‘Shut the fuck up, Brenda’ – Dealing with Anxiety

As part of our Mental Health Awareness feature, SickeningGlasgow’s resident scream queen Jozef Hamilton shares his ongoing battle with his arch nemesis; Brenda.

Okay, so I get the irony of having of talking about mental health and having a division on this site labelled as ‘Sectioned Off’, there’s a method to this madness which I’ll get into.

So a little about my struggles. The biggest that I’ve carried along in my life is definitely anxiety and that’s been present since my earliest memories, easily from my very early childhood. I’ll give myself this, I’ve come a long way since then because there were points in my life where I couldn’t even speak to people outside of my comfort circle or leave my home without even wanting to vomit.  I think it’s very important when you reflect and talk about these issues to compare them from past to present. I’ve been quite open with this subject as far as I can remember, I mean it’s not something I wear as a sign around my neck but it’s something I’m quite happy to talk about, hence my agreement to write this.

I’ve tried many, many, many ways to cope with this and to be honest, trying to find a method is still an on-going issue, a lot of successful attempts. Funnily enough, I’ve taken to a method that our favourite run-of-the-mill, bisexual, transvestite, Russian hooker, Katya Zamolodchikova has opened up with. Like her, I call this voice Brenda, because I’d like to think of that voice as one omnipresent office cow who just likes to talk smack about everyone, you know, the kind with two eyes going in different directions. Surprisingly, this is quite a good way to cope with it but it’s something that you have to consistently tell yourself each day. The best way to drown out a voice is with another, make that one empowering and just tell her to shut the fuck up.

So let’s call it Brenda from this point onwards.

The biggest issue that stems from Brenda is self worth struggle and this is the one that just seems to swallow up all rational thinking. A few years ago I would be too scared to even glance into a mirror without thinking I was too ugly, too fat, that one blemish is so noticeable, you’re useless, you’re worthless, you should just end it and believe me, there have been times I have come very, very close to doing that but thankfully talked myself out doing so, it wasn’t without its scars though. Mental and physical. Now, I know you might be thinking, someone with Freddy Krueger and Lara Croft tattooed on their body is talking about worrying about self image? Well, firstly, fuck you Brenda and secondly, tattooing has proven to be a fantastic combatant against this, find what makes you comfortable in your own skin and fucking go for it. I know that some people use make-up to help deal with it as well as other methods. Do it, beat your face, do what makes you feel comfortable and happy. The only person you have from the moment you’re born until you die is yourself so you may as well get comfy for the long ride.

Brenda likes to insert irrational thoughts in your head too, ‘You’re not good enough’ is the one that seems to be a reoccurring one for myself. Basically what that means is that your mind is tricked to thinking that you’re not good enough to live a happy life. You don’t deserve friends, relationships, happiness. I would love to say money but I’m too much of an impulsive buyer so that all falls on me. I used to get worked up at friends not replying to texts because I thought I’d done something wrong and would beat myself up over that or even someone I’d been dating because the voice had taken over at that point and the panic was stemming from attempts to scavenge any form of happiness. I have been told I’m fat, worthless, ugly and useless by people before however, so its not like the seeds were sewn specifically from Brenda herself but in all honesty and with a rational mind, if someone is prepared to say that to another person, then they are absolutely not worth listening and can promptly get to fuck. I’m learning that I need to love myself first and foremost before anyone else. 

Honestly too, I’m still struggling with all of the above issues, the unfortunate thing with them is that they come in waves, so you can think you’ve managed to put the final nail in the coffin before that bitch punches a hole through the wood.

So with the anxiety, Brenda, its ugly sister depression often joins the party and that’s always a barrel of laughs when that happens, so not only do you have Brenda talking smack to you on a daily basis, you also have a total lack of energy, passion and drive to do anything. There have been periods where I have gone totally AWOL from people and been like a robotic zombie. Get up, go to work, go home, go to sleep. Well, that is when you can sleep, an unfortunate side effect of all the above is that your mind is going into overdrive that it’s impossible to fully tune out, so that leads into more anxiety about not being able to sleep properly and your health declining, it’s just a vicious circle until something temporarily breaks it. 

Now, I know that some people think that anxiety is non-existent, when you’re told to just “not be” or “get over it”, that really boils my piss, yeah thanks, that cleared that right up, Dr. Seuss. Let me describe what it is like to go through an anxiety period. Imagine yourself in a dark room with absolutely no way of getting out and the walls are very, very, slowly closing in. It’s a constant feeling of dread and  hopelessness. I’ve had anxiety attacks in all sorts of settings, from being by myself at home to even on the dance floor, the horrible thing with an anxiety attack is that your safe haven suddenly becomes foreign and the floor feels like it’s going to crumble under your feet. The accelerated heartbeat and paranoia that surrounds it has even winded and knocked me off my feet at the worst of times. Feeling that looming dread when you’re not expecting it is one of the worst things that can happen in a social situation, having to cut an event short or coming across as rude to others because you’re desperately trying to keep it under control is an unfortunate side effect.

I have been to my GP’s before, many times. I’ve had a few counselling sessions, been on a few different medications and although I’ve not found anything that works particularly amazing for myself, it has absolutely helped in letting my GP know exactly what I’m going through. You need to talk to people about this stuff, if you don’t have anyone to talk to, fire me across a message because having someone to even just vent to can take the weight of the seemingly ending world off your shoulders. I’ve let my family and friends, as well as bosses at work, inside and I’ve noticed a drastic difference in the understanding of others. Also, laugh about it. I’m a very dark humoured person so joking about any subject isn’t something I’m not used to, I’ll be the first person to crack a joke aimed at myself (hence the name of my sector on this site), counteract Brenda with an even bigger but more positive badder bitch, Madge.

I’m lucky all things considering and I know that everyone says this but this is really true, I am surrounded by the best motherfuckers in the whole entire world who show nothing but love and support and I would honestly be lost without them. My friends and family have supported me through thick and thin with this, especially those who experiences similar emotions. As I said before, it’s important to reflect as you were to as you are now. Five years ago, I never would have thought I would be where I am today, I’m not exactly where I want to be at the end of my run but my life has more stability, love and support than it did then, which I’m very thankful for. Giving up back then would have been for nothing so don’t you even think about doing it.

Wow, reading back on this my language has been colourful to say the least but I decided that when talking about a personal issue, it’s important for me to talk to you as I would in person. At the end of the day, we’re all survivors in life. Although this is something that I don’t think will ever leave me, it’s as much a part of me as my eyes or my hair (or lack of), all I can do is keep it under control as best I can. Anyone else who knows me will tell you one thing, I won’t go down without a fight.

Don’t let that cow get the better of you.

 Shut the fuck up, Brenda!!

If you are feeling suicidal or worried about someone else call:

Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87

Article by Jozef Hamilton

Foreword by Gordon Penman

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