Friday, March 18, 2016

Modern First World Privilege: On Veganism and Antivaxxers

I've been thinking a lot lately about specific movements that have arisen because the culture and technology of our modern first world has essentially allowed their creation. Now I'm no expert on any of these things, so contained within are my observances and opinions. Take that as you will.

The two movements I want to discuss are Veganism and Antivaxxers. One a perfectly valid life choice, one a terrible life choice.

Vegans, of course, avoid all products derived from animals as much as possible, usually for ethical reasons but sometimes also for health reasons. This generally stems from the way animals are treated in modern agricultural and manufacturing processes, especially by large businesses whose priority is often the bottom line over... well, anything else. Some vegans go so far as to say that exploiting any animal in any way is wrong, with broad definitions of 'exploiting'. Or made up definitions of 'exploiting' (I'm looking at you, PETA). Anyway, I'm not going to go into great detail, but there's certainly a range of what various vegans find morally reprehensible or not.

Look, there's definitely plenty of reason to scrutinise the practises of big businesses in regards to their treatment of animals, from animal testing to raising animals in terrible conditions and so on. I personally do care about where I get my animal products from and how those animals are treated. If at all possible, I'll make the most ethical choice available. But it isn't always possible, because as with a lot of things, making the better choice isn't always the affordable choice. Alternatives to mainstream products are both generally for smaller markets and more expensive to produce, and so nearly always cost quite a bit more. I'm happy to pay for that when I can, but I'm poor and disabled and my budget is very limited.

But I'm not even really concerned with the individual privilege of being able to afford it, because it's modern first world privilege that means this lifestyle is even available.

Veganism can only sustainably exist in our modern world because we have access to a wide variety of foods all year round and we don't absolutely need animal products anymore to survive. This also includes having alternatives to leather, hooves for glue and gelatine, fur for warmth, etc. But this wasn't true for the vast majority of human history. Without animals and the technology they inspired or allowed us to create, we would not have the modern world as it exists today. Farming and animals that were able to be domesticated for various uses were essential in creating the building blocks of modern civilisation. (CGP Grey, who runs a fun and informative YouTube channel, touches on this idea in his Americapox video about why Europeans brought horrible diseases to the Americas but not vice versa.)

We would not be here to discuss the morality of using animals for our own means without doing this exact thing for thousands of years.

And that's what I mean by privilege. It's a privilege to have advanced to the point where we can have this discussion. And I'm not implying it's one we shouldn't have. We probably should. But it's also why people, me among them, get annoyed by the most moralistic preachers of the vegan lifestyle. There's a common statement they make that it is 'morally wrong' to eat meat, full stop. Well, for one, I don't believe any food carries any sort of moral weight, nor should it (because moralising food leads to a lot of problems we see in our current culture and not to healthier populations). But also we are animals as well, and if it's not absolutely wrong for other animals to be carnivores or omnivores, it's not absolutely wrong for us either. And again, there's the simple fact that animals and the way we've used and consumed them has brought us to this point in history. It wasn't morally wrong for our ancestors to find ways to survive that have meant we are alive now.

There are legitimate arguments to be made about the ethics, health, and ecological concerns of overconsumption of meat and how much we should really be eating given that we do have the privilege to avoid it. And being vegan is, as I said, a perfectly reasonable lifestyle choice if that matches best with the role food plays in your life. There is no real right or wrong side here. But I think it's important to acknowledge it for the privilege that it is, whether or not you are vegan yourself.

And that long-winded explanation brings us to Antivaxxers, a touchy subject at the best of times. Well, in this case, there is a right and wrong side to be on, because the public health effects of not vaccinating your children can be devastating, as we are beginning to see with various outbreaks becoming more and more common. Not to mention the moral and ethical repercussions of forcing this choice on your child, who can't consent one way or another to something that could have lethal consequences.

This is where the privilege of the modern first world world is most evident, in that vaccines are SO effective that we have a whole movement of people who believe they aren't necessary or are even dangerous.

