Monday, 27 July 2015

Healing Diary: The Mindtrap

Anxiety is a cruel beast. Just as I think of depression like a black dog, I think of anxiety like a living organism. Not exactly like butterflies, but it's as good an analogy as any. And just like any other living thing, it feeds, it grows and it fights for its survival. Anxiety feeds on doubt and stress, it grows in severity and avoids any predator that would defeat it.
In fact, butterflies are a good analogy, because they start of as cute, little caterpillars. But caterpillars feed and feed and feed until they're strong enough to grow up. Unfortunately, when these caterpillars grow, they don't turn into butterflies. In my case, they metamorphose into panic attacks.
The Word of the Day is: 'PANIC'.

Panic /'panik/ n. 1. A sudden terror, with or without clear cause. ♦adj. 2. (of fear, terror, etc.) Suddenly destroying self-control and causing hasty, unreasoned action. ♦v.t. 3. To (cause to) feel panic.

I had a panic attack three days ago. It was a terrifying, confronting and painful experience; so, I am dealing with it in the same way that I deal with a lot of life's troubles. I want to write about it, because it was a terrible ordeal, but here I am the one that's in control. I am here to vivisect this monstrosity, in the hopes that as I pull it apart, it will die on the operating table.
So, what exactly is a panic attack? Well, essentially, it is what happens when your body triggers a fight-or-flight response, without any actual, physical danger. It may seem like a malfunction, but it is more accurate to call it a dysfunction. The flight-or-flight response isn't broken, so much as overly sensitive; your fear response is working perfectly well, but when you suffer from anxiety, your body is responding to stressors more severely.
A panic attack is what happens when those stressors (or your response TO those stressors) develops to the point where something harmless makes you react as though it is an imminent threat. In my case, it was something as simple as boredom, silence and loneliness . . . to me, it felt like I was dying. So, why would something so simple set off a panic attack? Well, because it wasn't that simple.

It started way earlier than that. Remember how I said that anxiety defends itself? Well, regular people with regular anxiety know how to handle it; you do things you enjoy, you talk to people, exercise, eat food that you like, laugh and smile and ignore such petty problems. But when you have chronic anxiety, the way that it defends itself is insidious. It starts by feeding on those little doubts you have, the ones that we all have. But the really sneaky part is that it continues by attacking your defenses. If you eat to feel good, it makes you feel sick about eating and worried about your weight. If you like watching movies or listening to music, it occupies your mind; it makes you lose focus and forget about the joy that it brings you.
Or, like in my case, it made me draw away from people, I hid away because I began to worry about what could go wrong on social occasions. Then, as those worries continued to fester, I entered a heightened state of anxiety. It meant that my body was often producing adrenaline, I would feel a tightness in my chest and I would feel exhausted because of the drain on my body from worrying all the time. This meant that I would feel tired, and go to sleep. Fatigue is a common symptom of anxiety, and if you are sleeping during the day and don't get out of bed, it becomes practically impossible to do any kind of stress relief. Worst of all, this stress took something away from me that matters the most . . . my ability to write. When you're stressed, your mind wants to think about that stress, it becomes a constant distraction and makes it hard to focus. When I lose focus, I can't write, and so that wore me down the most. It will probably be different for different sufferers of chronic anxiety, but for me, this was when the trap was set. Not a bear-trap or mousetrap, but a trap to set off a panic attack; a mindtrap.

Everything was already in place, the target was isolated, demoralized, tired, distracted, weakened and surrounded by attackers, of anxiety and stress, and without even my ability to write all of my weapons had been taken away from me. Even though I worked to fix my sleep and exercise, it was already too late. It just took a trigger, and that trigger was silence, boredom and loneliness. I was watching a video in the hopes that it would cheer me up, but I was losing interest in it and when I lost interest, my mind began to wander. It started a cascade effect, and I began to doubt everything. I doubted the reason for what I was doing, I doubted my ability to cope, I doubted whether or not I would get better, my ability to write and my ability to cope. Then I started doubting my own life, if I was going to have anxiety for the rest of my life; would it continue to take the things I care about away from me? Then I doubted the purpose of my life, and what good it was to live if I wasn't doing any of the things that mattered to me; and I doubted whether life even mattered at all.

