My issues with panic attacks and anxiety disorder have been well documented on these pages. I’ve been to hell and back within my own rogue mind. Of course, that’s what I think anyway. Yes, I had a total nervous meltdown a few years ago and whilst in the thick of it I honestly could not fathom how a person could feel any worse. But in the grand scheme of things it could have been worse; a lot worse.
My mental episode changed me, but despite now being the strongest I have ever been, I can’t seem to shake the occasionally constant feeling of anxiety. It’s a pain in the arse really; I could be walking around the supermarket and for no reason in the ghee and oil section, find myself conflicted. Some day’s I’m fine, but other days I get nervous even informing a waiter that my order was incorrect, whereas as other days I would shoot them down with a bullet made of pejorative UAE Uncut inspired discourse. I subsequently have to drink the rancid pint of Fosters and wonder about the Carlsberg that never was.
I hate it (anxiety and Fosters). I have a degree of control, but it really can get on my nerves, if you will pardon the pun. Anyone who goes through the same thing gets my sympathy. Those of you that are just in a bad mood or miserable with the choices you have made that day, stop it. Anxiety and panic disorder is a real thing, stop it, and stop trying to milk attention. You’re not “depressed”, you’re unhappy. There is a big, big difference and I am here today to help you work out what might be wrong.
Mental health is often underestimated and misunderstood, especially out here in the UAE. The problem is how do you know if someone is having an attack of the nerves or just being a mardy-bum? For a lot of people, the concept is totally alien. Sometimes people come into the office and they’re just in a bad mood. Perhaps they overslept and missed breakfast or they didn’t get to sit in the front seat of the car. Who knows? Other people may come into the office and just seem off. Perhaps baring a poignant face or perhaps they are not as talkative as they usually are. The giveaway is generally talkativeness. The moody people will generally rant and the anxious will generally close up and wish to keep a low profile.
How can you get through a day at work like that, unable to control your own mind and unable to concentrate on anything? I’ve been there, many times, and it’s nigh on impossible. The trap is to feel guilty about low productivity. Don’t fret, inform your boss.
The question is what to do about it? First of all, take a look around. Are you happy? If not then you need to take some affirmative action. If you’re unhappy, be sure that it is a general unhappiness and not just because your flatmate finished off the Cheerio’s. Whatever the cost of it, take steps to improve your situation. That may mean making some very painful decisions in the short term but remember you have to put yourself first.
Next, don’t delude yourself. Don’t sit around and wait to see how things pan out for too long. By all means give it some time, that’s important. But after 6 months or a year and you are still walking around with a face like a horse then what are you waiting for?
Thirdly, listen. Listen to yourself and to your family. I know that sounds a bit preachy for this page but you’ll be surprised how well your family know you, and how much you know yourself. If they can tell that you’re unhappy, and they will, then listen to their advice.
You must have a clear divide between work and home. At home the work has to stop. You will be amazed at the difference in your life if you open a bottle of wine, stick on a DVD or whatever and just chill out. It is important however that when you tell your friends that you are “chilling out” you actually say that you are “chilling out”. Don’t; under any circumstances say “chillin’”, or worse still, “chillaxing”. This will make you sound like a pillock and you could be slapped with a UAE Uncut social injunction.
You can help yourself over here by also not being a nuisance. No one likes that one person who is constantly whinging and moaning in open forums about trivial matters. Ok, beef bacon tastes different here, deal with it. It could be worse; you could be one of those Bangladeshi Labourers you see pawing through the dirt with their bare hands in 50 Celsius heat for a shilling a month. No, you need to keep people close. There is no substitute for being liked. If you keep smiling and stay away from conflict then you can get through your expat tenure here without problems. If you start making enemies then, no matter who you are, that is going to grate and serve no benefits at all. I doubt you needed to be reminded of that…
The bottom line is that panic attacks and anxiety disorder are born from suppression of emotion. If you repress your true feelings for too long then the pressure becomes too much. It could take months or it could take years to erupt, but it will. It’s a bit like Final Destination but without the grisly deaths. You owe yourself a decent life, whoever you are, so don’t damage yourself. If you’re not happy here, then get to the airport and try not to remember that opening scene in Final Destination.
I can tell you first hand that you don’t want to go through what I did. But just remember no matter how rough you feel, no matter how much drama you think you have going on, thank Christ you’re not an underpaid labourer living with 7 other lads in a 12x12ft room with absolutely no hope of a comfortable life.
There’s always someone much, much worse off than you.