I don’t want to do things, I want to not do things

Anxiety is a total fucker. It comes out of nowhere, refuses to listen to reason, and can make even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable.

Case in point: I finally went to the hairdresser yesterday after putting it off for months. I was a badly-needed visit. My fringe had grown past the end of my nose, the ends of my hair were starting to resemble rat tails, and the grey hairs I started to grow at 17 have been pushing their way through with a vengeance.

I’ve hated my hair lately and it’s made me feel terrible about myself everytime I’ve looked in the mirror or left the house. So why did it take me more than two months to just go and get it sorted?

Anxiety. That’s why.

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Certain things can trigger my anxiety and once that happens, everything makes me anxious and then I get trapped in endless cycles. For example, feel anxious and miserable because of physical appearance, fail at going to the hairdressers, feel even more anxious and miserable.

I put it off for so long because it’s something I find hard to face. I’m aware that probably sounds ridiculous but it’s true. First I have to actually pick up the phone and talk to someone to make an appointment. Get through that and the only reward is having to actually visit the salon.

I’m usually convinced that the stylists are judging me harshly for letting my hair get into such a terrible state in the first place. They’re always perfectly friendly and give no indication that they’re thinking any such thing but my brain insists that they’re just very good at acting and hiding their true disgust. I feel the need to apologise for my hair and have been known to invent reasons why I’ve left so much time pass between appointments.

And then they ask me what I want done with my hair. I usually mumble for a bit while internally I’m screaming “I don’t know, I have no idea, I’m not a proper person, please just make me look like a human woman”.  In the end, we just agree that I’ll have the same cut and colour as my previous visit.

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Now that all the logistics are sorted, it’s onto the small talk. It won’t come as a surprise that I struggle with this bit. I’m usually determined to try my best but I inevitably turn monosyllabic, like I’ve got a daily quota of words I can say and I’m scared I’ll reach my limit too soon. The stylist usually gives up after a while and we lapse into uncomfortable silence instead.

There’s a brief reprieve when I’m left alone to read while waiting for the colour to take. Once that’s over and my hair has been rinsed, it’s time for the actual haircut and more questions about what I want. How long do I want my fringe? Where should my parting be? When is this going to end so I can go home and drink tea? There’s usually another failed attempt at small talk and then it’s done. I’ve got my glasses off during all this so, when asked if I’m happy with it at various stages, I just smile and nod at the head-shaped blur in the mirror.

And that’s pretty much it. That’s my usual trip to the hairdresser. Sometimes it goes ok, other times my anxiety kicks in and it goes like I’ve just described above. When it’s the latter, I get annoyed at myself for letting anxiety get to me so much and I berate myself for not being stronger, more sensible, more, well, normal.I channel all my feelings into anger at myself for not just getting on with things. And, next thing you know, we’re back in that endless cycle of anxiety again.

I’m going to try something new though. I’m not going to berate myself, I’m going to tell myself that I achieved something yesterday. I’m going to ignore the fact that mental processes made it the experience more difficult than it should have been and choose to focus instead on the fact that I went and did it and got through it.

If you’re reading this and have never suffered social anxiety, you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts and shouldn’t be spilling my crazy all over the internet. Tough. This is my tiny part of the internet and I’ll do what I want with it. That’s why there are so many Dean Winchester gifs and photos of my cat on here. Writing this has been pleasingly cathartic and is helping nudge me towards seeing yesterday as an achievement rather than evidence of inability to function.

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Screw anxiety. This level of chill is what I should be aiming for.

It’s like I said at the beginning of this, anxiety is a total fucker. It turns rationality on its head and makes simple activities and interactions feel like major challenges. I haven’t learned how to banish it yet but I think I’m making a good start by learning to occasionally acknowledge personal achievements rather than failures.

Why are you keeping this curiosity-door locked?

I tried to go to bed at a sensible time tonight and I did indeed get there, I just didn’t stay for very long. I was falling asleep while getting ready for bed but, as soon as I switched the light off, my brain went into overdrive so I got up again after about ten minutes.

And that’s the story of why I’m now blogging on the sofa in my Hufflepuff pyjamas. I’ve had some ideas floating around this week that I’ve wanted to write about but it’s entirely possible that this is just going to be my usual mess of unstructured rambling. Plus, Crank is on ITV in the background so, be warned, I may start channelling Chev Chelios soon. If you’re offended by bad language, gratuitous violence and Jason Statham, now is the time to look away.

Anyway, best keep moving so I can keep my adrenaline levels up.

strangerthingsLike a lot of other people (judging by what I’ve seen online) I watched Stranger Things, Netflix’s new 8-part horror series, this week and loved it. This was for many reasons, one of which was obviously Dustin, the greatest kid character in anything. Ever.