I felt trapped, and when my anxiety closed around me, I freaked out. My response was flight at first, I ran, I jumped from my chair. Then it became one of fight. But because the attack was in my head, I couldn't see what I was fighting. I ran outside, I threw my shoe at the floor, I yelled out and screamed. To any mentally healthy person, it would seem that I was acting like a crazy person, and by some definitions I was. But if you saw the steps that lead me to that position, and the way I had been trapped by my own mind, it would seem perfectly logical to you, as it did to me too.
I think that's the most disturbing part about mental illness. It's not mind control, it's not possession; and although I personify and identify my anxiety like an animal, it isn't literally a thinking creature. It is the result of my mind reacting to stimuli in a way that it considers logical. Like I said, it's not a malfunction, it's a dysfunction, and if you were in my shoes, you would act the same way.

As a result of this panic attack, I was exhausted, tired, unable to focus. But thankfully, I had one key thought, which was "I need help". So, I asked for it. I grabbed my computer, and I looked for help with panic attacks. I knew that more than anything I wanted to talk to someone, and I learned that Lifeline is not just for crisis support and suicide prevention, but that they offer support for those suffering a panic attack.
I called them up, and a very nice lady on the phone talked to me, and helped me to calm down. She talked some sense into me, gave me some advice and guided me to a better mind-space. I thanked her and hung up the phone, but since then I was in a much more vulnerable state. If I was left alone for even a second, or I was left in silence, I would feel stressed and depressed, and it was very tiring. And I think, if there is a reason why anxiety produces panic attacks, that is it - it leaves you prone for another one, while also providing plenty more stress, doubt and fear to feed those little anxiety caterpillars.

I am feeling better. You'll notice I'm writing again, I've also calmed down and I am no longer on the verge of another attack, I feel pretty good. And the craziest part is, all I did was some of the simplest stress-relief there is.
After seeking professional help, I spoke to my girlfriend; I got a good night's sleep; I got some exercise and I meditated whenever I felt my breathing get sharp and shallow. It's simple, but effective stuff. And I guess that's the part about this that you need to remember, although it seems like a silly analogy, anxiety really is a lot like butterflies. It's not really that powerful, all things told, and it can't really hurt you. That's why it needs to be so insidious and set up little traps to catch you. But, if you do those simple little things, you won't let the butterflies in your stomach get the better of you.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Healing Diary: Why I'm Nervous about Driving

I get very anxious about driving my car. I used to be really confident, and if you read my post about getting my provisional license, I was ecstatic that I could drive on my own, I felt free, I described it as one of the greatest feelings in the world.
But now, when I drive, I feel this sense of dread. Not about crashing or anything, oddly enough, I know how to drive safely and I have airbags even if I crash. No, my concern is getting lost, running out of petrol and, basically, my car losing its abilities to get me home.
It's irrational, you don't have to tell me that, I know that. But there's precedence for it. There were three incidents in my life which have triggered this anxiety when it comes to driving. The Word of the Day is: 'LOST'

Lost /lost/ adj. 1. No longer possessed or kept: Lost friends. 2. No longer to be found: Lost articles. 3. Confused as to place, direction, etc. 4. (of time, etc.) wasted. 5. Not achieved or won: A lost prize. 6. Attended with defeat: A lost battle. 7. Destroyed or ruined. 8. Lost to, a. No longer belonging to. b. No longer open to: The opportunity was lost to him. c. Unfeeling to: To be lost to all sense of duty. ♦v. 9. Past tense of lose.

