Category Archives: Anxiety

Where am I?

The blaze of the solar plexus

The gravel drain of the mind

The cliff edge of the throat

And the Self?

Where is that creature

Amidst the sound and the foam

The leaves and endless trees.

It is nowhere to be seen.

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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Anxiety, I Am Lost, Poem


This is me, this is how I am

I wrote a fancy piece about acceptance of anxiety here, suggesting that maybe you reconcile with this “snake”. Unfortunately, wise as this advice sounds, it doesn’t really help working out the really difficult bit – how do you go about “accepting” anxiety?

I guess what’s really important is not to try and disguise it. In most cases, no horrible outcome will occur if people see your anxiety – and trying to disguise it rarely works, so why bother?

Why not accept that anxiety is part of your personality? Once you “let it all hang out” and don’t bother about disguising it, you can concentrate on important stuff – what people are saying, what is going on, your task in hand.

Accepting Depersonalisation

More sound advice but the TRULY important part of accepting anxiety is accepting the depersonalisation that comes with it. Depersonalisation is the emptiness of the mind that comes from fear. You don’t know what to say, think or do. This is a quite frightening situation to be in because interaction with people requires a sense of self – but your self has all but disappeared. How do answer questions or give opinions without meaningful thoughts?

I think depersonalisation is the crux of the anxiety problem. It is in this place that most languish. Myself included.

The way out is to refind yourself and your thinking. I think acceptance is key. You have to accept depersonalisation, recognising that it is caused by fear. Acceptance means not hiding. If your mind is slow, forgetful, careless, disorientated because of depersonalisation, you just have to accept that this, for now, is part of your personality. You can’t hide it. Think of it as a disability if need be. It is who you are and you – and other people – have to work with it. If they don’t like it, you try to improve – but you cannot deny this truth. You, as guardian of your self, have to accept it is who you are and what other people must see.

This is the key: symptoms of anxiety feel like abhorrent warts that must be covered over desperately. This must change. Whether they are warts or not, they are part of you and it is counter-productive to try to hide them. Let people see your warts – you did not choose them and nor are they, in the grand schemes, harmful to anyone.

Let people see your warts and judge you. Let them think you’re weak, pathetic, pitiable, sweet etc. etc. Their judgment feels vitally important. You want to feel accepted, appreciated and liked. But, MORE important is that you accept, appreciate and like yourself, including the anxious/supposedly weak part of you.

People will appreciate you, no matter how feeble you think you come across as, if you appreciate yourself. Some won’t but that’s beyond your control. Appreciate yourself. This is what it comes down to.

Rational self-inquiry

Dissatisfaction with yourself is natural. However, it should always be rational rather than vindictive. Anxiety holds us back so badly and it leads us to make wrong decisions. We can choose to hate ourselves or to look at situations and investigate how we could have tried to do things differently – in order to reach a better outcome next time.

1. Appreciate oneself, no matter how, seemingly, weak or fearful.

2. Reflect upon yourself rationally to seek to untie knots rather than flogging yourself.

There will be so many failures and regrets. Yet, we have to keep accepting our weakness and reflecting rationally in order to improve. Stand in the light; think, this is me, this is how I am. Judgments might come down saying, you’re not good enough and so on. But, as you interact with these judgments, you have to keep believing, this is me, this is how I am.

In a way, it is like ugliness or a disfigurement. It makes you stand out and questioned but does this mean you hide it? This is, I feel, the ultimate anxiety question.

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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Acceptance, Anxiety


The Lodger in the Head

Argh… to wake to a lodger in your head. Less a worm than a snake, in the brush. It has no venom or fangs but a shady spirit, of deafening furtive shame. It is white, camouflaged on the white-wash walls. This way, it can be everywhere but nowhere. You can never expect to see it but feel its slither across the sand of your heart. It is Shame. It is Pride. It moves your tongue to flicker, your lips to smile. It makes your steps fall and your shadow to follow. It follows you down the tunnel of time. It eats away at you from the core to the skin. Soon, there will be no time left or nothing to hold up that heavy smile. Then what?

There is no trapping Shame and its slither of Pride. Your fearful chases and dreams only hold you to its unseen trail. Whilst you lose yourself in its infinite labyrinth there will never be a glimpse of it, not even in the mirror where it often lurks.

No, you must realise that this infestation, so large, so grotesque, so much of your life, does not have to be your master. If you can only stop to breath and let the hiss recede, that devourer of your life, might just turn tame. Freed of your wild steps and wilder breathing, it might stop hiding and come out into the light. You cannot fight that which is you; you can only listen to it, understand it and sympathise with it.

