Why nobody gives a shit if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones

Look, I get it. Everybody on Facebook and Twitter loses their mind for Game of Thrones, there’s memes that are created and shared, reaction videos of the episodes come out weekly.

A lone voice calls out into the night – “I have never watched an episode!” Someone on Facebook sees a post – “Share this if you’re part of the 1% of people who have never seen an episode of GoT!”. They whisper to themselves, “I relate to this.”

You don’t deserve a medal.

Game of Thrones is clearly insanely popular. A lot of people enjoy it. Some people don’t. I don’t want to say that they’re wrong, but… you know.

Pop culture is such that mass groups of people are attracted to the same thing. This holds true for music, film, books, clothes, a diet – anything that can be consumed. Not consuming does not make one “special” in any sense. The reasons vary, but at the end of the day, if you’re laughing at people getting excited at the idea of Danaerys and Jon getting together and razing King’s Landing to the ground so that the Targaryens can lay claim to the Iron Throne, you’re not funny, you’re not special, you’re actually a little bit of an asshole.

A – It’s popular world-wide. It’s been out for years. Literally everyone you know has seen it. What have you been doing that you haven’t watched it? Have you watched Harry Potter? Yes? Nobody gets treated as special for not watching/reading the Potter series. They get asked what rock they’ve been hiding under.

B – Why can’t you just let people enjoy nice things? Us watching GoT does you NO harm. If you feel irritated that you can’t relate, or that your feed is being spammed with GoT stuff, maaaybe you should consider watching?

It’s not just a fantasy show about kings and queens and death and sex. Well, it is. Definitely the sex and death. Definitely. But it also holds lessons on religion and blind faith, family values, loyalty, politics, feminism and tolerance.

If you don’t want to watch because it’s not really your thing, that’s fine. I hate Lana Del Ray, personally, and I know how popular she is but I don’t expect people to applaud me for being different. Just relax, let the memes flow, and don’t. spoil. a goddamn. thing.

Living with, not in, your mind.

I’m a little ashamed of myself today.

Up until yesterday evening I had been living without any form of anxiety crossing my mind for… I’m not really sure, to be honest, but it’s unimportant. For someone who suffers from any mental illness, any length of time without feeling the effects of it feels like a victory – until you feel it again. Then it’s back to square one, and getting over something you thought you had dealt with months ago.

The details, the trigger, and the outcome are not of any material value. I’m more concerned with the fact that an anxiety attack happened, and that I got past it.

I want to ruminate on that for a second – “anxiety attack”. I consider myself to be a person with a deep understanding of words, sentence structure, literary communication, and as hard as I try, I cannot come up with a better term for it. It’s an attack, because it is not something you expect. You live in fear of having one, definitely, but it’s not as though you wake up one morning, speak to your PA – “Barb, schedule an anxiety attack at 11:03 am today, please. It’s been a while.” If only.

No, instead, you are suddenly and often unwillingly faced with an enemy that seems to have no weakness. Imagine your mind as a small village in an area where natural disasters are just something you have to live with. Anxiety is like a hurricane that blows in at breakneck speed, razes the work you have put in to rebuild after the last attack, and leaves you with no food in your stores, no sense of direction, and takes with it the will to continue. You barely have time to prepare for the next one, because you’re pretty sure it’s going to happen but you don’t know when, and how do you prepare for an enemy with that much power and force?

You cannot really prepare. Oddly enough, you can only be ready.

I know how that sounds. Being ready and preparation are two things that kind of go hand in hand, and to separate the two seems ludicrous. But hear me out.

The hurricane must have a starting point. There’s that whole thing about the butterfly flapping its wings and then on the other side of the world, there’s destruction – let’s go with that. A single thought, about anything, is that one wing flap. Another thought = another flap, and so on. The power builds up with consecutive thoughts, right? The more thoughts about a specific subject you have, the more that butterfly is flapping its wings, which leads to more air, which leads to a hurricane. It’s a simplistic image, but go with me here, this is working for me and I feel like it’s a pretty good analogy.

The secret to beating this is to know that thoughts are going to happen, regardless of you actively thinking them or not. The mind was programmed to think, and stopping that process is impossible. You have to let the mind do its thing, but you have to let those thoughts be thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less.

Once you recognise that, and you willingly accept it and make it part of your life, you can consider your village ready for the next hurricane. I’m not going to promise that the moment you realise and internalise this, your village will have an indestructible diamond dome placed over it that no hurricane can shift, but it does fortify the structures that you built the last time. It can turn the hurricane into a breeze that flows through your village, passing gently over the buildings, and carrying on into oblivion. The butterfly’s wings are still flapping, but the wind is picking up less and less.

