John Walker's Electronic House

by on Jan.20, 2005, under The Rest

An anxiety update.

The story so far: After six years of anxiety attacks, constant lunacy and a general plateau of wobbly nervousness, John finally decided to do something about it. Dragged to the doctor by his hair and teeth, John was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder – something that only the very most handsome, intelligent and inordinately cute people can suffer from. The correct form of treatment for this sort of thing is Cognative Behavioural Therapy, or CBT. John was worried about the stigma of “Therapy”, and decided he would only tell a couple of people. Then as he was writing an Anxiety Update on his blog he realised that he was just about to tell everyone, most of them strangers. He considered this for a moment, and then decided to go ahead, driven by a combination of wanting to write about it, along with the hope that someone might recognise something and maybe get themself some help too. He was also aware that the lovely people who read his blog wouldn’t make a stupid fuss about it.

I’ve started seeing someone at my local doctor’s surgery, which was promoted as Cognative Behavioural Therapy itself, but turns out to be rubbish. The lady is lovely and all, but she isn’t a CBTist and as such fails in meeting the requirement of being a CBTist. I hope I’m not being too harsh here.

But she has reinforced something I often claim – everyone will end up telling me their problems, no matter how weird or inappropriate the circumstances. Strangers on public transport appear to be able to read some flashing neon sign above my head reading, “MOBILE COUNSELLING SERVICE”. Friends of friends, and this happened last year, will tell me all their problems for hours on end when I phone to speak to the friend who is out, and the phone is answered by the relative stranger. And indeed the not-quite CBT lady at the doctor’s spent ten minutes of our half hour telling me about the educational difficulties her six year old was having. I’d be cross about her lack of professionalism, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m sure it’s some sort of hormone I exude that causes people to do this.

But despite the unhelpfulness, working through some of the literature I’ve been given about Anxiety Disorder, I’ve been fascinated to learn that lots of parts of my personality aren’t quite as normal as I’d thought, and are in fact symptoms of my mentalness. This is a positive thing.

For instance, I hate driving. I also like driving. I’d much prefer to be driving than to be driven. But I still have grown to loathe the journey from Bath to Bristol – one I traverse regularly, and during the worst hours imaginable due to needing to get to college. On these journeys I tend to fill my car with some of Bath’s finest, and indeed Bristol’s for latter legs, who are then treated to the delights of my moderate driving temperament. I’m not exactly calm when behind the wheel.

It’s not that I’m a crazed driver – I’m sure others will leap in to say otherwise if I’m wrong, but I think I’m a reasonably good driver, and mostly sensible. But I just cannot bear that everyone else on the road is A CRETIN. Here’s a thing you might not know: When traffic lights turn green, THAT MEANS YOU CAN GO. Here’s another thing: When waiting at traffic lights, their eventually turning green is SOMETHING TO BE EXPECTED. It makes me want to claw my eyes from their sockets as I sit and watch lines and lines of drivers before me looking up, noticing the lights have changed, wondering what that might mean to them, remembering where they are, looking for the gearstick, wondering which one’s the clutch, having a sandwich, and then maybe, JUST MAYBE, edging slightly forward but not so fast as to cross the junction before they are red again. CAR AFTER CAR AFTER CAR. And it drives me around the bend… no, wait, it doesn’t, does it? It leave me sat staring at the bend, screaming, never actually reaching it.

So it has come to pass that people in the car have commented on this. Foolish people. People accepting my kind all-free taxi service. Ungrateful people. And people with a reasonable point.

I’ve always found these comments a bit hurtful, because, as far as I’m concerned, I’m not doing anything abnormal. There is a situation in front of me, a situation in which selfish people are driving selfishly, slowing everyone down, and making a crappy journey utterly miserable. I react to that selfishness by being upset, and I let that upset out my moaning or shouting at my windscreen. That makes sense, because it really, really, REALLY upsets me. And so when someone tells me off for that, it also upsets me. What I’m beginning to realise (and understand that such realisations are of course painfully obvious to the outside observer, but almost imperceivable to the person inside) is that my getting so upset is not at all normal, and the responses of those in my car are quite sensible. And hence their comments are not hurtful at all, but not wanting to admit that I’m being the weirdo, I perceive them to be.

It’s all very well recognising this… And I’m not claiming that getting annoyed with idiot drivers is abnormal. But the extremity of my reaction is. And of course, this is an example amongst many of my beginning to notice that parts of my behaviour are not just “me”, but things that don’t give me a great deal of happiness… but that’s only the beginning of figuring it all out.

So the solution: A combination of my recognising that I am behaving out of anxiety and not normality, and my friends recognising that I am behaving oddly because I’m a mental, and to be patient with that. (Which they already are, I should add). Maybe that’s where the phrase “mental patient” comes from.

So, despite everything, it seems to be beginning to work. Which is nice.

Oh, and if you’re not one of the people fortunate enough to attend viewings of the John Driving Extravaganza, you could also help by NOT DRIVING LIKE A CRETIN.

5 Comments for this entry

  • MHW

    It’s good that you haven’t been pressured into being medicated at the first resort. ‘Cos, y’know, that can suck quite badly.

  • Jo

    Everyone has stuff they do that’s abnormal. But not everyone has the guts to actually do something about it, let alone talk on a blog about it. Well done Mr Walker, you make me so proud I could cry like a small baby.

  • KM

    Sheesh, the 1 time I drove with you, you nearly killed me. I’d never ask again … not that it’s ever come up, of course. Anyway, I’m kidding. I am very glad things are moving in the right direction for you…

  • Paul Black, this worlds best last hope for peace.

    But they are all cretins… Especially the elderly.

  • NickM

    Well, quite. I get annoyed by people who selfishly hold up queues on roads, acting in ways you suggest. I also get annoyed by people who are desperate to undertake, overtake and generally weave about (usually not indicating), only to reach the inevitable queue 200 yards ahead anyway. And BMW drivers who come up behind you (the Nazis) and start flashing you, creeping up to your bumper: “Get out of my superior way, du Untermensch!” as if they have the RIGHT to be driving at 40 MPH over the speed limit rather than the mere 30MPH I happen to be going whilst overtaking the articulated lorry, and into whose side I would plough if I heeded this SS bastard’s intimidating suggestion on board. Aaaargh!