Incident 1: You Can't Trust Petrol Stations

The first time I drove my car on my own late at night, it was because my brother James had just finished work and discovered a flat battery. He called me, asked if I could come with jumper cables, I said no problem. As I'm driving, I see that I have about a quarter tank of petrol. I figure, no worries, I'll just get some fuel. There are two petrol stations on the way, but one's on the other side of a busy road, I figure I'll pull into the one on the way. So, I pull in, open the fuel panel, undo the cap and rest it on the back of the car, then I put the pump in and pull the trigger . . . nothing. I was confused, so I put the pump back and walk up to the storefront. All of the lights are on, but it's closed, dead empty.
I thought that was pretty stupid, but I figure I'll cut my losses. I get back in my car and drive off. As I execute a lane-change, I see in my rear view mirror that I've left my fuel panel open. So, I easily pull over the car by the road. There, I get out, walk around to close the panel and . . . the fuel cap is missing. Because of the disconnect of not having the fuel pump work, the whole ritual of refueling had stopped mid-session, I hadn't put the cap on or closed the panel. I left it on the boot of the car, but it's not there anymore, it must have come off as I drove. I'd driven about 100 metres at this point, so I run up the road, looking in drains and all along the gutter for my fuel cap, but I couldn't find it. I looked for a solid 20 minutes, since I didn't know what would happen if I drove without a cap, but after searching for ages, I again, decide to cut my losses and drive on.

My dad bought me a new petrol cap a day later, but ever since that experience, I've been wary of petrol stations. I mean, if it's closed, why are the lights on? Even the lights up the aisles, is it for the security camera?
It's very confusing to me, because unless I'd looked it up beforehand, how am I supposed to tell if it's open or closed? The closed sign wasn't on the door, the shop was just empty and the door wouldn't open. I didn't even know that petrol stations could close, sure after I put some thought into it I can understand why some might, but I hadn't consciously considered it until then; especially because they leave their lights on even when closed, it was very misleading. So, I was wary of petrol stations.

Incident 2: "You Can't Find Your Way Home"

Not long after that, I was still pretty confident with driving, but I had become wary of petrol stations, so I avoid them unless I have to use them, not only because I don't want to waste money buying fuel any old time if I can wait for a cheaper day, but also because this was before I was on Newstart Allowance, so every tank of fuel was a scoop out of my slowly depleting bank account, and I liked to wait for a moment when I could con my parents into driving and then refuelling my car.
I organized to watch a movie with a friend of mine, at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, a mall nestled beside the Brisbane CBD.
I left the house with a quarter tank of fuel, and I figured that, if it took too long to get home, I'd just refuel on the way back. In fact, as I drove into the city, I saw two petrol stations on the road I'd have to take back, so I felt safe that I could use them. In fact, as I drove into the carpark, I saw a third petrol station just next to the shop, so I felt satisfied that I had plenty of opportunities to refuel.
  Three hours later . . . 
I've seen my friend, we had a fun time at the movies, we had lunch, now it's time to go home. The sun is setting as I get in the car, and I see that my fuel is still around the ⅛ mark. It's enough to get home, but I figure I should get a refill anyway, if I can. So, before I even leave, I check my directory to make sure I know where the petrol station is. I find it, it's all good, I just need to go around the block and there it is. So, I drive out. Unfortunately, Indooroopilly is a shopping centre, and this petrol station is right beside it, as is the entryway, so by the time I spot it, I'm past it. But I don't worry at first, I just figure I need to circle the block and I'll get it next time, right?
Well, no. There's no "circling the block" in the city, because for some reason, whoever designed the city had more of a "plinko" style of traffic flow, whereby even if you knock around left and right, the one-way streets still drain you in the same, general direction. So, despite looking for more left turns to escape, I find myself passing down several side streets with "no left turn" signs, By the time I finally do, I'm passing a school zone, and I have no idea where I am. but, before I can take another left turn and start heading back, I find another "no left turn" at a T-section, I have to head right again.
So, I join another river of traffic, and I just get carried along. I consider pulling over to the side of the road to check my map, but I wasn't very confident with my parallel parking, and the side of the road was lined with cars bumper to bumper, no spaces except for alleyways, crossings and corners. Now, I'm heading further into hills and suburbia at this point and I have no idea where I am, so I decide "I'll meander until I can pull over, then I'll find my way again."
So, I find a side-street away from main roads, drive in and pull over next to some school field somewhere. Okay, so at this point, the sun is well and truly down, it's night time. I look for this school on the map and find it quickly, then I find a path back. I abandon that petrol station, it would be too hard to get back, I just want to find the highway that heads home, because I know there are TWO petrol stations there, remember. I'll be fine. The petrol is still around that eighth, but I'm feeling uncomfortable about it, and no longer is it an option, I know I need petrol, I just need to get back to the main road. So, with my path figured out, I get in the car and drive. I've memorized. Drive straight down, right, left, right, right (or something like that) and I'll be on the road back to the main path.
So, I drive straight down . . . right, then wait for it, drive down this road . . . left, and there's my turn . . . no right turn. I get to the intersection and it's a one-way street, or so it seems, I can't pull over, I have to turn in. So, I follow the road left instead, starting to feel uncomfortable, but maybe I can turn around? So, I try to correct this little error, but i can't. The road heads for an intersection, and my only options are to cross the road or turn left again into a slip lane. So, I opt for the slip-lane, but that slip-lane leads me onto a main road in a suburb I don't recognize. I am swept along, swaying and dipping with the hills as we go, and I don't remember this many hills driving into the city, so I feel very uncomfortable. But then I get to a T-intersection. I don't have time to decide, I have to turn right, I'm in the right-turning lane, so I enter it, but I'm on some kind of escarpment overlooking a rolling suburbia, and I start to get upset.
No no no no, I tell my steering wheel, as we follow another winding road, and I can't pull over, because cars line this street too. So I follow the street, but I don't know where I'm going, I feel lost. And I start going up and down hills, shifting gears so that the engine can manage. And I start to panic as I go up one hill that's so steep I'm in first gear, and I imagine the gurgling fuel getting sucked dry like chocolate milkshake at the bottom of a parfait glass, getting slurped dry.

