Polly Vernon Does Anxiety: part 2
If you missed part one of Polly's blog, check it out here.
By the time Lehman brothers collapsed, in September 2008, and anxiety became a Thing - or rather, The Thing - I considered myself a professionally anxious person. Having spent my youth training for, and successfully competing in, the anxious Olympics (disciplines: My Imminent Death, no-one really likes me they’re just pretending, and incoming failures) I’d turned pro circa my early 30s. All the rest of society was just playing catch up. Except that it wasn’t.
While the credit crunch and the recession did, I think, ramp up pre-existing anxiety in us all to previously unheard of levels: we were all pretty anxious anyway, weren’t we? As absurd and funny and irrational as my history of anxiety seems when I contemplate it, as I just have, I also know it isn’t unusual. I live with a man who makes my angst-levels look positively subpar. I socialize and work with people who make ‘em look entirely acceptable. My anxiety enablers, if you will. I use a language which now has about 27 (ish) different words for angst, rather like the Inuits have multiple words for snow. There’s FOMO – the social networking-perpetuated Fear Of Missing Out, which is founded on us all frantically devouring the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of people we vaguely know for evidence that their lives are better than ours.
There’s ‘prang’ – a delicious bit of London vernacular, which I love because it’s got an eloquent onomatopeiac quality about it, the word evokes that sudden, sharp, almost painful sense of being out of kilter with yourself and the rest of the world, on account of the angst. (NB It’s used like this: “Babe. I’m pranging about that text I just sent, because I put two ‘x’s on the end of it but should I have put three?”). And there’s The Fear (useful for when you’re generally anxious, you just haven’t worked out about what, quite yet), and “sketching out” (what happens when prang tips you over the edge), and basically… anger be damned.
At this point in human history: anxiety isn’t so much a condition, as a lifestyle, is it? All of which meant that, when I started Headspacing, I was a) skeptical of its ability to diminish my anxiety at all, and b) worried (ha!) about who I’d be without anxiety, in the unlikely event that Headspace did manage to make me less anxious. Angst was so interwoven into the fabric of my character. As I’d got older I’d sort of manicured and tamed it, so that instead of presenting as full-blown, wild-eyed neuroticism, my anxiety read like poised caution, like steely control. I never got all that drunk, I never got heavily into debt, I never made a show of myself by becoming emotional in public (and often, even in private) and I never took any truly significant risks, because my anxiety forbade it. The unimaginable consequences of that sort of recklessness!
Well, fellow Headspace fans: you find me gradually disentangling myself from my anxiety. Unraveling it - or myself, from it - like it’s the cord on my headphones and I’d rather like to listen to some pop music now, thanks. Honestly: I’m not there yet. I’m less perma-contorted by fear of the endless incarnations of impending doom, but I still get prang over everything from the deeper subtext of a one-word email reply from someone I don’t know that well, to the significance of the bruise which appeared, mysteriously, and overnight, on my ankle.
Still - I am definitely somewhere else, where angst is concerned. Somewhere where, on the best days, I watch my myriad worries flutter about my mind, like the birds on the bird table my angst-addled boyfriend constructed in an effort to remove himself from his angst. Sooner or later, they fly off. I also know, now, who I’ll be, with meditation-minimized anxiety levels. Me, only with a less furrowed brow. So that’ll save on the Botox. Polly Vernon A lot of us worry!
Meditation can help with anxiety management. Join the Headspace Community and learn about how other Headspacers use daily meditation as a tool to manage their anxiety levels.