better people and certainly has its place in the human condition. Too much anxiety can be a problem though. Too much anxiety can leave us breathless, useless and avoidable.

My first panic attack was backstage at an amateur play that a girlfriend at the time had written. The play wasn’t very good but it changed my life forever. It ended with the lady in question in tears as she watched me slowly circle the plughole of life. I was convinced that this was the moment I was going to die. It concentrates the thought process when you think you’re going to die; I remember years ago reading about a man that was attacked by a shark in the middle of the pacific ocean and found himself involuntarily sifting through information in his brain at hyper speed. This man later described this experience as ‘outer body like’, completely aware of only one thing and one thing only; his survival. The man in question managed to retrieve a piece of information from the depths of his unconscious in the form of an overheard DVD that his son had been watching. This DVD claimed that you must jam your hands into the gills of any shark during an attack and this would be enough to potentially save your life. This same ‘outer body’ experience happened to me; I searched with complete clarity for the answer to my situation; I deduced like no other could deduce amid the rings of light that folded in on my eyes and the muffled tones of my welded lips. This, I’m sad to say is the last time I’ve had such clear thinking. Later that night while in the emergency room I became aware of my hands being completely detached from my body; an experience that still frightens me to this day. I spent many an hour analysing this strange phenomena and came to conclusions about perception which I’m glad I now know. The touch sensation, when deprived of this in full can make you feel as though you literally don’t exist; why I have no idea but being able to feel the world pushing back apparently goes a long way to reminding you that you’re in fact still there and still have a place in the flux. My brain is clouded and I find it very hard to think straight. This I later found out was all down to excess adrenaline. The numb arms and face, the tingling lips I was unable to pry apart for neither love nor Olympus on that night, backstage. The sheer blind panic of a brain that needed an answer and unfortunately any answer will do. I spent the next two years going up and down. I was convinced I was crazy, going crazy or maybe it was both. Tears, fights and several dozens of friends pushed away later I found my answer.

I can only drink beer on nights out now as anything else is too strong and the last thing I need is to be rushing into a toilet to throw up because my drink might have been spiked or I’m going to have a panic attack. It takes constant maintenance; I feel I’ve constantly got to be on watch when I’ve got a hangover. I wake up; three pints of water later I’m ready to start doing something. A luxury I could not afford to even think about when first struck with anxiety. I can navigate the world somewhat better when hungover through my own little version of exposure therapy that I’ve racked up many a mile on over my time with this problem. I immediately know it’s upon me; my vision is stuck in some kind of vacuum of euphoria that I cannot shake off, no matter what you do. My day with a hangover usually resides in some kind of foggy morass that I float through until the next day. My memory is shot to pieces; I can’t remember if I’ve just said something five minutes ago and fear is coursing through my veins at every moment.

One of my coping mechanisms which really helped me come to terms with it and level it to a certain degree is the actual processes that go into it. What is the reason behind your body shooting an icy typhoon of chemicals into your blood stream at utterly inopportune moments. The body has a system by the name of ‘fight or flight’ which is controlled by the nervous system; specifically the sympathetic nervous system. This system was useful for those who built their house on a plain frequented by sabre-toothed tigers and children snatching birds. This system was very handy for our ancestors of the cave to be able to fight with or flee from danger. The sympathetic nervous system sends a hormone into the bloodstream named adrenaline. This allows for the person in danger to assess the situation with a one track mind and flee if needs must. Blood flow is also redirected to major components of the body that assist in the running away process; these are the heart and the legs. Understanding this simple mechanism can save a lot of unwanted worry about ‘why you don’t feel like eating’ or ‘why you can’t feel your face’ as the blood has been redirected from your stomach, arms and face. Now everyone is different in how they deal with problems, and anxiety is certainly something that is unique in every individual but the fundamentals that go into this experience are all the same and when reminded of that fact, it goes a long way to removing some of the persecutory beliefs that seem to ring true in most heads of anxiety sufferers.

Another coping mechanism that is still a large part of my day; treating the physical symptoms. Treating the physical symptoms when you have a hangover is important when building up some exposure time and allowing your mind the ludicrous assumption that everything is in fact fine when you have a hangover. Drinking water is a big one; dehydration is the enemy. When we are dehydrated our blood pressure is raised and leaves us susceptible to anxiety and anxiety attacks. Hunger, make sure to try to eat as regularly as you can and avoid big meals. Last but by no means least; sleep. Sleep is massive in recovering from a hangover; it allows our brains to repair themselves and gives us respite. Don’t be afraid to take a nap, it always makes me feel better. Keep on top of water all day and don’t get complacent.

Now I’m in a place that I can speak confidently about anxiety and retrospectively, all is in fact not lost. I no longer lack the confidence to go out, socialise and enjoy myself. I look after my body a lot more and try to do exercise as this helps me get by. From time to time I still feel that feeling; that circling of the drain that forced me to change everything I thought I held dear. The one thing I constantly remind myself to do on a daily basis; challenge myself. Challenge my thoughts and beliefs and never take what you think and how you feel for granted, but most importantly, always remember; the futures not ours to see,

Que sera sera.

Jack Brigham (@JevvyDev)

#1 Que Sera Sera!

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