In fact, as I head uphill, the "low fuel" warning light comes on. I panic and pull over. I immediately turn off the car and the lights and I start to fret. As I catch my breath, I realize that it's just the tilt of the car because I'm on a hill at a forty degree angle or so. There's still fuel, it's just not near the indicator in the tank; but I still feel my heart racing anyway.
I have no idea where I am, I have no idea how much fuel I have, I have no idea where the next petrol station is, I have no idea how much fuel I'll need to get home and even if I use my directory to point me in the direction of a local petrol station - thanks to my previous encounter with a small-chain petrol station - I have no idea if it will even be open at this time of night.
But, I am determined not to panic. With a surge of nervous energy, I jump out of the car and run up the street. There's an intersection up there, and a street sign. I just need to find two street signs, and I will have identified my location. Then, knowing that, I can find my way back to the main road. As I run up the street, I also realize, one of the stations I passed on the way here was covered with lights and had a recognizable name. Those brands are always open 24/7, I can feel hope for the first time all evening. So, with sore legs, I get to the top of this hill, I find one sign, but the other one is further down the road. I jog across for twenty metres or so before I come to it, I write the name down in my notepad, then I head all the way back. I walk down the hill, in an effort to slow my heart rate down, but it doesn't work, I'm anxious, but kind of excited, I have my first clues.
I get to the car, quickly open the door, grab my directory and shut the door. I don't know how long it will take to map this out, so I don't want to use my car's interior lights, I use the flashlight on my phone to search the book.

When I found out where I was, I realized it was rather far from where I had come from (about two pages in an A5-sized street directory), but I saw that I was close to a main road that would lead me to a highway, and towards home, I just needed to follow a little route to get to the highway. So, I double-check to make sure that I won't get turned away from my route, I hop in the car and, with fingers metaphorically crossed, I start the car. Easy as pie, Gemini fires up and we head up the hill, I'm a little upset that I have to head all the way up in first, but I follow the path and soon I'm on the main road again.
But, I'm not on the main road for more than a minute when I see an opportunity. A big, green sign pointing off, it had a street name on it that I recognized. It was basically a sign saying "highway - this way! >>" I took the chance, I slipped right through, and shortly after that, I was back on the highway, baby!
I came to a set of lights, and stopped, and as I sat at the lights, I realized that my feet were shaking. As my foot sat on the clutch, and my other on the brake, my heels were bouncing nervously, I couldn't control it. I used the floor mat to steady my feet, so that it wouldn't disrupt my driving, but it was very distracting. In fact, when I saw the petrol station, I didn't even realize that I was in the wrong lane. I quickly changed lanes, and as I did, I heard a screech of tires!