I also liked that it seemed to pay tribute to a slew of 80s movies, directors and writers, whilst still being its own unique thing. That’s a difficult feat to pull off, creating something that feels fresh and exciting even when it constantly reminds its audience how much it owes to the past.

The series sees three young friends in small town USA become embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy when the fourth member of their gang goes missing. It’s got everything: a scary monster straight off a Del Toro set, secret experiments, dodgy scientists, Christmas lights as an integral part of the plot, and the perfect illustration of why you shouldn’t ditch your best friend for some dodgy bloke.

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Even the titles make my 80s heart sing

The whole thing is a love letter to the 80s so, as an 80s baby, I’m probably the ideal audience for its blend of nostalgia, friendship, and supernatural horror. Now that I’ve finished watching it, I feel like I should continue this nostalgia high by revisiting some classics. The films that have been on my mind all week as a result of watching Stranger Things, namely Stand By Me, the Goonies, and ET.

Let’s throw Short Circuit and Flight of the Navigator in there too. Stranger Things didn’t remind of those two but, hey, if I’m going home again, I may as well do it in style.

Oh, alright then. I’ll add Gremlins, Gremlins 2 and War Games to the list.

And Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Obviously.

I’m going to wrap this up now because even the loud noises and bright colours of Crank aren’t enough to keep me awake at the moment. Turns out I don’t need to count sheep, I just need to count all the 80s movies I want to re-watch…

 

When Ollie met Dean

I’m lucky to have some excellent friends who, although it may have been months or even years since I’ve physically seen them, are still an important part of my life. The kind of friends who can have you laughing hysterically via Whatsapp until you struggle to breathe properly, all the while trying valiantly to hide your laughter because you know you’ll never be able to explain what’s so funny to anybody else.

Two excellent examples are my lovely friends, Kate and Sile. An important bonding moment in our relationship came on 16 July 2005, the day that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. I was in Limerick for this momentous occasion as I was spending the weekend at Kate’s and Sile’s. There was just one problem: Sile and I had copies of the book, Kate’s copy was delayed. Now obviously the moral thing for Sile and I do would have been to delay opening our books until Kate also had hers. It would not have been to sit down and immediately begin reading whilst poor Kate clattered in the background baking in anger.

That day was important in the annals of our friendship, not just because it revealed some of us to be the immoral monsters that we are, but also because it’s the origin story of N.E.W.T.S.

Yes, N.E.W.T.S. Or, to give it its full title, New Escapades in White Tiny Shorts. A spin-off created by me and Sile surrounding the adventures of former Gryffindor Quidditch Captain Oliver Wood and what he wears under his Quidditch robes.

2016-07-21_21.55.48.jpgThis is all in my head this week because a recent Instagram comment session re-ignited a fascination with this spin-off, except now it’s been extended to include the Supernatural universe. Oliver Wood returns to Hogwarts as new Quidditch Coach at the same time that Dean Winchester is appointed new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Essential structure is that the two will initially have a pretty boy showdown in the halls of the castle before becoming best friends and…I dunno, handsomely solving crimes together or just handsomely sitting around being handsome or something.

Some more details:

  • The start of their beautiful friendship is when one gets accidentally dosed with a love potion and the other one has to haplessly drag them around the castle in search of a cure without alerting fellow staff or students. It really doesn’t matter which one is drugged, it works gloriously either way.
  • Bewitching the Impala so that it can fly.
  • Rowdy nights in Hogsmeade with Hagrid.
  • Dean unwittingly becomes Headmaster of Hogwarts for a day.
  • Hilarious misunderstandings when Dean tries to gank the Hogwarts ghosts. Also, Dean’s ongoing inability to understand the British way of just leaving their ghosts floating around the place.
  • Peeves and Dean become arch enemies.
  • McGonagall telling Professor Wood and Professor Winchester off for setting a bad example for the students with their incessant hijinks in the corridors.
  • Lovestruck female students and staff arguing about which Professor is the most attractive.
  • Dean persuading house elves to bring him burgers and pie.
  • Smuggling in firewhiskey from the Three Broomsticks.

See, it basically writes itself?

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Not my picture, downloaded it onto my phone ages ago during one of those slightly hysterical WhatsApp sessions…

Now we come to an important question: Which Hogwarts house will Professor Winchester be assigned to? The obvious answer is that he should join Professor Wood in Gryffindor but actually he’s much more suited to Hufflepuff and I will legitimately fight anyone who says otherwise.

