My TOTALLY RATIONAL irrational behaviours
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, but there was probably no need for a test. I think I started having panic attacks about dying from about the age of seven or eight.
My grandparents were living with us while my grandpa battled terminal cancer and I suddenly started worrying I was going to be buried alive (being buried alive and dying in a plane crash are probably my two biggest fears). Apparently, in Ye Olde England they started tying bells to the wrists of fresh corpses before they buried them (after realising they’d been burying people alive). The term GRAVEYARD SHIFT referred to the person who listened for the bells (this practice supposedly also coined the phrase SAVED BY THE BELL and DEAD RINGER).
And here I was thinking Saved By The Bell was an early 90s sitcom…
I also experience a lot of compulsions thanks to my anxiety. I remember anytime I was at a school assembly, I would worry I was going to get up when someone else won an award. It would then take every fibre of my being not to stand up each time a name was called out. This later extended to a fear that I was going to jump off something high—balconies in particular. It started with the thought of how scary it would be to fall off. Then I’d actually have to step back from the edge, in case I accidentally climbed over the railing (how you could accidentally climb over a railing I HAVE NO IDEA). I basically stay away from any ledges now.
A few years ago, I came across a study by the Florida State University titled: An urge to jump affirms the urge to live: an empirical examination of the high place phenomenon. The study found this phenomenon was commonly reported in the general population (of the United States) and there was a significant correlation between it and anxiety. Effectively, they found it was a misinterpretation of an inbuilt safety mechanism. Basically, instead of recognising a ledge as a potential risk, those with heightened anxiety see it as a real risk, i.e. think their fear is a signal that they are about to jump. This actually also explains my fear of flying.
In fact, this phenomenon is SO COMMON it’s entered pop culture. In Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides, there’s a scene where Johnny Depp’s standing on the edge of a cliff and says: You know that feeling you get when you’re standing in a high place… sudden urge to jump? I don’t have it.
This is pretty much me every time I climb a ladder.
Although, I must say I probably shouldn’t be using Johnny Depp as a sanity check…
On Sundays, I let myself get all dewy-eyed, particularly about my teen years, which weren’t that long ago, thank you very much! Join me for a wander down memory lane and read all of my sentimental posts here. Just watch out for the puddles caused by my tears of angst.
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