I mean, think about that for a second. Really consider what's happening here. Through science and modern medicine, we have controlled or essentially eliminated a whole host of debilitating, and sometimes lethal, diseases. People around my age have probably never known someone who had measles or polio or whooping cough growing up, turning them into these mythical things that happened to people Before Now. But they don't happen anymore, right? We're past all that. Then you add in a spurious study about how vaccines are linked to autism (which has been both disproved AND the original study condemned for falsifying data), but it's put this fear into people's minds, one that simply will not go away.

Out of context, yes, the idea of injecting a bunch of strange liquids into young children does sound pretty horrific. And only scientists could really explain to you what exactly is in vaccines and how they work. Most people could probably understand a general explanation, if they wanted to, but science alone seems to not be enough to change antivaxxer's minds.

Obviously, other things are at play here which also tie into first world privilege, like the idea that natural is always better than things made in a lab, no matter if they are chemically identical or not. Also a distrust of capitalism and large corporations and things like that, which isn't entirely unreasonable. There's this culture of 'back to basics' and being 'in touch with nature' and rejecting the modern world which all contribute to this ardent belief that something is wrong about vaccines. And this belief is religious-like in nature, which people cling to beyond all sense or reason. How we combat that is something that still needs to be figured out.

But essentially, it's a privilege to be able to think that vaccines are unnecessary or dangerous. It's a privilege created by having such a successful modern society. Ask the generation before mine, or especially the generation before that, and they can tell you firsthand how devastating some of these diseases can be and why it's so amazing that we've managed to suppress quite a lot of them.

There was a time in human history where children dying of illness was common and contributed (in some ways) to a larger family size because the more you had, the more likely at least some of them would survive into adulthood. Our way to deal with horrific disease was procreating a whole lot and hoping the numbers would pan out in the end. It's kind of amazing we found our way past that and into a time where even the idea of perpetuating the survival of the human race this way seems ridiculous. We're so good at surviving now that overpopulation is a real concern. It's a bit mind-blowing when you consider the full context of how we got to this point.

The takeaway from all this, I think, is that sometimes the unique problems that arise from our current point in history are good problems to have (lots of food choices and different ways to eat!), and others (resurgence of lethal diseases...) not so much. I'm sure someone somewhere is doing research on this effect of the modern world. And surely this has happened before as technology has advanced over time? I feel like it must have but I haven't looked into it myself. Anyway, that's a job for a sociologist, probably.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Queer Thoughts: Thoughts on Queerness

It's nearly 3am and instead of allowing me to sleep, my brain is racing around having all sorts of thoughts and feels about all sorts of things. So, the usual. And I came to a very odd realisation.

I'm very open about my mental illness and my history of self harm, because it's important to me to do so. We can't keep breaking down the (better but still quite strong) stigma surrounding mental health unless we talk about it. So I talk about it.

But I've never completely and openly talked about my queerness in the same way, and in a lot of ways that is so much harder for me than speaking about my depression and my anxiety and even my self-harm. Which is strange, no? In general, it's more acceptable to be queer than mentally ill. The fight against physical and mental ableism has a very long way to go, and just tonight the US has declared that same sex marriage is a human right.

So maybe the news has me thinking about my sexuality. I don't exactly hide it or lie about it. (It is in my bio on this page, frex.) It doesn't define me, but it certainly is an important part of my identity. I mean, I'm pretty open about it, but at the same time I'm not. It's difficult to explain. Part of it has to do with my family and the life I left behind in California. They know (at least, I would be more surprised if they didn't) but it's not a topic of discussion. Ever. And part of it has to do with the fact I married a man. I mention having a husband and that is that, I'm just another straight lady. I don't think it's a thing to shout from the rooftops ('Hello, I just met you, and I'm married but I'm not really straight' is very difficult to work into casual conversation), but it's definitely easier to hide behind face value assumptions. For a long time, I've felt I haven't deserved my queerness because, for all intents and purposes, I appear hetero (but more on that below).

I guess if you are reading this and didn't know or realise... um hi? This is an extra official coming out?

Anyway, I was also thinking about how I recently re-read one of my absolute favourite books, Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, and how I might write a review on what it means to me; What it meant for me as a queer young adult coming to terms with my sexuality after a conservative childhood when I first read it about a decade ago, not long after it came out. One of the core themes of the book, 'Love as thou wilt,' felt revolutionary. I'd read other queer literature (Sarah Waters comes to mind in particular), but as exciting as it was to read about girls in love, it was even more so to read about love with no categories or gender boundaries. I saw something of myself in Phedre that I'd never seen in a protagonist before then. Something we still lack in a lot of media today.

