Is anxiety all in my head?
I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖
This week's photos are from a misty New Year's Eve in The Hague, Netherlands (2019).
Is anxiety all in my head?
I nervously just tweeted about something relating to non-binary and transgender visibility. Nervously. Yesterday I had to call the car garage and talk to a man about cars. Took me a few hours due to anxiety but I got there. Remember my birthday anxiety? I went for a swim last week and I despite loving a good dip I was still anxious. This weekend I'm attending (attending? Yes I'm going somewhere) a photography festival. I'm anxious about;
Wearing a mask
Not wearing a mask and wearing lipstick
Wearing nail polish
Being seen as a freak or a "fair game" for "street photographers"
Not socialising and feeling depressed after for failing
Queuing outside the disabled loo due to invisible disability
Getting food somewhere so I don't pass out
This is my secret. I'm always anxious. Not really a secret after nearly 2 years writing about mental health... Anywho...
I am anxious about so many things. I was doing some cultural object photography for a client the other week. Over 300 people attended. I could count the number of people wearing masks on one hand. Of course it is perfectly legitimate to not wear a mask for certain medical reasons and I think the Prime Minister has made it ok not to wear a mask if you don't want to. I look at the numbers and I hear the stories from friends in the NHS and I wear a mask. I have a relative with cancer and so I wear a mask to hopefully help other people with relatives with cancer. I'm not attacking those who don't want to wear a mask anymore. I'm not judging you. (Am I? Sorry if I am.) The point I'm making is that in these situations my naturally anxious state is screaming at me. Should it be?
I'm not asking for scientific data on COVID spreading indoors or maybe I am so I can feel safe? What I'm saying is that my anxiety is often at an absurdly high level. Need it be? Should I be overly concerned about attending an event? Why should I be anxious about getting having a wild swim when I've had more than enough to get past the initial anxiety of something new? Shouldn't I be a confident portrait photographer by now having done it for 15 years? Shouldn't I be ok approaching anyone on the street to ask them to collaborate on a photo because I felt they look cool? I've done it enough so I should be able to draw on that experience to block out anxiety. Shouldn't I have been ok about my 43rd birthday given how historically birthday's with my wife are always fun? Shouldn't I life experience be a natural vaccine against anxiety? What is going wrong? Arg!
Is it all in my head? Is my mental health issue actually all in my head? Am I missing the signs that lead me up to "AHHHHHHHHH"? Do I need to tattoo things I know to good on my body Memento style to remind me that these things are ok?
Maybe all of this is in my head and can be controlled? Maybe the anxiety I feel towards a great deal of things is simply something I don't fully understand. Maybe if I could understand what exactly it is I could have control and power over it? Maybe all these anxious are things to be aware of but to essentially ignore. Is it possible to will myself to embrace the feeling of anxiety and be like "Oh you. Let's rock!" Does this come back to the question I ponder a few weeks ago? Fear or anxiety? Fear is rational. "Don't walk close to the edge of the cliff." Anxiety is irrational. "Don't do that thing you enjoy because what if...?"
I’m left wondering if whatever this anxious feeling is is something I need to learn to live with. Will I always be anxious? Will I one day recognise it and not let it hold me back? Logically the worst has never happened. I'm typing this so logically it isn't. So... just live? Not that easy is it.
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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
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I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.