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Imagining my own death in 2020

New year, new panic attacks

January 2021 – Unseriously Sincere Ideas Write-Up #05

It’s Saturday and you’re probably busy doing chores, so let’s just skip the small talk and dig straight in. 

1. IMAGINING MY OWN DEATH IN 2021

I’m thinking of relaxing a little more this year. I’m not putting away any of my hopes or my dreams or my aspirations to find treasure, I’m just thinking I’ll try and do a bit more to stop inducing these fancy new panic attacks I’ve been having. 

That’s right, I’m officially a sufferer of panic attacks. Who knew my life would come to this? I certainly didn’t. I thought I’d only ever have to worry about panic at the disco. I didn’t think that 2021 would be the year my wild imaginationwould lead to irrational thoughts and fear-induced meltdowns. But maybe that’s what you get when you live a life outside your comfort zone.

A panic attack is an awful and sudden experience, where intense fear triggers a severe physical reaction… despite there being no threat whatsoever. You could be having the best day of your life and then just like that, you’re feeling very frightened and think you’re having a seizure. It’s quite a yucky feeling and it’s awkward to explain to people that you need to pull the car over because you think you’re about to die.

My little episodes are actually triggered by imagining situations where I might perish. And I’ve come to realise that I do that quite a lot. The other day I had a sore throat and imagined infectious bacteria turning cancerous and killing me slowly from the inside. Panic. Just a few days after that I was driving behind a pick-up truck and imagined the car in tow coming loose and wiping me out. Panic. The first time I panic attacked was a bit of a canary in the coal mine situation where I was on a wine tour and smelled exhaust fumes in the bus. I imagined myself passing out right before my girlfriends and our bus driver lost consciousness and then we steered off into a tree. Panic + an awkward rouse on the bus driver for trying to gas us all. 

I now realise that the panic attack I had in Afghanistan wasn’t a panic attack at all. It was just like, actual panic. In that instance, panic was on my side, we were defending ourselves against the Taliban and kidnappings and what not. But a panic attack is exactly that. Panic actually attacks you, completely unwarranted, like the little jerk it is.  

Regardless of the trouble panic is trying to cause me, I need to be the bigger man and get on top of this asap. Because A) it’s pretty egotistical to constantly daydream about your own tragic demise, B) our brains have trouble distinguishing between imagined and real threats which means my nervous system is getting punished and C) if my imagination sets off my nervous system every time I get a tickle in my throat or smell a shitty car exhaust, I’ll likely end up inviting real health threats. 

This is is not new news but your body and mind rely on each other to behave. If your body eats a packet of Doritos and stays on the couch all day, your mind gets upset, calls you a fat slug and you spiral into mental chaos. Meanwhile. if it’s your mind playing up and spending all its time worrying about all your personal woes (or in my case, mortality), your body risks developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety and, gulp, panic disorders. I have one good friend who spent her youth bearing the weight of her family feuds and now has Fibromyalgia and will live the rest of her life in pain and discomfort. And this study indicates that high stress can lead to autoimmune diseases.

Anything that sets off your nervous system can be bad news. Emotional stress causes illness. These are simple but unfortunate facts of life because we are all highly emotional beings with our knickers always in little knots. 

But don’t get all stressed about being biologically wired for stress, there are plenty of ways to stay on top of it if you’re aware of it. Like not sweating the small stuff. Making time to relax and meditate. Rationalising with yourself. Being conscious about your thoughts and not letting them be such drama queens…

There’s obviously more hardcore techniques they use in therapy too, but I’m not qualified. 

What I can say is that most of our fear in life is irrational. Which is one of the major reasons Comfort is for Wimps exists. It’s a philosophy that inspires me (and maybe you?) to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. To give our irrational thinking, emotional responses and cognitive biases a good shake up every now and then. It’s an excuse to try things that scare me because feeling safe doesn’t build emotional resilience and it kinda makes my mind feel moldy. And finally, it’s a constant reminder that experiencing fear and awkward moments doesn’t lead to death.

Facing our fears by getting out of our comfort zone is important, but this doesn’t mean going skydiving or talking to strangers. Often all you need to do to face your fears is cease the comfort of doing nothing to address your mental health. 

 2. I’M RICH
I’ll tell you something that’s not good your emotional stress levels. Bloody Bitcoin

I bought into it in early November, off the back of a prediction made by my geekazoid boyfriend who used to actually “mine” the things, whatever that means. He forecast that in the run up to the US elections, Bitcoin would boom and then likely sizzle back down or correct itself some time in January. The jury is still out on what happens in January, but by golly was he right about the boom.

I bought my seat at the table when one Bitcoin was worth around US$7,000. It’s now around US$40,000.  You know what that means?!

Well, it doesn’t mean that at all. Because I, like any novice and highly emotional investor, couldn’t bare watching my cash walk along the edge of a cliff. I jumped out when I was about USD$5,000 ahead. I mean, not bad for a first timer, but obviously kicking myself at how rich I could have been if I was trained in the art of dealing with investor anxiety.

It turns out that if you’re to be any good with Bitcoin, you need to have the stomach to deal with -20% drops in a single day. It’s an extremely uncomfortable practice, but one I really think I’d really like to apply the good old Comfort is for Wimps philosophy to. But alas, I think I still have a long way to go.

 3. I’M COMMITTED I feel like I’ve smashed you with a bunch of words already so I’ll keep this one short too. It’s just that it’s the new year, so it wouldn’t feel right to not address another little self-improvementy thingy I’ve been playing around with in my mind. And it’s the idea of commitment. 

Over the course of 2020, while all flights were grounded and I was no longer able to put my privileged ass on a plane and jet off any time I like, I felt like a chunk of my freedom had been taken away from me. However, the more I sat with it and got used to it, I realised that having less choices made it easier to commit to things. 

I’m nesting like a little bird!
 
In March 2020, I was in Vietnam with just a rucksack upon my shoulders and zero interest in owning lots of things. I’d just started a job where I could work anywhere in the world, so I planned to do just that. But now, with that opportunity continuing to dwindle before my eyes, I’m settling into the fact that maybe I should start collecting artwork to hang on my walls. 

Who am I kidding? I have already started collecting artwork, plus lampshades, plus couch cushions. Plus a compost bin.

I was also single and free in 2019, but now? Well, I have committed to making a successful relationship. It’s literally become one of my lifetime goals to focus on.

Freedom is a beautiful thing but when you have too much of it, it can actually hold you back from making more meaningful decisions. In a way, commitment is kind of freeing. That’s all from me today, over and out chicos.

Signed,
Jess from Comfort is for Wimps

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