Inside and outside of the LGBT+ community, bisexuality is looked down upon. (I call myself queer for 'gender is not a binary' reasons but I identified as bi for a long time so I'm using it for simplicity's sake.) 'Pick a side.' 'You're really <insert straight/gay>, not bi.' 'Bi is a test run for being gay.' 'You're not oppressed because you can 'blend in' as hetero.' 'Bi people are twice as likely to cheat.' etc. etc. Those of us who don't fit into the neat categories of heterosexual or homosexual have heard it all before. I'd say it's almost worse within the queer community sometimes, and I've seen a lot of angry tumblr posts about 'BI PPL DON'T BRING YOUR HETERO PARTNER TO PRIDE CAUSE IT'S NOT FOR YOU' which makes me conclude that we haven't come very far, either. It's why I spent a good amount of time before getting married as a 'lesbian', cause it was just simpler and easier all around. Marrying a cis man kind of put the brakes on that, and after that I felt ashamed to be one of those queer people who have the advantage of 'blending in'. So I've spent all that time mostly doing just that.

I'm not magically straight now that I'm married. I'm not any less queer than I was before. But I've let a lot of stigma silence me into complacency. I know I was essentially excluding myself, but I've felt that the queer community was not my community since my marriage. And maybe those tumblr posts have struck a nerve, because I've let myself be silent for too long. It may feel powerful for LGBT+ folk to exclude others after they've been excluded from so much for such a long time, but that doesn't make it okay. Biphobia is just as bigoted as homophobia and transphobia (another thing the queer community needs to work on, to be fair). (I've seen some other vile bi-hate in the form of 'if you haven't had sex with the same sex, you aren't really queer so don't come to pride' also. ugh.)

Yeah, I've benefited from heterosexual privilege. That's a given. I will acknowledge my privilege all day long, but I'm tired of being ashamed of it. And I won't stand for hatred in what should be my community also. My queerness is just as valid as anyone else.

So, this is me (terrified and sleep-deprived) talking about it. Just as I talk about my mental illness, stigma be damned.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Am Tired

I'm tired of the roller coaster ride of emotions that is my life. But there's also not much I can DO about it. I have mental illness. I am mentally ill. This is it for me. I can improve things, of course, but there's no fix or cure. I'm beholden to the whims of my mind for better or for worse for the rest of my life.

I've actually been doing really well over the past couple months. I finished up my one uni class this semester and I think I have a good shot at getting an HD (that's an A equivalent for you Yanks.. only it's way harder to get HDs than As cause Aussies are serious about this education stuff). I've been doing tons of writing and involving myself in various projects and learning and reading and more writing. It's really fun and I enjoy it. I've already seen a lot of improvement and I'm only going to keep getting better with effort. The second draft of the novel is also making good progress, and I'm weaving this crazy plot stuff together like a pro (hahahah not really, I have no idea what I'm doing... but I will get there).

It's not perfect, cause I'm still physically ill a lot and have no answers yet. I don't know that I ever will have answers, or if I'm just going to have to wait until medicine gets good enough to figure this out. I also went through a brain med change, which is... well, if you've done it, you know. It's basically the worst thing.

Still, I've been overall really good considering just how AWFUL things were earlier this year. And when I'm good, I'm really really good. Like, I have forgotten what that depression thing even is and everything is yay and I can do anything! Well, anything within reason given my sickness and anxiety, but still... it's nice to have a really short-term emotional memory when I'm in Up phase. It's GREAT.

But it makes the Down swings a lot harder to deal with. I almost preferred when everything was all terrible and difficult and I was miserable and angry all the time (no, not really), but there's much less of a fall when you're already down in the gutter. Y'know?

I pushed myself a bit too much just before my Final Exam this semester, and I ended up fatigued and sleeping through a couple of days instead of studying. Then there was Stress and frantic study and panic about doing well on the exam. And though I was relieved when it was over, the next day I had a horrible flare up of pain and could barely move. And after that I spent about five days battling a constant migraine and the pain off and on. It only just let up late last night, and I'm starting to feel slightly functional again.