In fact, Dean’s not just suited to Hufflepuff…he’s practically the Hufflepuffiest Hufflepuff to have ever Hufflepuffed. Just think about it. He’s loyal to a fault, he always gets the job done, he steps up and fights like a badass when others are in danger but is secretly happiest with a couch and some beer, and man, does he ever love him some pie.

Not convinced? Just watch how Dean responds to moving into the bunker and then try and tell me he’s not a true Hufflepuff.


And Sammy? He’s a Ravenclaw. No question. So maybe he’s got some sort of research position at the Ministry of Magic and can drop into Hogwarts for the odd cameo appearance whenever he needs to consult something from the library. Or, you know, whatever. Let’s go back to Ollie and Dean now…

 

 

Coping without my phone

You know, I really don’t think ‘coping’ is the best word to use here because I feel like that was the absolute last thing I did.

My phone died unexpectedly on Tuesday night. It was working fine and running on about 40% battery when I put in down on the coffee table. Picked it up ten minutes later and it was completely dead. I took it into the store yesterday where they signed its death warrant.

It’s not the end of the world. I was due an upgrade anyway so I just picked a new phone and started a new contract. So why am I even bothering to write about this? Because I went more than 40 hours without a phone and it’s worrying how twitchy that actually made me feel.

When it first died and I was flapping around the house because I didn’t know what to do, Chris tried to point out that I was over-reacting, asking “well, what is it that you use your phone for that’s so important?”

I pointed out that the last thing I’d used my phone for was sending my mother a Whatsapp message informing her that apparently Ian McKellen likes to wear skull-emblazoned slippers around his house. WHAT COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT?

But it’s much more than just the ability to share random celebrity trivia with family and friends. My phone was also my repository for endless photos of my cat being adorable, nightmarish Victoriana, and some classic photos of Harrison Ford.

Here are just some of the thoughts that plagued me while I was phoneless…

What if I encounter a “there’s a Supernatural gif for that!” situation but can’t back up my claim?
This one actually  happened when a friend mentioned Eye of the Tiger in casual conversation.

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  • What if I’m someone requires me to display an emotional response to something and I can’t just shove an appropriate David Tennant in their face?
    I’ve never been particularly comfortable with emoting and often don’t like to admit when I’m feeling bad. Why I should I be required to express my own emotions when David Tennant can just do it for me? I assume it’s why god gave the man such an expressive face.

 

 

 

  • What if I’m asked a question and I can’t look up the answer?
    I’m fairly certain that I know literally nothing about most things. That doesn’t normally matter because I can just whip out my phone and find an answer in seconds. Felt quite powerless having that taken away from me.

 

  • What if there’s an emergency and someone urgently needs a drawing of a bizarre Victorian owl man striding over a cityscape?
    If I have a working phone, I can save the day. I’m a hero! There’ll be parades! But without my phone? I’m just some dick getting in the way while the universe goes to hell.

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  • What if I’m having a bad day and need to look at photos of young, drunk Harrison Ford to cheer myself up?
    Before it tragically died, my phone had a special sub-set of images of Harrison Ford in bizarre situations. This one is my all-time favourite though. I almost cried laughing the first time I saw it and it still makes me laugh every time I see it.
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Nobody can tell me that this isn’t the greatest photograph anywhere on the internet.

Then there’s the fact that a smartphone is the ultimate crutch for the socially anxious. I always have a book in my handbag but even I have to admit that there are some situations where you can’t always get away with just sitting down and starting to read. Whether because it would be socially unacceptable or because the length of time (say waiting for a bus or standing in line in a cafe) would make it impractical to bother trying.

Smartphones are different though. I can scroll through Twitter, send messages, even just look at photos of my cat…basically just put up an “I’m busy” barrier between me and what’s going on.

I’ve been grateful that I’m still old skool when it comes to audio though and all my podcasts/music/audio dramas are on my iPod. Think I might have had an actual breakdown if I’d had to survive without all those as well.

So, should I be worried that my over-reliance on technological crutches means I turn into a gibbering wreck when separated from my phone? Probably. But I’m too distracted by my new phone to care.

 

Am I too old to fangirl?

It’s time for me to admit some uncomfortable home truths about myself.

I’m 33 years old. I have a job and a mortgage. I pay into a pension plan and my cat has pet insurance. On paper, I’m adulting pretty successfully despite the fact that, in reality, I haven’t got a fucking clue what I’m doing most of the time.

At the risk of coming over all Carrie Bradshaw, my question is: Given this theoretical adulthood, am I still allowed to fangirl?

 

When I hear the word ‘fangirl’, I think of screaming teenagers with posters on their bedroom walls. I think of constant daydreaming, doodling, and being willing to travel long distances to see your idol.I think of 15-year-old me swooning over Fox Mulder’s red speedos and writing Buffy fan fiction. And I’m not sure how any of that can or should relate to 33-year-old me.

