Wednesday, March 30, 2005

On Being a Nutball

In the wake of Paul Hester's demise, and a few friends I know who are having trouble with depression and stuff, I thought I'd share my experiences of being a crazy person.

There's a lot of pressure on people to be sane all the time. I don't know anyone who's quite sane all the time. (Well, maybe a few. But generally it's pretty rare. ) When Alison and I found out that we were having our first son, I'd just turned 20. We'd moved into a government flat with the aim of trying to save some money to one day buy our own house. The block of flats was in the middle of the city, was very tiny, and had a lot of, well, seedy horrible skanky slimeball junkies living in it. That may sound harsh, but when you have people knocking on your door at 2 AM scratching their arms and asking you if maybe you'd like to um , like, buy their fridge or something for fifty bucks, It's kind of hard to have respect for your fellow man.

Anyway, it was in this homely environment that I had my first panic attack. Suddenly, out of the blue I decided that I was going to die. I felt utterly convinced that I was having a heart attack and would be dead within 20 minutes. Those thoughts triggered further extensive panic, which then made me more scared, and heightened the impending reality that I was going to die. Having never experienced such a thing before, I understandably freaked out. I became frightened of being afraid. This, is a weird recursive thing, because when you are afraid of being afraid, you are what you are afraid of. This doesn't lead to a very good feeling. I didn't eat or sleep for 48 hours, I cried a lot, and generally did everything I could to make this creepy feeling go away.

Smart people told me that maybe it was my current circumstances (being young, having a baby, moving house, getting married) and that people under such pressure often reacted to stress in weird ways. But no, I told them, I was fine with all of those things. And in my head, I really thought I was. It must be some physical impending doom that was causing the problems. I went to doctors. I went to hospital. I tried to find out exactly what quick fix button I could push to make these creepy feelings go away as quickly as they came. All to no avail.

Then one day, despondent, disheveled and still frightened, I sat down in Haig Park under a pine tree, and came to a conclusion.

I was a Nutball.

I was simply a crazy person, and I just was like that now. I really really didn't want to be crazy, but that's what I was. So I might as well just accept it and get on with being my new unimproved nutty self. Once I'd realised this, I felt much better. In a way, admitting that I'd lost control made me feel like I regained a bit. I decided that If I never did anything else in my entire life but became less crazy, I'd be happy with that. I had to come to terms with the possibility that my crazy self talk and anxiety was my own fault. And that I could possibly fix it a little at a time.

So, I did stuff that I didn't want to. I left the house even though I desperately wanted to stay put. I talked to people that I was terrified of. I forced myself to go to work, although I was certain that my colleagues would see right through me. And gradually, I got better. I'm still an anxious person by nature, but now I reduce my anxiety to a couple of seconds every day.

So don't buy into this bullshit that everybody is perfectly sane all the time. And don't go looking for quick fixes - sadly, there aren't any. But the good news is that the solution is nearby and you can do it. All by yourself.

1 comment:

  1. From one nutball to another, thanks for this post Gordy.