Still, with physical illness flare, my mood decided to drop Down Down Down... deep into a really bad depression hole. Didn't matter all the stuff I'd been accomplishing, and all the effort I've been putting into everything, I was pretty certain that I would never feel okay again. Or, at least, it didn't matter how good I was or for how long, because I know that those downward swings are ALWAYS going to happen. They come whether I want them to or not, and suck out every bit of anything good in my life. I knew it was the depression painting everything grey, and I knew it was temporary (it's always temporary), but I didn't know how long it would stick around THIS time. It could be thankfully short like it was, or it could be months. And in the midst of depression, my short-term emotional memory works against me, because I can't remember being happy or what it's like thinking things will ever be okay or anything positive.

Tonight, I'm back to my "normal" self. (I dunno that I have a normal, to be honest. I don't really do in between.) I'm writing and bouncing around to music and back to focusing on all the things I need to do to keep getting my life together, as if I wasn't horribly depressed up to 24 hours ago. Soon, I'll forget just how drained and miserable and hopeless I was last week.

It's tiring, all the up and down. If I talked to my GP about it, there might be other meds I could try to help, but I'm also terrified of going the other way and evening things out so far that I just become numb. I'm also scared of those inevitable Downs. It's not a very safe space for me to be in for very long. Do I continue to hope that I am lucky and they stay short?

I dunno. There are no easy answers. There never are when it comes to mental illness. For now, I'm okay and I'm tired.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Speak The Truth Even If Your Voice Shakes

The thing that still angers me the most, that still hurts the most, is how he took my anxieties, my fears and my trust especially, and he turned them into weapons. "You are too dependent." He said it so many times and with so much confidence, it had to be true. Didn't it?

He said he cared. He showed he cared, until that moment he realised he didn't have to anymore. I trusted him. I gave him one of the most precious things I have to give. Trust that my well-being meant as much to him as it did me. Trust there was no venom behind his words and actions. Trust at all, because I can count the people who have truly earned it, unquestioning, on one hand; and only one even lives in the same city as me. And I don't mean "Here's $50 pay me back when you can" trust. Or "Please take care of my cat for a week" trust. Or even "I'm drunk, please ensure I get home unharmed and unscathed" trust. This is "My life is literally in your hands" trust. Because it was. To allow someone to support you fully in your mental illness is to hand them your ability to survive.

And he turned it into something vile, a poison to eat away at me from the inside out. A dagger sunk deep into my heart and twisted with a grin. I handed him the keys to my own destruction, and the change was instantaneous, like a venus fly trap snapped shut to capture its prey. Had he literally stabbed me in the back, it would have hurt far less.

The thing is, I never asked anything of him. At least, nothing he hadn't already proved over and over he was willing to give. But it was too late. Once the cage slammed down, there was no acceptable level of expectation. It was a trick, and it always was intended to be. Asking for anything, even the tiniest level of consideration, was always going to be too much. What I wanted, what I needed; it all ceased to exist.

He rode in, your stereotypical knight in shining armour, and gave me far more than I would dare to ask of anyone. But also not too much. If you're too willing, too helpful, the scales tip the other way and motivations come into question. No, he knew the perfect balance. Always more than I expected but never so much I grew suspicious, either. He tested my boundaries, subtle little aggressions which were easily brushed aside by an anxious mind trained to stop believing the worst about everyone and everything. Eating all but one of a snack I shared with him, just to see if I would complain. "Forgetting" to mention to me that the thing we planned together with friends was actually happening, to see if I'd protest at being left out of my own social gathering. So many little pushes here and there, trying to find out when he'd finally go too far. Swallowing down his good intentions, the boundary lines kept contracting further, inward and inward again, until there was nowhere left to go.