Simone Weil wrote: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

What is attention? It is to listen to that hiss and try to understand what it means. After all, the snake is no lodger but a flatmate for life.

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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Acceptance, Anxiety



The Train of History

I used to pass the time on train journeys to university by gazing out of the window at the fields and trees rushing past. I did this for three years. In truth, I wasn’t passing the time. Time was passing through me, through the vacuum in my mind. It was as if I had a gaping hole in my head through which life whistled through. I paraded around university, sat in lectures, took exams, all with this hole in my head, everything seeping out. I feel sad to think how much time I wasted – but I also know that it couldn’t have been any other way. Besides, time is still whistling through my head. Who put that hole in my head? I know I should take part of the blame but it was society that put that hole in my head. I wasn’t born with it – how did I learn language and grammar, how did I learn to walk and speak. Society doesn’t rear its children properly. It alienates them and turns them, most of them, into particles, alone, with holes in their head, through which, to varying degrees, life passes unnoticed.

Nowadays, I try not to gape thoughtlessly out the window. Today, I got out my book, a heavy and venerable tome by Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the United States. I started to read and soon, I was looking into a haze at uprisings in 1700s Boston, Orange County and other alien places. Class conflict was taking place. The rich elite grappled to retain control as the working class rioted and railed about unfairness. Farmers fought Indians. Working class fought farmers. Sheriffs imprisoned, other sheriffs were imprisoned by mobs. The British sought to impose a new tax. The mob retaliated and the Boston Massacre took place. The Brits blamed negroes, “saucy boys” and other riff raff. The rich American elites watched the working class insurrections nervously.

It was as if I was back gaping out the window but now, instead, of impassive trees and scrapes of poetry, injustice and resistance rushed past. And, yet, there is a fog that obscures the vision. It is the fog of lost time. The action is not compelling, nor the injustice. It is all too far away and chaotic. The train is going too fast for the visions to mean anything.

Why am I reading this history? On the way back from work, the train carriage is busier. At every stop people trundle on and off. The book is on my lap and I’m reading – the revolution against British rule is approaching – but I fold the corner of the page and put the book away.

I close my eyes from the window and the rushing world outside, lean my head back and try to doze. It’s too much. It feels futile. Whether I look out the window at the hieroglyphics of nature or at the window of the page and its litany of revolts and retaliation, everything seems to pass through the hole in my head.

Why read history’s grubby entrails of ignorance, injustice and suffering if it will merely tickle and blow away? It is better to doze, without expectation and, therefore, without much disappointment. Of course, perhaps, if I read enough history, it’ll fill up that hole. But, it didn’t work with nature, whilst I was at university.

I reach my stop and heroically rise, bag slung my shoulders, and leave the train, and start to walk home. I am alone and the train of history is safely closed and zipped in my bag. I will try to ride it again. I will try to reach the end. Yet, if I want my train journey to mean anything, I have to turn inside, to my neighbour and look back at the scene together. This is the solution to the hole in the head. Society tears us apart and then throws us together, incomplete particles, offensive to each other. We particles watch life stream right through us, dead bodies and all. We need to bridge the gap between our seats if we can ever hope to reclaim life and take the till of history towards justice. We need to stop being scared of strangers.

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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Anxiety


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Friday Prayers

I like Fridays because of the prayers – Jumu’ah, that is, not the prayers but the distraction of the prayers. I wake up, not to fret about where my life is going but to stoically and sanctimoniously get ready for prayers. In reality, this means to follow the same routine as every morning, without the guilt of not having regular employment. Prayers are at 1.30pm, so ‘preparing’ takes up half the day and after returning home, eating lunch, the day is all but over. The air grows thicker as evening approaches until the guilt is all but gone, for evenings are not for work. Another day will have passed – and wasted.

I needed to go to the pharmacy today because I think I have a throat infection. It feels bunged. The problem is, I feel anxious talking to people and the pharmacy is small. Inevitably, I will have to talk to the person at the till. It’s stupid to be scared of people, I think, walking to the mosque, for half the day has already gone somehow. It’s stupid but social anxiety is not rational.

I try to examine my anxiety, as I lope, hands in pockets. I’m dressed in a hoodie, walking the barren streets, like a bum. People will think, there goes the unemployed guy. This is social anxiety speaking – it turfs your mind out and looks in, imagining what other people see. Your mind becomes a crazy hall of mirrors, reflecting yourself in a grotesque, incessant parade. Your thoughts can’t go anywhere else but swarm over your own body and your own being like gunk.