I didn't crash, but I don't know what happened, I can't remember. At the time, I assumed that I didn't check that the lane was clear, properly, and that the person behind me had hit their brakes, but I didn't see any lights in my rear view mirror, or in the lane I'd just left, and I hadn't hit anything because there was no crash. I pulled into the petrol station, and I checked the car and looked over at the road, there were no dings or skidmarks or wrecks, and I figured that if I'd gotten into an accident, one of the three other people at the pumps would have told me, but they didn't even look up when I checked around. Perhaps the brakes were mine as I slowed down to turn up the drive, and I was so focussed on turning I hadn't realized how quickly I'd decelerated, but I honestly don't know, all I know is that it also set me on edge.
I had a $20 note, so I filled up my tank that much, and paid the person inside. I made sure that I'd re-capped and closed my fuel tank, then I headed off. But I was shaken up, and the whole way home, my heels were still shaking.

Incident 3: "You Can't Trust Your Car"

Throughout all of these occasions, there has always been one constant: my car. I love my car, I call it Gemini. I bought the car from my friend who is a car fanatic, just like his father, and they took great care of the car. It has a lot of power, a lot of torque and although its fuel economy isn't as slick as newer cars, it's a reliable car and hasn't let me down.
Well, that is to say, it usually doesn't let me down.

It's probably my fault. See, I had an appointment to get to - I can't remember what it was, but it was just a month ago or so - and I got in my car, turned the key in the ignition and . . . nothing. I was confused.
There wasn't revving, no spinning, no lights. All I could hear was the keys jingling in my hand when I turned it in the ignition. The battery was flat. I didn't believe it, it made no sense that the battery would just die for no reason, so I checked around the console, and when I turned the dial for the lights, I realized that I could turn it off. The lights had been left on.
I don't know whose fault it was. There's a very high possibility that it was me, and I choose to believe that, although there is doubt in my mind because the "P-plate" stickers weren't on the windows (which are always on after I drive my car home), and the doors were unlocked, and since I park my car in an open carport, I always lock my car doors.

But, the reason why doesn't matter, what matters is my battery was flat. Now, I was fine with that. It's happened before, once Dad was driving and broke the alternator, but the alternator failed in an open position and that depleted the battery. That wasn't what made me anxious. Rather, Sean wanted to go out one time, and I told him "I can't, my battery is flat".
He said that he'd come around and we'd give it a jump start, so he drove over and we hooked up the cars, and we charged the battery. It was very, very flat because it took the full ten minutes before the ignition could even catch a spark, there was a tense five minutes when every turn of the key gave a slow, sad, rolling whir from the engine. But eventually, it started, and we got ready to set off.

Now, I think I made two fatal mistakes now. Firstly, I relaxed. I don't think that I should have been tense and anxious, that's part of why I have a problem in the first place, by being tense all the time. But I probably should have been a little more cautious, because I just rolled back into my same routine.
I got in the car, turned the air conditioner on, turned on the radio, all of that. Admittedly, some of this was to make me feel more comfortable. I don't like sitting in silence, so I always listen to the radio when I'm alone in the car, but that might have been a little silly. But I didn't think it would matter. I knew that the battery would charge when I got on the highway, I just needed to get onto the highway, so the alternator could recharge that battery as I sped along.
I stopped on one street to turn the corner, but as I hit the brakes, the lights dimmed slightly. I thought it was a little odd, but I was fine when the car stopped, so I went down the hill and turned the corner.
My second mistake was, I didn't use that opportunity to stop and/or change my driving. Because of my experiences with being unable to find a petrol station, I used to drive in quite a high gear, since that uses less fuel. It's a bad habit, but because my car has a lot of torque, it wasn't usually a problem. I could get away with it, since my car had the guts to do it. But I wasn't concentrating, so when I turned onto the main road, I revved up through second and third and got to my comfortable fourth, then cruised up the street and saw the lights.

I changed down to second and third, then I applied the brakes. As I did, the lights began to dim again. I figured I needed to come to a stop and revv the engine a bit, but I was freaking out about running up the arse of Sean's car that had stopped in front of me. If I had the time, I would have realized that I could have held the clutch in, and given the accelerator a tap. Hell, I could have slammed on the accelerator as hard as I wanted, since with the clutch disengaged the car wouldn't have moved forward; and after giving the battery some juice, I could have pressed the brake to my heart's content.
Hell, in a pinch, I could have applied the handbrake and given the engine a roar, ignoring the foot-brake completely. I did none of these things, however, I pretty much held the brakes, and prayed for a miracle which didn't come . . . the lights turned off, the engine went cold.
All warmth dropped out of my body, as silence and darkness fell over me. I turned the key, but it didn't even turn. The ignition lights turned on, but it wasn't turning the starter, the battery was as good as dead.