And so, I was caught in his web of honeyed lies. And once caught, that I gave him the thing he worked so hard to earn, my trust, became the basis of everything I was doing wrong. I relied on him, and suddenly attempts at contact would go unanswered. Suddenly, the white knight was overwhelmed and nowhere to be found. I pointed out he was hurting me, and I was expecting too much, I was dependant, and too broken for anyone to cope with. I gave him solid boundaries and guidelines to avoid triggering my anxiety, and these were promptly ignored. He wanted me anxious. Anxiety breeds fear, which in turn breeds compliance. Fear of scaring away my one source of support (after he had pushed me away from all others), and the fear that he was right, that I was too broken. The push was an easy one once he had my trust, because they are the constant plague of the mentally ill, that we would lose everyone and everything from something beyond our control.

I handed him the very thing that would be my undoing. Well, nearly. It took him messing with the already-delicate inner workings of my mind, pushing me to the brink of giving it all up, for me to say enough was enough. Finally, the one boundary I was unwilling to give up. That one little voice in my mind that keeps me going when every fibre of my being tells me not to, that thread of strength I rarely realise I have inside that forces me to survive. He was destroying me from the inside out, and I knew it had to stop.

And I was angry. It was a pure rage. To let him get so far, to give up so much to cling to something so deadly, to lose all sense of my worth as a person deserving of the most basic respect. I was so very angry, and I still am. Even that rage has been turned against me, proof that I am the one wrong, the one causing harm. To feel so deeply lessens your worth, and in a world run by power-hungry abusive controllers, we see this to be true. To not feel is a privilege, the domain of those with the ability to crush others under their heel without consequence. Anger is where the rest of us live, and it gives us strength and clarity to finally resist. That's why anger is wrong. That's why its condemned. Anger is power. Anger is revolution.

I am hurting. And I am angry. I am a threat, and as long as I continue to speak truth without fear, I always will be. That my focus has a specific He and Me is irrelevant. There are 'He's and 'Me's all over. Mine is a story told over and over, in so many places, in so many ways. We are angry and unafraid to speak. Tear us down. Call us crazy. Try to destroy us, if you can.

We know you are watching. We know you are afraid. We have the weapons, the truth, the daggers, the power, now, and we will never stop.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

More Context and Talking About Difficult Things

This is a thing I've been meaning to post about for a while now, but it's difficult to discuss. Yes, I know I'm super TMI a lot on my internet public spaces but even I have things I don't like to talk about sometimes. :P But I think this will help provide even more context to some of what's happened in my life over the past year.

I've mentioned how a) intentions don't matter and that actions can be classified as abuse regardless and b) I feel that some of the ways my husband treated me were abusive. It might seem weird that what happened with... ok, I really hate continuing to refer to him as a 'friend' so we're going to go with Jerkface... So yes, it might seem weird that what happened with Jerkface blew up in ridiculous and public ways and I pretty much would prefer he would stop existing (*bink* just gone.. nothing violent, I just wish one of those sci-fi time travelling things where you could erase someone would happen), and that I'm still good friends with the Husband and I still love him. How can I call both men guilty of abuse and condemn one and not the other? From the outside, it does seem hypocritical, but it's not like issues of abuse are EVER black and white. On the other hand, I find it hypocritical that I've mentioned that I feel that Husband abused me and people nodded in solemn and sympathetic agreement, but many of these same people went out of their way to justify Jerkface's behaviour and argue against my anger at him for mistreating me in blatant and damaging ways. So, y'know, whatever.

Intentions don't matter when categorising behaviour as abuse, but the attitude of the abuser towards the abused DOES matter. A lot. I haven't discussed the specifics of Husband's behaviour, because it's difficult and also it's not that important. I believe that he truly loves me and cares about how he affects me and, most importantly, is truly regretful of the ways he's hurt me. In essence, I believe the abuse was, for all intents and purposes, accidental. That doesn't make it less harmful, and my decision to separate and give myself space from the Husband was absolutely the correct one. Where things will go from here, I don't really know yet, but I won't condemn him as a bad person because I know deep down that he isn't. He can be careless and thoughtless. He can think he's doing the correct thing in a situation when he isn't. And he can find it difficult to admit he's wrong. But I've known him for nearly a decade and a half, and for much of that we've been in a relationship together. I probably know him better than anyone else. That he truly loves me and cares about my wellbeing has never been in doubt.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am. The difference between how Jerkface and the Husband made me feel overall is massive. Jerkface spouted a lot of things to placate me, said all the right words and then did things to hurt or provoke me anyway. He didn't care how he affected me at all, only that I was complacent under his control. When I wasn't complacent, I was punished. There was no regret, no real care about my wellbeing, only blame, manipulation and control. If there WAS regret at his actions and how they affected me, it was never expressed TO me. And that's why others have a hard time believing his intentions were anything but good. Because he said all the right things to them so they would accept he was just trying to do right by me, that he was trying to be a "good friend" but just didn't know how (bull fucking shit). But the fact that he never, ever would say sorry or take responsibility for how he made me feel to my face is damning in and of itself. I had to pull teeth to even get him to admit he "felt bad" that he hurt me in between all the guilt, blame shifting, and everything else. I was never a person to him. I was a thing, a toy that he could mindfuck to make him feel better about himself. I know this to be true. I will never accept his actions as accidental. I will never be okay that anyone else does. And I definitely will never stop being angry at anyone who believes he's a worthwhile person to have in their life. I don't have to be, cause I don't have to forgive anyone who would treat me that way and anyone else who enabled his behaviour in any way at all.

