I have a mouth, and I must not scream.

To use the title of one of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ pieces from The Social Network soundtrack, I’m sitting at my desk at work at 8:30 Monday morning with The Gentle Hum Of Anxiety.

Reznor is always my comfort zone, if I had my headphones on I’d be listening to the Quake soundtrack.

This weekend I got a ton of things done while my partner was house sitting and out of the house. I’m not sure if it was the absence of them, a bit of random energy pre anxiety attack (I’ve been overdue for a while), or just the ability of telling my self “You’ve done a little, you can do a little more”, but compared to a normal weekend, well, I’d say it was the imperial fuckton. I know, I know, we’re in a metric world, and I’m Australian so I’ve not even been raised with imperial, but what can I say — I’ve spent my time in the miniatures gaming trenches, and imperial is easier.

If you’re not familiar with anxiety attacks, trying to stay on point during one can be hard. If you ARE familiar, well, yeah.

Friday night I sat down with my airbrush to paint a random gunpla kit I’ve been working on (my fourth — no, I lie, fifth Sinanju, I have a thing for red and curves). Saturday morning around 9am I went back out to the shed and remembered the small patch of grass we call a lawn needed cutting, lest our four kilogram pupper Daisy (named after Daisy Johnson, Agents of Shield) find herself lost in the jungle of weeds. I grabbed the weed wacker, or line trimmer for the non Americans, and set to work. While I’ve got it out, I thought to myself cunningly, I’ll just pop out the front where the weed’s have actually grown higher than the car along the driveway, maybe knock them down a bit.

Silly me. See, when you’ve got borderline personality disorder sometimes you get an idea in your head and you just go. Next think I knew it was four PM, I’d had several changes of clothes and a shower, the green waste rubbish bin was fuller than an AC/DC concert on a Friday night at a footy oval, and I’d lain waste to the entire side of the driveway, lain down some black plastic my Dad had flogged a roll of from the plastics factory he’d worked at twenty years ago, and covered half of that in 450kg (ok, weights I don’t tend to do in imperial, but I think it’s around 1100 pounds?) of bark chips.

One of my favourite sayings is “Well, I’m not here to shag spiders.” Very appropriate for borderline personality disorder.

Sunday was more airbrushing in the morning, then dropping some models off to a mate from the weekend before when we had a huge gunpla diorama at AVcon (anime/video game convention in South Australia), a quick duck to Military Hobbies for paint, and then the regular Gundam Club Australia monthly build meet at Greenlight Comics in Adelaide.

And I think it’s about there that the anxiety pin got pulled.

One of the things I find overwhelms me and helps kick off a bout of good old gut wrenching, chest clutching, fire-ants-crawling-on-the-skin anxiety is noise. I don’t mean just a bit of noise in the background, like the TV or some kids playing next door, I mean aggressive noise. Vulgar noise. Obnoxious, invasive noise that gets into your spine some how and gives it a good rattle. When you add too many loud voices, often layered into multiple conversations on top of one another, the human voice gets this brash aggressiveness to it that just… sets me off.

Normally it’s fast, and I realise. I go “for a walk to grab lunch”, “pop to Shin Tokyo to grab a model” (I already had, and had left a magnificent piece of my own to go into the display cabinet), or just duck to the bathroom to quietly breathe for five to fifteen minutes while taking a number three (checking twitter).

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice.

The noise had built steadily, I think, and it crept in. I don’t think I realised at all how bad it had me, how bad it was warping the edges of my consciousness, until just now — and that’s only the hindsight and shaky hands of this morning.

(EDIT: separating this paragraph, to make it clearer that it was a delayed blast anxiety attack — which they often can be. What, you thought it was all immediate? Oh lord no, it’s a fuse…)

See this morning I was on the train (reading some Kameron Hurley who is amazing, I’m on a re-read of the Bel Dame Apocrypha) and it started. I felt a deep lethargy, like I was made of lead, at the same time that my bones felt like they were beginning to vibrate. I’d left my headphones at home, stupidly, it’s been a while since it’s hit me in public like that and I think I’d got too comfortable. I put my iPad away, crossed my arms to hug myself defensively, and assumed the “random guy sleeping on the train” pose hoping I could concentrate it out.

It didn’t work.

At some stop most of the school kids got off and an empty double seat opened across the isle so I leapt over to it, assuming the position again but with the comfort of a window to lean on. I sms’d a friend, someone who knew my anxiety almost as well as their own: “Don’t you hate the days where outwardly, all anyone can see is a resting cat face,” (I despise the term resting bitch face, we don’t need to gender expressions thank you very much, but anyone who’s had a cat knows the facial expression well) “but inwardly, your anxiety is screaming louder than Unicron?”

(look, I’m on the tail end of Gen-X, so some of the references are dated, but I’m providing links ok?)

Just getting that out there, identifying the anxiety, willing myself to reach out, and sending a message helped. I jumped to twitter, repeating a similar statement (if you’ve seen Transformers: The Movie, you know the loud “BWAAAA” I’m referring to). It helped a little more. The train came to the station in Adelaide, so I started running comfort routines in my head — I could grab a pepsi (something about soft drink helps calm the anxiety around my stomach, I liken it to pinching the thumb nerve in your hand to fight off a headache), I could grab a yoghurt cookie, I could I could I could.

I stood on the escalator, knowing the trudging up the stairs would make it worse, using the still time to breathe and re-centre.

I was early, there was only a few people in the office when I got up here. I filled my water bottle. I grabbed a coffee, an instant hazelnut late, and turned on the fan at my desk. It’s still winter here, and it’s cold as well diggers’ ass (thanks Tom), but the cool air helps center me back down.

People started to arrive. I slowly felt more in control.

And that’s all we can do sometimes, isn’t it? Keep it in control. Keep on keeping on. One foot in front of the other, and all that shit.

Sure. I have a mouth, but must I scream?

Nerd, social justice warrior, writer, artist, mental health advocate with resting cat face. Big believer in "what if?", aka @tilaurin webwide. They/them

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