As usual, I’ve been thinking. The devil makes work for idle brains, it seems. Over the last few months, my anxiety has hit an all-time high. I never had it very often before, but now it comes most days in one way or another. It’s that tight chest feeling, like your breath is made of lead, like every one you take in fills your lungs and won’t leave, so the next breath just keeps piling on top and on top, until you’re full of old air and nothing escapes.
I’ve been getting it whenever I leave the house. I’ve had it watching tv (my fault for watching Taboo, which is some ultra-tense viewing, but brilliant). I’ve had it while driving and while eating a damned sandwich. There seems no rhyme or reason for it, it just comes.
But what the hell is it?
I read somewhere about what separates humans from the animal kingdom. Before we go ahead, it isn’t that we have a soul or that we were built by an omnipotent toddler with cosmic play-dough. The fact is, we’re still animals ourselves. Most of what we do on a day to day basis, dress it up as you like, is animal behaviour. The sooner people realise, the better. But, what really separates us, apparently, is that we developed the ability to foresee. Not in the way that a rat can be trained to foresee food at the sound of a buzzer, but in our development of imagination. We plan.
How did that come about? Well, it’s believed by some that when we were still monkeys we developed the ability to foresee danger. It was a simple step from having a survival instinct, I guess. Now it isn’t in the way that animals will look at a raging river and think “Fuck that shit”. We developed the ability to see what was coming even without any stimuli. We don’t need the river to be in front of us to know how dangerous it is or plan how to cross it.
I’ve been thinking that might be the root of anxiety in humans.
What do we do, Those Like Me, that induces anxiety? We see it coming. Whatever IT may be. We know how horrible the world is, how dangerous. Our world is more dangerous than ever. We no longer have to worry about panthers taking us in the night, or a snake, or a river. We have buses to run us over, muggers to stab us, terrorists to blow up the buses that manage not to get run over by, politicians sitting on nuclear weapons waving cowboy hats like the apocalypse would be rare old fun. We have jobs that disappear, children who need feeding, fragile dreams so easy to dash, and that hot breath on the back of your neck is survival. Good old survival. And you can no longer survive by eating berries and staying out of the panther’s way. Food comes in tins that you can’t even open without a certain tool, and you have to hand paper to someone (which in turn someone handed to you) in order to even be able to take it home before you try to gnaw off the lid.
We each live in a droplet of water, the other droplets clustered around us, and wait for the cloud to open up and drop us on the earth.
Some people are happy in their droplet. They are the blinkered horse, ready to tread the same old road day after day. It’s their road and no other paths exist. Those Like Me who suffer with anxiety, we see every droplet. We see the land below and we anticipate the fall.
The interesting thing is that the ability to foresee danger is a useful skill. If we were in the jungle, or Serengeti, or wherever we all hail from, Those Like Me would be the ones to survive. But the world has turned too many times, changing with each spin, and now our skill has become our curse.
Anxiety kept us alive while we lived in trees, but in the urban jungle, it strangles us.
As always, I don’t have any answers for you. Other than perhaps we should all just sod off back to living in the woods (that does sound lovely doesn’t it?). There’s no advice here, or ways forward, just an idea and a perspective, a sharing of experiences. I hope it was at least interesting.
Thanks for reading.