Sean was right in front of me. I pressed the horn, but the horn didn't work. I tapped it three times, hearing the pitiful click of the plastic button tapping against a metal switch that was on a dead circuit. So, I opened my door and rapidly tapped on my roof and waved to get Sean's attention. He got out and asked if the car would start. I showed him, no, totally dead out. I pressed for my hazard lights, but they too couldn't turn on, the car was dead.
He said to open the bonnet, and wait for him to come back, he needed to move his car out of the intersection. So, he got in his car, and drove around. As he left, I knew my hazard lights weren't working, and although my hood was up (the international symbol for "this car is fucked"), cars were approaching from behind, and couldn't see it. So, I stood around the back of the car, waving cars to go either side. That's perhaps the worst part, I was in the centre lane, cars either side and I felt like I was surrounded by danger. No sane person wants to get hit by a car, I needed to get people to go around me, as I stood in the path of oncoming traffic, hoping that they would see me and my unlit car as we stood in the middle of a busy main road.
Some people asked why my hazards weren't on, so I just called out "dead battery", they seemed to get it. But I was panicking, I wasn't sure what to do. I checked my RACQ card and called the number, but my phone was out of credit and wouldn't connect. Sean had disappeared from view (since it was a main road, and he couldn't just park on it, he had to move his car out of the way and run back), and I didn't know what to do. It was the only number I could dial anyway, so I tried 000. The operator asked if I needed fire, ambulance or police. I explained my car was obstructing the intersection, and I needed help to move it. He paused for a moment and asked. "So, do you want me to transfer you to fire, ambulance or police?"
I thought for a second, and in a stomach-sinking moment of clarity realized that I wasn't on fire, I wasn't hurt and there wasn't any crime going on. I apologized, and said I didn't really need any of them. I hung up as Sean returned. He asked who I was calling, and I said I tried to call RACQ, feeling embarrassed, exposed, lost and completely incapable of helping myself.
He told me to get in the car and he'd push. I offered to push, but he insisted, just get in, go down the hill and pull over somewhere. So, I got in my cold, dead car and he pushed the car to the intersection. My window was wound down so I could hear him, and he told me to ignore the lights, just go. The path was clear, so I let go of the brake, he pushed, and I turned the corner. I had to force the wheel around, because my power steering was off, and then I began to roll down the hill. Sean jogged to keep up and told me to pull over where it was safe, then he ran back for his car. I pulled into the first side-street, by braking slightly, then peering out my windshield in the darkness, trying to see where the curb was, and I steered myself as close to the side of the road as was comfortable, and braked to a stop.

After starting my car up again, I didn't feel comfortable driving at all. Even when Sean offered to drive my car for me and get me to drive the car he'd brought, I couldn't do it. So, we drove my car back to my place, and I got in the passenger seat, and we went to his house.
We just kinda chatted for a while, and blew off the outing we were going to go to, but for some reason, I lost my cool. See, I tend to just go with the flow, I enjoy different experiences, if someone needs for me to stay on the couch or make my way home, that's fine. However, I didn't feel comfortable, and as the time slipped on, I wanted to go home. So, although he was tired, Sean drove me to the train station and I caught one of the last trains inbound to the city.
But, as I stood at the train station, I felt uncomfortable. It's a feeling that I now associate with anxiety, but at the time I thought it was a niggling edge of depression. I was basically stuck, wondering what the point if that night was. I wanted to go out, and all I had achieved was a broken car, and feeling cold, stuck at a train station, with no idea when the train would actually come.
Worst of all, I remembered what I used to do at train stations. I used to think about story stuff, and solidify ideas. I tried to do it, but I couldn't, I was cold and exhausted and alone in the dark.
I managed to distract myself by reading the graffiti scratched into the chairs and phone alcove, and wondering what kind of maintenance would be required on the soda vending machine which stood out in the open, noisily humming away, and wondering what kind of technology stabilized the refrigeration temperature. It was all dumb, boring stuff, but it was better than sitting quietly and waiting, because my mind would then start going in circles, trying to figure out how exactly I got from happy at home to stuck at a cold, empty train station in the dark with a dead car battery, no writing done, no job and feeling lost.

