2017 · Life: Help I'm Alive

On anxiety and safe sounds

I want to preface this blog by saying that I am not a mental health care professional in any way. Mental health is important to me and everyone I know has struggled with problems of some kind, be it temporary depression or chronic anxiety disorders or something else entirely. If you feel like you need help, please reach out to someone who is better equipped at diagnosing and treating mental health issues.

This is more… well, it’s more my thoughts about what’s worked for me in times of being very stressed or anxious and how those things have changed my life for the better even when I’m not in a bad mental place. I’ll talk about things like self care and safe spaces and if you have a problem with using terminology like that because it makes me a weak millennial  then I quite frankly don’t know why you’d be reading this blog in the first place. Get out.

A couple of years ago I was in a really bad place. I’ve been in really bad places before but this one took the cake – I was in a long distance abusive relationship (somehow that was a thing), I had little social support and very little money to my name. Things were tough and at one point my body couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve always been really good with handling (ignoring) stress, so getting a physical reaction to a mental problem was new to me. For most of that summer I couldn’t eat properly, couldn’t leave the house, could hardly do anything at all except figure out a way to work through the panic attacks. Exercise worked pretty well after awhile, as did temporarily cutting out things like sugar, caffeine and starch from my diet (all things I eat now) but the thing that settled me down the most was having something harmless to focus on. That summer and for many months following it, I watched the entire run of Whose Line is it Anyway.

Some people find ASMR or white noise soothing, but for me it was cheeky improvisational comedy from the early 2000s that soothed the troubled soul. I watched and rewatched and eventually whenever I had trouble falling asleep I could put on an episode and be out like a light.

My cousin did a similar thing growing up. Her safety sound of choice was A League of Their Own and seeing as this was back in the day of the VHS tapes, that meant putting the movie on, waking up when it was over to rewind the tape and then playing it all over again so she could sleep. I thought this was weird when I was younger. This is no longer the case.

The thing about safe sounds though, at least for me, is that they lose their potency after awhile. I’m not in a terrible place anymore but I still get stressed out and I realised quickly that Whose Line didn’t cut it anymore, but rather reminded me of that awful summer when I wasn’t a person anymore. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, while I was stressing out over my thesis in psychology, that I found a suitable replacement.

If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon that is Dan and Phil, let me educate you. Dan Howell and Phil Lester are two twenty-somethings who live together in London and met back when they were teenage youtubers. Their primary target audience is teenage girls, as you might’ve guessed, and even writing this as a 31 year old adult makes me feel like I don’t belong but nothing soothes me as much as watching these two nerds fumble their way through brownie baking, freak out over video games or make really poignant conclusions about the importance of friendship, honesty and courage. They’re good good boys who do stupid things on the internet that has led them to publishing two books and making a fantastically written stage show that toured the world.

(Yes, I saw the stage show. If my bestie hadn’t joined me, I would’ve been the only non-parent over 25. It was great.)

Dan and Phil is a good example of what I think safe sounds are meant to do. I don’t buy into the idea of guilty pleasures because I think in the end, they’re actually safe sounds – it’s something that makes you happy, something that makes you feel good inside and maybe it’s not cool or edgy or popular but so what? As long as you’re not keeping other fans or the intended audience from enjoying the experience, then what’s the harm?

I like watching Dan and Phil because they make me feel the way I wanted to feel when I was 15, but that doesn’t mean I think I have more right to them than actual teenagers. I like listening to rap but I don’t think for a moment that puts me on equal grounds with the rappers or audience that have lived the experience. It’s just a good, private feeling that makes me feel less scared about the world. Engage in things that make you feel safe because we’ve never needed it more than right now.

Oh, and also? Talk about how you’re feeling. End the stigma on mental health problems. Seriously.

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