But I'm getting ranty and off point. So, why do I feel the Husband behaved abusively towards me?

Because his anger and frustration were often directed at me in ways that were unjustified, so that I have felt the need to just appease him so he calms or shut up and apologise so he'd stop. This was never physical, just verbal, but it was at its worst just before and just after the separation. It's one of the main reasons I had to leave.

Because he often phrases things in passive aggressive ways designed to make me feel bad. "YOU left ME so yadda yadda guilt guilt guilt." I think we all are guilty of this behaviour in some ways sometimes. I know I am. I'm not saying this in and of itself is damning. It's childish mostly, but also it's a strongly repeated behaviour on the Husband's part and still can be. I tolerate it less than I used to, and call it out if I can.

Because it felt like his behaviour and mood always worsened the more I became functional and independent, as if his role as my support was being threatened and I had to stay sick so he could continue to take care of me. I was always being dragged back down into my mental illness. I think this is something I've discussed here before, but my psychologist had to make me see why this was problematic and why she describes our relationship as codependent.

And because I feel that some of the ways he treated me "for my own good" helped me stay feeling "crazy and out of control". Such as physically restraining me so I wouldn't self-harm. It took hanging out in spaces on the internet for those of us who are neuroatypical and have experienced abuse to realise that this really isn't okay. And it's still the most difficult thing for me to discuss.

My real point with all this is simply that I've experienced a lot of abuse between the Husband and Jerkface, and that allows me to compare and contrast intention, attitude, and amount of harm caused in a lot of ways that no one else but me really can. I don't hate the husband and I'm not angry at him. Treating someone badly sometimes doesn't make you an irredeemable piece of shit automatically, and that I still want the Husband in my life makes sense to me, even if for now we also need a lot of space and time from one another.

When you've seen the intensity of my anger towards Jerkface and anyone who's defended him and see that I am STILL extremely angry and STILL hurting all the time, understand there's a lot of rational context surrounding it. I'm an emotional person. I'm often giving in to my emotional whims. But that doesn't make me wrong to be angry nor irrational in my hatred of someone who deserves it. I'm not "hanging on" to my emotions, nor am I refusing to move forward. If anything, I've done nothing BUT move forward from the utterly disgusting shit I had to deal with earlier this year. I am healing, though it will continue to take time. But I refuse to let go of anger that I feel is wholly justified.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Emotions have no moral value, and to judge others for their emotions is a privilege. If my anger makes you uncomfortable in any way, you are the one who needs to figure out why and rethink things.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Request

I am done. DONE. That the same people who see through the disgusting BS of the #GamerGate men could accept and defend the person who abused me is just too much. Hypocrisy at its best. It can't be wrong if it's MY friend.

I am so angry. I am angry all the time still, though usually I ignore it and y'know.. get the fuck on with my life.

Right now I am just angry angry angry.

So, do me a favour:

Read my Storify here where I pick apart some of the manipulative discussion techniques of the #GamerGate assholes.

Read my post here on why #GamerGate is abuse.

Read here where I give some of the emails from my abuser similar treatment.

And here which really sums up the only thing that matters whether I can "prove" its abuse or not.

