Anxiety and I have been together for as long as I can remember. During primary school, there were periods of weeks where I would be too panic-ridden to engage with any of the other kids during lunch breaks. I would read, draw, or sit with a group of kids I knew wouldn’t talk to me because they weren’t sure if my name was Michael or Daniel. The first time I saw a psychologist about the anxiety was in 2011, when I was suffering from depression as well and couldn’t handle my life as an art school stoner. I still fight with anxiety on a pretty regular basis. The only difference is now I have some strategies – some explained by a therapist, and others self-developed. Below are six autobiographical scenarios, and my dos and don’ts.
1. You are in primary school and you have five dollars in your pocket and you’re feeling anxious because you’re afraid that everyone knows about your fear of engaging.
Don’t: Throw your sandwich and apple in the bin, go to the tuckshop and buy two jam donuts, find a place under a tree to hide and eat them, then cry when jam spills on your school shorts.
Do: Find the kid who is into the same weirdo stuff as you (e.g. Lord of the Rings) and buy him a jam donut. Spend lunchtimes under a tree, happy and talking about elves.
2. You are in high school and for a while you have been sitting with some guys in art class who make lots of jokes and like the same music as you.
Don’t: Pretend you are busy shellacking when they talk about the party they are going to on the weekend and the hot girls they want to finger, then go home and stalk said girls on MySpace.
Do: Ask if they want to go to see a band play next weekend. Maybe then they will invite you to the party and you will finger someone, go home, and actually add them on MySpace.
3. You are seventeen and playing drums in a three-piece band where the other two members are proper weed smokers.
Don’t: Have as many cones as you can (3) and find a bathroom to hide in for an hour, be sick on yourself and then go home without saying goodbye.
Do: Say no thank you to the cones, roll a joint instead, and offer to buy Maccas.
4. You are eighteen and at a party, and your girlfriend dumped you a week ago.
Don’t: Sit in a dark corner and smoke twenty cigarettes, go out on to the street pretending to answer your phone, and walk for two and a half hours to get home, then send your ex a text about how great the party was.
Do: Talk to the Goth girl. She will think your moodiness and reluctance to dance is sexy and you might have sex on the bare mattress in the spare room at her parents’ house.
5. You are nineteen and it’s New Years Eve and a friend offers to sell you some coke and you are going to a party where you know like two people.
Don’t: Go to the party and snort all the coke alone in the bathroom, do a bunch of jelly shots, go to the valley, forget to eat, throw up alone outside a church.
Do: not do cocaine if you suffer from anxiety.
6. You are twenty and you have dropped out of university for the second time and you are driving to your job in South Bank where you will wash dishes for six hours.
Don’t: Sit in your car, panicking and crying until you are exhausted and fall asleep for an hour; go to work late and lie about being in a car crash; get fired.
Do: Quit that stupid job and enroll in a writing course.
Coming soon in Part III: How to live in Normal Land and make your inner monologue start saying nice things.