Anxious when I am, Anxious when I am not

I don’t have a condition. I had me tested by people (well…one therapist) who told me that I definitely do not have a condition. Although she did say that maybe I seek a diagnosis because it would make my life easier since it would give me a mask to hide my flaws. Actually, what I have is an ‘issue with my existence’ syndrome. This is based on my personal nomenclature practices so don’t look for it in the revised edition of Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders.

Yes, it sounds like an issue a 14 year old might face. Also known as ‘the teenage angst’. And maybe since I never went through this during my teenage, it is striking at 29. Maybe everyone gets it at some point…like chicken pox! Although that has almost been eradicated now while teenage angst has become a legit condition.

My current lifestyle choices grant me the time and space to introspect so much that my inner voice never goes to sleep. Talking of inner voices….what does yours sound like? Mine is made up of three groups. Group one is made up of a slightly more compliant version of my actual friends (CVAF). They are the ones I talk to when I want to work through some concept or idea related to studies, and when I want to recount a funny story that no actual living soul must know about. Group two looks and feels like the omnipresent judgmental neighbors (OJN) who use my foibles and peccadilloes as a source constant amusement. Group three is the Clan of Impostor Syndrome (CIS). Now those guys…they can only be described as a mob of death eaters and dementors. They feed off my fear of being found out to be a fraud….something that happens way too often during graduate school. They glare and sneer at me from inside my head till I fumble and fail. The days when I can manage to keep my calm and not give those clansmen the debacle they were hoping for, it feels like sex, love, chocolate, beer, and the joy of peeing after holding it in for an uncomfortable amount of time.

My crisis of existence syndrome comes from the overwhelming power of the OJNs in my life rather than CIS because I have learnt to keep the latter in check but the former still looms large in the everyday. My OJNs are not interested in the high art that is academic failures. It’s the day to day scope of public humiliation that they enjoy. From the minute I open my eyes, their gossiping begins. They wonder out loud in my head, addressing my CVAFs and CISs, about what all could possibly go wrong with me today. Will I fall in the bathroom and break my leg? Or will I burn my hand while making toast? Or will I choke on the coco-puffs that have not softened even after being in the milk for ten minutes? Will I fart so loudly in the toilet at work while someone waits outside that I might have to pretend to have fainted inside till they call a security guard and break the door to get me out, turning their secondary embarrassment and my humiliation into abject pity? Or will I trip on the stairs while telling an amusing story to my colleagues? Will I make a faux pas in the canteen? Will I break something valuable in the lab? Or maybe leave my zip undone? My OJNs have a bigger production budget than Nolan, for sure.

I had often wondered whether everyone talks to themselves as much as I do? But then I recently read an amazing book called ‘I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes Us Human’ by Robin Ince. He spoke to comedians and psychologists about what makes a comedian’s brain tick differently from everyone else’s. He wrote extensively in his book about why this phenomena of hearing the voices in our heads tends to remain an ‘inner thing’ and not an ‘outer thing’. Apparently this has an evolutionary benefit. If you were an ancient hominid hiding from a predator, your safety was dependent on keeping your mouth shut while your inner voice was screaming. This seems fair enough. According to him, while everyone does have an inner voice, comedians generally find a way to mine it for content while others like to suppress it in order to keep sane. Since sanity is not a top expectation from comedians, the good comedians have mastered the art soliloquizing their inner monologue, while I am expected to keep it from leaking out in the everyday. Probably that’s why so many people love giving their opinions on social media. They have a legit space to think out loud. Probably that’s why I am writing this blog. In my case, the ancient predators have been replaced with colleagues in the class/ canteen/ corridors, people in super markets, and flatmates in the house.

Some doctors encourage people suffering from depression or anxiety to create avatars for those feelings so that they can visualize their monsters and then work on culling them, but I don’t know what is the solution for an already fully formed mental archive of monsters, demons, and poltergeists that seem to overrun my life.

Published by anubhutib

Graduate student in Finland navigating through PhD and trying to have some fun along the way.

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