I also had some trouble getting home, because after the train arrived, it was the last train meaning it stopped at central, and they told me to get a taxi home, and then I had trouble paying because I didn't have enough money in my front account. But, I was glad for that, because it occupied my mind, and kept me from worrying. When I finally did get home, I felt tired, but I talked to my girlfriend about it, and managed to move on. But ever since then, I have felt very uncomfortable about driving my car, especially refuelling it or driving with less than a half-full tank.

In conclusion, I know that it's irrational, and after buying a battery charger and restoring my battery, I have driven my car, and on some occasions - especially driving somewhere I know - I have even felt that sense of freedom I used to feel whenever I drove. I do enjoy driving.
But if anyone says they need me to drive somewhere, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and try to avoid it, because there is this sense of unease. Thankfully, this is something that I'm working on with my psychologist, identifying these feelings and working to resolve, appease or annihilate them, but I'm not over it yet. I hope this has helped you to understand a little better what it's like to be inside my struggling mind.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

"The Do's and Don'ts of Prom Night Sex"

DISCLAIMER: A little while ago, my friend Sean and I were talking about journalism, how so often the news is nothing more than a biased writer/reporter expositing on their own agenda. To explain his point, Sean showed me an article called Do’s and Don’ts of Prom Night Sex. After reading it, I was a little annoyed, this wasn't a list of "Do and Don't", it was a list of "Don'ts and Do Nots", a thinly-veiled attempt to hide the writer's distaste for Prom Night Sex. If you read the article yourself, you can see what I mean. Now, don't get me wrong, I have no ill will towards the writer, Genevieve Suzuki. She makes it clear that this was an editorial mandate, and she clearly wasn't keen on this idea, and the fact that she managed to write anything at all is admirable, and I'm on her side, Prom Night Sex probably isn't a good idea.

However, she made a commitment she couldn't meet; she didn't follow the brief and she didn't provide the article requested of her. I complained to Sean and said "There are no 'Do's in this list", and he conceded that, since Prom Night Sex is a bad idea, there wouldn't be that many to choose from, but I said off-handedly: I could write a better article than that.
And after thinking about it, I not only decided that I could, but that I would. I am not a man to back down from a challenge, and since I would love to be a professional writer, this one tickled my fancy. So, I decided that I had given myself an editorial mandate: I would write a "Dos and Don'ts" advice column about Prom Night Sex, which doesn't covertly demonize those who do it. So, for those of you that would otherwise be wondering what the hell I'm doing writing about teenaged sex, consider it nothing more than stepping up to a challenge.

5 DOs and 5 DON'Ts of Prom Night Sex

Prom Night Sex, is it a good idea? Well, no. But hey, it happens. Hell, if your Mother is young and you were born around September, you could very well be the result of Prom Night Sex. So, I'm not here to judge, I do that in my free time. Rather, today, I'm here to offer you some advice about Promenade Coitus in a manner that is easy to remember, and will make this bad idea slightly less horrible.


1. Avoid Capture
As dangerous and exciting as it may seem to fuck under the tables at the prom reception, you're not a ninja, you'll probably get caught. Also, if you try to sneak into a closet during the photo sessions, someone is going to wonder where you are. Consider something before or after the prom, in a car, or a bed somewhere. Or, if you absolutely must do it during the ceremony, make sure you do it when everyone is mingling, with no structure or schedule, that way no one will miss you. Also, take note, a condom can make for an easier clean-up.

2. Consider Comfort
I mention using a car for two reasons. One, it's secluded (and if your fella/lady has a car, that's a bonus), but also, it has a backseat. While it's not the most dignified fuck-zone in the world, it's better than on the grass, in a closet, against a wall or on a stranger's couch. In fact, the best place is somewhere in a house where there are no supervisors (of the parental OR peer variety), since there are beds, blankets, couches, tables & showers. Also, you'd have free resources to hide any evidence afterwards.
But I'm still assuming that you won't have that kind of freedom, because not only is that rare, but otherwise there's not much advice I can offer.