Acceptance is the way out, I know. Those thoughts are like a radio leaking sound; it doesn’t have to control you. If you acknowledge the emotion as it emerges and question it before it takes control, it can be disarmed, without furore. Trust your instincts. If you feel fear or despair or envy, it is for a valid reason. But, it does not mean that the consequent emotion need dictate your behaviour. That valid instinctive sensation is a knot that can be gently untied, before it creates a pile-up. The emotion is your self asking for help from your rationality. Let fear into the light and then question, why do I feel fear?

Why am I going to the mosque? Is the mosque a knot? I’m not going there through faith. I feel nothing. I go because Abu and Ma expect me to go – and because, it gives me a purpose, a reason to leave the house and be a real human being. But what purpose? To walk the parade of mirrors pretending that all is well? To follow the ritual of prostrations in the sea of worshippers in the mosque without thought. To be an automaton presenting himself as a conscious person. To hide from my fears.

Abu’s car pulls up in the street. I am conscious of being a bum, hands in pockets, with my hoodie. He waves me to the car and I shake my head. I’m not going with him. The car reluctantly dribbles away, as I curse. I know Abu is scoffing at me in his mind, as he drives a way. A failure of a son – a bum. I hate him for it. I hate him for making me socially anxious. For a moment, I consider questioning this knot of hatred but, it is too late, it has entered the machinery with violent clutters.

When I reach the end of the road, I turn around. I decide not to go to the mosque and be an automaton. When I pray, I don’t even recite the koranic verses. I just follow the motions thoughtlessly. I have no faith in Allah at this moment. It is an act of posturing and denial. Abu would be enraged, Ma appalled – but they will not know. So I turn back towards the pharmacy, on the other side of the town.

I like walking. It’s like the mosque, it gives me a false sense of purpose, obliterating the hours spent at home inert and indolent in the computer screen. But, unfortunately, walking takes you, eventually, to people. I walk past the pharmacy, seeing they have no customers. Most people are at work. I’m trying to question my fears; they are valid, I coax to myself. They are valid but not necessary. But, the fears slip through and take over as I walk past the pharmacy, too scared to go in and face the staff.

I walk around the block, sometimes avoiding the eyes of the elderly people passing by, sometimes looking at them and smiling faintly – always posturing. The fear has taken over, the rational thoughts have been washed away. I move through the knots of emotion, pulled by self-loathing and fear. The policy of self-acceptance and analysis had failed and now was the simple, predictable, painful tug-of-war between fear and self-hatred. I have to go in the pharmacy having walked all this way, otherwise, the day would be a complete waste and I would hate myself deeply.

So, I go in. There are two Asian staff. A woman at the till and a tall pharmacist man, talking quickly and lifelessly from behind a block of shelves. The shop is tiny, with only one aisle and it is here that I go, scanning the shelf, conscious of my bum clothing. The staff carry on talking. The man is asking about a till discrepancy, “did you sort it out?”. He repeats the phrase, even as the woman is answering. He is cold but the woman is not put off. She answers quietly but without fear. I know about till discrepancies from working in a shop. In her position, with the cold man, I would be in a paralysis of fear and suffocation. I would be in a mental fugue in his shadow, in his voice.

But she is calm. “Don’t worry about it,” the man says to her, finally. She’s not worrying, she’s calm. I can’t see the throat medicine – I can barely see anything, even though I am scouring the shelves. I feel their minds like overwhelming rays, or hooks tugging at my mind. My thoughts are with them and I can’t concentrate on the simple task of looking at the shelves and reading the boxes.

Finally, I give up and turn to the woman at the till. Her eyes widen slightly. “Do you have Nystatin – Neestatin?” I ask, weakly, doubtfully. She goes behind the shelves and asks the man. “You need a prescription for it.” The phone starts ringing at the till. I need something for my throat, so, for a pregnant second, I imagine myself asking for anything similar available over the counter. But, the air outside is calling, where I can breathe.

“Oh – okay, thanks.” And with that, I leave the shop. I am gleeful of my escape but thinking about the medicine. I imagine going to the doctors – a trial far more arduous than merely going to the pharmacy. I decide I must do without. The glee drains as I walk back home. I have a strange despondency – my mind is pleading for something. I need help – but, I ignore this voice, because it is easier to avoid problems.


Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Anxiety, Religion