Avoiding anxiety eruptionsPosted: September 13, 2012
When things are bothering people, some become tearful, some eat less or more and some snap at people. I specialise in silent worry, nervousness and anxiety.
My brain becomes a mental volcano that’s building up a head of steam and is preparing to blow its top. Let’s call this volcano Mount Brookes, as a tribute to my misspelt, evil alter-ego, Paul Brookes (a.k.a. Depression), who has been banished to the wilderness but still lingers with intent in the distance.
Mount Brookes has erupted twice in the past three years.
There were ominous rumblings and black clouds in the long build-up to the first eruption, but the long-lasting lava flow and dark skies that ensued caught many by surprise, not least me.
Eventually, I began to recover from this extreme event, but the magma chamber within me started to bubble again. This time the build-up was far swifter and when Mount Brookes erupted, it exploded with deadly force and swept me away in a devastating pyroclastic flow of confusion, misery and inner torment.
The terrain is less volatile now. There are still scars and fissures in my mental landscape, though, and the currently (and, I hope, permanently) dormant Mount Brookes is monitored closely for signs of activity. The anxiety magma is still churning away threateningly under the surface. When I feel it building up, I have to realise what is happening as quickly as possible and do something about it.
My disaster plan involves venting off steam by emailing my brilliant mentor at the Blurt Foundation, talking to trusted friends (not that I have untrusted friends…) and arranging some time to relax or do something I enjoy, even if it’s just some birdwatching during a lunch break. If something is bothering me, I work out how to address it and then deal with it, rather than letting it rankle, fester and get blown out of proportion in my mind. If I’m doing too much and it’s getting on top of me, I might have to cancel something or postpone it, which never feels good but is better than being a frazzled wreck.
Usually by the time I’ve decided to do these things, I’ve been fretting for hours or days, getting myself worked up into an anxious frenzy of imaginary arguments and worst-case scenarios, but at least I get to that point now. I never used to.
Just as a volcano can do enormous damage but later form lush, fertile land, there can be fruitful life after depression has erupted. As its fire cools, a new me is gradually rising up from the ashes with a new outlook. The magma still bubbles up sometimes, and the earth may still tremble occasionally, but it’s possible to climb up to the crater of Mount Brookes and look down on a weakened foe, who faces extinction.