3. Lower your Expectations
This is not going to be the best thing in the world. This may seem like a negative thing, but that's not what I'm saying at all. Either this is your first time, so one or both of you will be inexperienced, or it ISN'T, in which case it's just for the thrill of unlocking the "fucked on prom night" achievement. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "it will definitely suck", but if you have low expectations, then you will either meet them, and be happy for trying, or you will surpass them, and be quite happy about your intercourse. Like with anything else, if you expect too much from an experience, then it becomes even harder for it to impress you.

4. Communicate
If you want to have sex on Prom Night, it's a good idea to tell your partner BEFORE Prom Night. There's nothing more melodramatic than getting slapped by a girl in a pretty dress, or turned down by a man in a suit, because you tried to suggest something fun. It also means that you can plan beforehand, together, and potentially even set things in motion so that you can have some privacy. Moreso, if you're both inexperienced, one way to counter that is to talk, and make sure that you're both prepared for what you want to do.

5. Have a Back-up Plan
You may have planned a beautiful evening, you'll take her to the top of the cliff, put out a blanket under the stars and let her screams of delight confuse the wildlife. Or maybe you planned on taking him back to your house, since your parents are on a weekend cruise, and you'll make passionate love in your room. Well, what if after putting out your blanket, it starts to rain? She doesn't want to be THAT kind of wet. Or what if you come home, turn on the lights, and your parents are home early, because they wanted to surprise you on prom night with a cake. So, make sure you have a fallback, consider any setbacks due to weather, family, car trouble, timing or accident, and try to plan accordingly.


1. Fuck in Public
Everything is a camera . . . EVERYTHING. If you go to someone's prom after-party and fuck on the couch, that is going straight online, as porn. Forever. Not to mention, there are some idiots out there. Fucking in public sometimes makes people think they're allowed to join in. Not only would that ruin the moment, but there are undoubtedly people at your school who you wouldn't want to risk that with.

2. Take Drugs Carelessly
Hey, you're having Prom Night Sex, so there's a good chance you do drugs. I'm not here to tell you to avoid drugs during your prom night sex, but rather, if you do, make sure you plan ahead. If you rock up to some party and someone offers you a toke, needle or pill you weren't expecting, either plan out your intercourse accordingly (planning for privacy, potential freakouts or munchies) then and there, or say no. In my opinion, if you want to do drugs, bring your own and make sure your partner knows. After all, if your sharing your genitals, surely you'd be expected to share your drugs, it's only fair.

3. Tell Everybody
I know, I know, this is half the fun of Prom Night sex, I get it. But the fact is, this is the kind of lowbrow gossip that can damage a reputation. If you absolutely must tell people, first of all, let your partner know; and secondly, make sure you only tell people you trust. Also, implicit in this is - Don't tell people beforehand. First of all, this could bring around Looky-loos, which is basically the same as fucking in public, you'll get unwanted attention. But also, it might turn your partner off the idea altogether, and everyone will see you as a lying braggard.

4. Have Unprotected Sex
The last thing anyone wants is a prom night, dumpster baby, back-alley abortion, or to go to college with morning sickness and/or child-related debt. Prom Night sex, generally, will be spur of the moment, so make sure you have protection, and/or quick and easy access to a morning after pill. Even if you think you can "pull out" fast enough, it's not worth risking the deposit on that dress.

5. Confuse It with Love
Sex is Sex, and Love is Love. Sure, people in love have sex, but don't go assuming that by having sex, that it means anything more than that. If you've already planned ahead, communicated & picked a good partner, sure, this MIGHT be a good moment for you both, as a couple. But if the person you're fucking isn't already your "significant other", it is stupid to assume that THIS is going to change that, and more than likely, you'll be seen as nothing more than a meat-based dildo, or free pussy.

In conclusion, there are a lot of things you can do to ruin your Prom Night. And I hope that this list has shown you that "having sex with a classmate" does not have to be one of them. Have fun, play safe and make it a night to remember.