I don’t express my geek interests in the same way these days but I do still get very enthusiastic about particular fandoms…so how should I be expressing that enthusiasm?

Teenage me was shy, socially anxious, and didn’t have a large social group so defaulted to spending time alone lost in a world of books and geekdom. Clearly lacking a ‘character development’ gene, adult me is much the same way. However, it no longer feels like a legitimate choice for me to behave like this.

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Totally me though

I’m an adult, god damn it.  I shouldn’t spend so much money on Pop Vinyls, I shouldn’t have a tumblr account, I shouldn’t know more about Neil Gaiman than I do about the people running the country, and I shouldn’t be so worried about ever meeting the actors behind Jago & Litefoot in case I’m so overwhelmed that I literally just burst into tears at them.

I don’t have posters of David Duchovny on my bedroom walls anymore but I do have Dean Winchester gifs saved on my smartphone. Is that more socially acceptable or should I be keeping quiet about such proclivities?

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Some of those gifs are extremely geeky

Some days I like wearing dresses, other days I’ll dress a bit smarter, and then there are the frequent days when I just want to wear jeans, converse, a geek t-shirt and my beloved grey hoodie. The problem is that I increasingly feel like I can’t get away with that latter option. I’m in my 30s, surely I shouldn’t still be dressing the way I did in my late teens?

I don’t know who defines ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ in these cases and, deep down, I know it doesn’t actually matter. I should be able to wear what makes me happy and comfortable without giving a toss what other people think…but I can’t. I worry that people judge me for dressing down and for being too old to wear shirts that basically say “check it out, this person is enthusiastic about a particular aspect of pop culture.”

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Ben Wyatt, geek hero

I’m not sure how I became conditioned to think like this though. That I should have already hit the chronological point in my life where I start acting and dressing my age.

I do watch the news and I can talk about current affairs if required to but, honestly, I’d much rather talk about Marvel films and the upcoming Preacher TV adaptation.

I also tend to compare too many actual real-life events and happenings to pop culture moments or channel things through references. See my gif selection in this post – most of these are basically me.

I get angry about social issues but I never bother to actually do anything. But Agent Carter gets cancelled and suddenly I’m writing whiny blog posts that nobody will read.

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No, but they’ll fucking cancel Agent Carter though

Good old Ben Wyatt really is one of my geek heroes and I should try to be more like him. Own my geekdom and ignore the haters. Don’t worry about what other people think and just carry on enjoying the things that excite me.

I’m a Hufflepuff, I can recite far too much of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy verbatim, I have so many feelings about BB-8 that it makes my heart want to implode, I own too many Qwertee t-shirts, I’m legit in love with Peggy Carter, and I have a Supernatural gif for every occasion.

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See?

I’m a fucking fangirl, damnit. I just wish I felt like that was okay.

Like I’ve been beaten up under water

Am I a good patient?

Fuck no. I’m terrible. My problem is that when I’m ill I just want everyone to leave me the hell alone. I don’t like when people try to sympathise or offer help…because that involves them talking to me and that’s usually the last thing I want.

Just pile some snacks up next to me, make sure my laptop and a stack of books are in reach, and send a mute butler in every so often with mugs of tea.

Oh wait, maybe this actually makes me an excellent patient. No nursing, emotional support, or physical contact required.

I stayed home  the other day with a head cold and I hated it. I did go to the office briefly but went home after an hour or so when the “ohgod, this is it, this is how I die” feelings got a bit too much.

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Basically me the other day

One of the most annoying parts of a head cold is that I feel like a complete wuss if I take time off work. But, at the same time, I know it also turns me into an incompetent idiot. For the past few days I couldn’t read, I couldn’t sew, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t dick around on the internet, and I could barely watch Supernatural. I spent two days with the kind of headache that worsens when you try and move. So there was lots of sitting quietly with my eyes shut.

I ended up spending part of my time pawing through my fabric pretties and gently petting them. I made all sorts of sewing plans in my head but became frustrated when my headache stopped me actually doing anything about them. Probably a good thing though, who knows what my lemsip-addled brain considers to be a clever idea?

The cat, my only company yesterday, has been showing nothing but disdain for my human frailty. Her response has mostly been along the lines of “what the hell is wrong with you, you freak? There is literally liquid falling from your nose and eyes – THIS IS NOT NORMAL!”

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My unsympathetic madam’s “blow your nose one more time, I dare you” face

I’m feeling a bit more human today though, helped in no small part by a surprise stack of Viennese biscuits appearing on my desk. Now I just need to remember what my crazy cold-induced sewing schemes were…