The Pool: Women and Anxiety, AKA My Ode to Susie Orbach

I went to this ‘Women and Anxiety’ event hosted by The Pool when I was in quite the wee whirlwind of anxiety myself : panic attacks in place of sleep, pumping heart, pulsating frontal lobes, the all-over body sensation I’ve been best capturing lately via the description ‘fizz’. Like a fizzing all over, and the fizzing is extra fuelled by fear that this fizz will be the last fizz, the fizz that makes you implode and fall over and die and that was it, that was your fizzy, fizzy life.

I’ve clocked that the anxiety is triggered by something in life (an event, a situation, a person) that gives rise to a feeling of not being in control, or not feeling ‘safe’. But then the physiological stuff spirals into its own entity and becomes the thing, on top of the original trigger thing. Behold survival mode all round – most likely a spot of pharmaceutical intervention to knock me out and get any reprieve from my mind, though this never feels like ‘real’ rest and mostly adds another layer to the frontal lobe ache thing and the sensation that my brain is just going to ‘ping’ at any moment and there I go, falling over and not getting up again. A stroke is the thing I mostly convince myself I’m going to have during these episodes.

So anyway, I was kind of approaching The Bad Place when I went to the event and all the talking about anxiety did kinda feed into the anxiety, then I got a bit anxious about not having had dinner, how it would be late by the time I got home and the priority was getting to bed (to not sleep cos I was too wound up, obvs), then I thought about how much I hate central London and how these people’s anxiety isn’t like my anxiety – look how functional they are!

There was a lot of chat during the evening about social meeja and this bullshit culture we live in now where people, especially women, take five-hundred-thousand selfies to get the best selfie so people will ‘like’ it and tell them they’re killing it, hun, and in reality there’s just even more emptiness inside so more selfies it is and WHY AM I THE ONE QUESTIONING MY FUCKING SANITY HERE. I just want to feel at home enough in the world and this human shell to get by while I’m here on this spinning orb for this short while (obvs doesn’t feel so short at 4am in the morning and I’m punching my pillow in frustration at the swirling, slimy undulations of my thoughts and resultant feelings).

I do feel like I’ve learnt a lot since starting this blog in the depths of pain and confusion last Summer: the importance of the body in this mind/emotion stuff, how we store stuff there and can get some reprieve from releasing it in the various ways available to us.

Enter the psychotherapist Susie Orbach and her declaration at this event that ‘I’m not that happy with the word anxiety.’ She reckons it ‘collapses everything’:

‘If somebody comes to see me and they suffer with anxiety I’m interested more in “what is the feeling?” There can be a feeling on the chest and it might be grief, it might be abandonment, it might be confusion, it might be sorrow, it might be excitement… I would look an anxiety as a signal.’

Beautiful: this is what it comes back to, every time. Feel the feelings, particularly the difficult ones: anger, sadness, fear. Orbach says she prefers to ‘unpack’ anxiety rather than ‘package it’ and isn’t that a bit epic?

‘If we made it kosher to talk about being frightened , or excited, or scared, or lonely, finding those words – if we really did emotional literacy in schools like we do numbers and the three Rs, the temptation to go to social media and those other ways of identity (because you feel so empty) would lessen.

‘We’re all very vulnerable, that’s part of what it means to be human and it’s about how our vulnerabilities get expressed and how we unfold them.’

In short, THERE IS NO SHAME IN BEING VULNERABLE. Feel the human feelings. And take fewer selfies.

To end this post I’ll leap from the gorgeous Ms Orbach to that poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, because some words of his crossed my cyber path while I attempted to complete these random scribblings amid my fizz fizz fizz fizz fizzzzzzings and they’re connected and they helped me. He hinted many years ago that maybe, just maybe, our deepest fears and darkest pains are parts of ourselves wanting our attention. But he expressed it more pretty than me:

‘Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses who are waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that needs our love.’

See also: Russell Brand, who’s all right sometimes. The End.


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