And everything else on this blog to do with the asshole who treated me badly.

Take all that and shove it in the face of everyone still friends with my abuser and if they STILL insist he did nothing wrong, tell them to SAY IT TO MY FACE.

And I will happily explain to them all why they are hypocritical enablers. I yell less offline, so I might even do it nicely, too. But I make no guarantees. Niceness is reserved for those who deserve it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Anxiety: A Story

Today, I needed to go to the shops and purchase a bus ticket, because my current one was going to run out. I was 98.7% sure that the shop I was heading to sold bus tickets. In fact, the idea that they wouldn’t sell bus tickets is almost absurd, especially as I’d looked up on the transport website at some point and seen that they are listed as a ticket retailer.

Walking into the shop, I looked around for a sign to reassure me that they did, indeed, sell tickets, but there wasn’t one anywhere I could see. Panic began to set in. I went to grab a water bottle first, as that was my other goal of this shop visit, and tried to decide what I would do about the situation. Here is where most people would ask the probably very nice woman behind the counter if the shop sold tickets or not, and of course I thought of that. It’s not that I didn’t realise that not only was that the fastest and most direct solution to my problem, but also that it would likely result in me purchasing the ticket I needed, because the chance they sold them was extremely high. We are talking 1.3% here.

But to someone with anxiety, it doesn’t matter how large or small that gap is between not being sure and being 100% absolutely certain you know what is going on, because 1.3% or 64% chance you are wrong is still a chance. Any chance something will not go exactly as you planned or predicted is enough of a crack for your anxiety to get in there and begin the rapid descent into dizzying panic. You go from walking into a shop fairly confidently to "Quick, run through all possible scenarios as to how this shop visit will now turn out" in the matter of mere seconds.

I decided to wander the aisles towards the back of the small store while my brain began its routine calculation of outcomes.

Some days, I am able to push the ridiculous amount of panic out of my mind long enough to force myself to do the easiest and most obvious solution, despite the fact that it's also the one that involves the most amount of variables and therefore causes me the most amount of stress. On those days, I have enough sense to realise that this is the most likely way to reach my goal and the chance of something going wrong that I haven't accounted for is so small that it is nigh on impossible. On those days, I leave shops happy and proud of myself for doing a thing my brain was screaming at me not to do.

Other days, the panic is just more than I'm able to handle and the thought of making myself do something with even the tiniest chance of an unpredictable result makes my brain freeze up and my heart pound and I go into "deer in headlights" mode. (Recently, I've learned that my "deer in headlights" mode is a form of disassociation, where I detach myself from my sense of reality because I'm finding it too overwhelming. Well. No wonder accomplishing things sometimes is just plain difficult!) On these days, I will wander aimlessly, pretending to intently study the products on the shelves, while in fact I am using all of my brain power to problem solve for a resolution to my situation that I'm able to handle at that given moment. Those days are the ones I generally leave shops angry and disappointed at myself, sometimes with and sometimes without the thing I intended to get.

Well, today was a spectacular failure in terms of coping with my anxiety. After a small amount of wandering, I decided that I didn't want to put back the water bottle and leave the shop to regroup and possibly purchase the ticket elsewhere (also scary for embarrassment reasons). I also didn't have cash, so I couldn't simply purchase the water bottle on its own with EFTPOS (that's a debit/credit card machine to you non-Australians), as there was a $10 minimum. So, the only solution I could stand the thought of was to find more things to buy and hope I worked up the nerve to ask the shop assistant about tickets when I went up to the counter.

No, I didn't work up the nerve as I'd hoped. I did, however, leave the shop after purchasing the water bottle and two large blocks of chocolate to ensure I was safely getting over $10 worth of items.

And I hated myself immediately upon stepping outside. But I did learn that crippling anxiety can sometimes have the positive side effect of leaving a shop with a LOT of chocolate.

(I did manage to get a bus ticket much later in the day after taking care of other things I needed to do, and getting cash out of an ATM and then braving a newsagent ALSO without signs. But newsagents not selling bus tickets would be even more absurd than my local shop not selling them. An awkward but painless interaction with a lady who was very trusting of my concession status ensued, and I felt dumb afterwards, BUT I had a bus ticket. Success at last.)