Recently I’ve found myself at odds with the television in our house. I used to watch it to relax of an evening, but I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated with spending time immersed in media that I’m not going to learn from. So instead of switching on the box, I’ve been reaching for my phone and losing myself in the world of podcasts. I feel at peace when I listen to a quality podcast as I know I’m taking time out for myself, whilst also nurturing my brain and feeding my thirst for knowledge.
The reason I’m bringing up podcasts in a post centred around anxiety, is that I’m a huge fan of listening to Bryony Gordon’s Mad World. It’s a podcast that’s main focus is mental health with Bryony interviewing the creme de la creme, of the celebrity world. Every guest gives you a warts and all insight into their own issues with mental health, past and present. My favourite episode so far included Steven Fry, but it wasn’t until I listened to Fearne Cotton speak that the penny really dropped, with regards to my own mental health.
Word based mistakes –
Fearne Cotton wasn’t at all concerned about discussing her mental health issues for all to hear. She realises that talking is educating and that it’s something we need to do more of, to make mental health issues less of a taboo. What resonated with me most though was that the catalyst for a large amount of her anxiety issues were and still are directly related to word based mistakes. The times when we say something we regret. The times when we wake in the small hours of the morning, fending off a panic attack because we can’t work out whether we were rude to that person in the supermarket.
In fact, one of the main reasons I gave up alcohol was because I became mentally exhausted with trying to work out if I’d said something wrong whilst under the influence. I would return from small gatherings, big nights out and intimate dinners wondering what I’d said and imaging how I could have worded things better. To make people like me more and to offend people a lot less.
The truth is, that 99% of the time I had absolutely nothing to worry about. The thing is, it’s rare that I’m not nice to people. It’s not often that I’ll say anything out of turn. I’m very self-aware and so if I’m off with someone, I’ll know I’ve done it as I probably did it intentionally and only because it was called for. I’ve worked with the general public for the entirety of my working life, I know how to do it. So why do I lose so many precious hours wondering what I’ve said wrong?
I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure anyone really knows the answer. Sadly, as highlighted by Fearne, I’m not alone in experiencing such infuriating, intrusive thoughts. If someone as successful as Fearne Cotton is suffering, then it just goes to show that mental illness doesn’t discriminate.
Is self-care the answer?
As with a lot of mental health issues, self-care is an incredibly effective treatment. I’m not talking about pampering yourself each and every day, or indulging in a spot of retail therapy every lunch hour. I’m talking about making sure we look after ourselves in smaller and more regular ways. Simple things like going to bed early a few nights a week, or reading a good book before bed, can give us the brain space we need to tackle what life throws at us.
My ‘little thing‘ was giving up alcohol, as I knew it was making my anxiety worse. If I’d had a drink, you could almost guarantee I’d have a panic attack and you can definitely guarantee that I’d ask my husband if I’d ‘said anything wrong’. I knew that I was lacking in self-care and that by carrying on drinking, I would only serve to make my life more difficult for myself and for my family.
Ever since I heard Fearne Cotton mention ‘word based mistakes’ I’ve felt like I’ve had more clarity when it comes to my issues with anxiety. The trouble with these issues is that often we feel very alone and isolated. We feel like we’re the only ones suffering and that we’re somehow ‘not wired up’. Just giving these thoughts a name, a definition even an identity makes suffering them all the more bearable.