Adventures With Anxiety
Going into this article I was faced with two choices—
1. Write a silly, fluff piece on why my dog is the lord of the cosmos
2. Reach into the blackness of my soul, through my ass, past the many travelers that got lost while pounding my beef wellington (there’s an entire resort up there now) and write something from the heart.
I’m doing the second.
This doesn’t really have anything to do with the MM genre, or the community in general—but it’s a recent (and lifelong) experience I’ve had, and I think writing about it may bring me some semblance of catharsis. So, without further ado, welcome to my adventures with anxiety.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/craigbarkerauthor) you might’ve seen that I went to visit a psychiatrist for the very first time this past week. This is because my HIV doctor spotted the crazy leaking out of me during my bi-yearly visit and asked me if she could forward me to the mental health clinic in the same building. I said yes. She set it up. Blah blah blah.
Now, the journey to the clinic in the city from my small town (which sits midway up a hill) was enough to induce a panic attack. But before we get into that mess, I want to explain exactly what I mean when I say I have anxiety.
When I was 11, I wanted to be an actor. I joined a young acting group and spent 3 years there outside of school. I made friends, and in the entire time I was there I participated in around 4 plays—with several showings for each one. However, even then I could feel the physical shakes coming on just before the curtain lifted. I could feel myself beginning to tremble, but put it down to adrenaline and stage-nerves—nothing too out of the ordinary.
Little did I know that 10+ years later, this would happen every day.
Now, at 25 years old, I can’t exchange money in a shop without shaking. I can’t leave my house without thinking of every possible scenario that may play out. I live in constant state of fight or flight, and even a few seconds of thought given to the act of public speaking renders me a mumbling mess.
Anxiety has ruled my life since I was a teenager. It’s stopped me from pursuing other options in my career. (I’ve had panic attacks in every job interview I’ve ever been to) And it’s prevented me from taking trips with friends.
To put it in the words of my psychiatrist (but meaning no disrespect to those who have worse things to deal with on a daily basis) “It’s disabling.”
Now, if you do follow me and my posts (and live videos) you may wonder where this comes from. After all, I don’t come across as anxious (I don’t think) on the internet—and I want to clarify that it’s not an act. The way I behave on FB and the way I interact with people is how I would behave and interact in real life—but the fact I’ve built up years of connections and bonds with a lot of you is WHY I’m able to go live on FB and do silly things. It’s WHY I cherish this community so much—this place is my safe space where anxiety is a fleeting memory. But when I step outside that front door to go to the shop, none of that matters. My heart races, my palms sweat, and my hands shake.
Sometimes getting a carton of milk feels like the end of the world. And that’s a shame, cos I fucking love milk.
I’ll segue here for a second for those that were wondering what visiting a psychiatrist entails (at least, in the experience I’ve had)—
1. I told her my life story starting from the age of 9
2. I told her the first time I felt anxiety, and about those in my family that I’ve noticed have it too
3. She spoke a lot about breathing techniques, which in all honesty I find useless
4. She told me to tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I shake while I’m shaking, which again, I find useless.
5. She wants to put me on beta blockers to calm me down, which may be helpful if I can find the right combination that works with my HIV medication
6. Overall, talking to her was a huge help, but a lot of the information she gave me wasn’t anything I hadn’t researched myself over the last 10 years. The medication is the only real (practical) benefit I can see coming out of this.
When I told my psychiatrist, out loud, that I have only left my home in wales without Pete twice in the last two years, she gave me a look of both astonishment and pity. I could see in her eyes that she felt sorry for me, and she was quick to tell me I should’ve sought out help much, much sooner. Which I know—of course I know I should have. But anxiety prevented me from making that hour-long trip so many times. And even though I’ve done it now, I know the struggle won’t be much easier when I go again in September. You see, my little town only has ONE hourly bus that goes MIDWAY toward the city, then I have to change (and the wait between changes is around 30 minutes) before I can get to the clinic. Overall, it’s a 2-hour trip for what is about a 40-minute drive away. And doing that alone, monthly, for the foreseeable future…it’s almost enough to give me a panic attack just thinking about it.
So, what’s the point of all this? Well, there isn’t one—not really. These are just the ramblings of someone going through something that he doesn’t want to go through anymore. Anxiety has been the man behind the curtain, pulling the strings, for as long as I can remember. It’s stopped me from doing so much with my life, and I’m hoping that talking about it with a professional (and getting pumped full of drugs) will eventually rid me of this plague, or at least stop the shaking that comes about every time I speak with someone who isn’t a close friend.
Once again, I’d like to thank the community for all the support I receive on a daily basis. Whether it’s joking about bukkakes on my timeline, or posting pictures of food all over my newsfeed—being a part of this place means the world to me, and it’s pretty beneficial to my mental health. Words can’t express how much that means to me.
PS. If you have any experience with psychiatrists and/or dealing with anxiety (and don’t mind sharing) please comment below. Your experience may help someone going through something similar. I’ll see you in two weeks <3