The way to allow this to happen is through two things – awareness and acceptance. Awareness is a pretty broad term here – it starts with being aware of the things you are thinking, aware of the thoughts you are assigning power to, and it carries on to being aware of the reality of the situation you are in without being blinded by the thoughts (giant hurricane) swirling around you. A lot of my anxiety stems from the idea of not being “enough”, not being good enough for my boyfriend, not being good enough to hold down a proper job, the list can (but won’t) go on. Here’s the reality of these two situations – my boyfriend is still my boyfriend. He can leave if he is going to leave, but he hasn’t. He’s not the type to pity-love anyone, so there must be something I’m doing right. Right? I may not have a 9-5 job, but I have enough freelance work to keep me going until I manage to find a job, and all I have to do is be just good enough at that job to stay employed there. Which isn’t difficult, really – do the job you’re paid for. That’s all that’s required. Awareness is a powerful tool, and it’s the first one you need to practise in order to build up your mental defenses.

Acceptance is, I think, much easier. Feeling shit? Alright. Sit down and figure out why. Now ask yourself if there’s anything that can be done that will make things better. If yes, you do your best to do it. If no, then you give in to the reality you are facing. “I cannot change the things that have happened. I cannot change the things I have no power over.” That’s what I mean, really. If something hurt you in the past, you will only find pain if you keep visiting that place. Sure, you can get all the closure you need, but revisiting it is not going to make it any easier, and sitting for hours trying to figure out why it happened is pointless. It happened – you need to move on. The world does not wait for anybody.

I no longer feel ashamed – I took my own advice. The anxiety attack happened, I know why, the reasons are a bit silly, and now I’m moving on.

In the midst of that hurricane, take some advice from Steven Universe – “take a second to find yourself, take a second, remind yourself/ take a second and ask yourself, if this is how you fall apart.”

They’re just thoughts, and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

Let that hurricane be a breeze that carries the seeds of your self-compassion.

Get back to living.

Anxiety is SO 2016.

Excuse the Buzzfeed-style title.

Over the past two years, there seems to have been an increase in anxiety, globally speaking. Some might argue that this is due to mental illness making its way to the mainstream, which is true, but these days you can’t even scroll through Instagram without coming across some convoluted attempt at a meme that contains every kind of stereotype around anxiety, and somebody (see: everybody) has commented saying “Literally me”.

Obviously.

We are all prone to anxiety, and it’s the point of a meme to have some sort of relatability to it. However, I want to talk more about anxiety in its most natural form, and why 2016 should have been the year anxiety ended.

2016 has been recorded as one of the worst years in recent history. I don’t need to go over the events involved, we were all there. If you weren’t, welcome to 2017, where we are implementing precisely none of the lessons 2016 should have taught us. The year even got its own horror movie trailer.

(Not kidding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z04M6NhkIKk. Also, if you’re one of the people who somehow managed to remove themselves from the passage of time, give that a watch, it sums it all up quite nicely.)

Here’s the thing, though – 2016 was just a number given to a year on a calendar created solely by the human race. While this is possibly the most obvious point I’ve made thus far, it’s also very true, but never fear – this will *probably* not become a blog of facts that you can find on any mindfulness and spiritual awareness page on Facebook.

At least, I hope not. Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

We’ve dealt with an ever-increasing number of doomsday prophecies and warnings of the end times, none of which have happened, so it’s probably safe to assume the rapture won’t occur. The Mayan calendar was just a stone calendar made by normal, regular human folk. That Seth Rogen movie “This is the End” also didn’t come true. Basically, it’s probably safe to assume that all the good people and all the bad people are here to stay, and that no cataclysmic event will occur, ultimately ending in the destruction of the human species.

Anxiety, amirite?

I won’t go into details about the aforementioned cataclysmic events. Luckily, we have scientists and some pretty amazing technology that is designed to warn us well in advance of anything that could mean that we are about to die. I will, however, begin to talk now about why anxiety should have stayed in 2016.

The year humbled us. We lost our grounding, we woke up every day wondering who else was going to be taken from us. It was a year of mental exhaustion and unrest, but it was also just that – a year. We placed all blame on it – “2016 has been hard on us.” If anything, it should have reinforced an idea that I have only really been exposed to in the last few months; humans have absolutely no control over the way in which the universe unfolds. We like to think of ourselves as “other” to the world a lot of the time, and I could go on ad nauseam about how we belong to the earth, not the other way around, but I think I’ll save that for another post.

As humans, we have evolved from humble beginnings. Our place on this planet and in this universe is purely by chance – everything was “just right” for the propagation of life. We even called the area in which the earth exists the Goldilocks Zone. Our existence is so magically unplanned and unexpected that for most of us, we cannot even comprehend our reason for being here. But humans also seem to have an undying need to believe that there is something so special about us that our existence needs a reason, and I believe this might be our largest mistake. We cannot seem to get past the idea that maybe we were not planned, that maybe we just evolved into this incredible arrangement of matter. What makes our existence special and unique is that we exist. Of all the beings on this planet, we have a conscious mind that allows us to make choices based on information from our surroundings. That is what makes us special – not that a deity of some kind thought, you know what this planet needs? Humans. Definitely humans.

The human brain is incredible, but the majority of people seem to be trapped by it. The mind is something that belongs to you – “I haven’t made up my mind” means that you clearly possess the capacity for rational thinking, yet we choose to think that we are not as attractive as our friend, as worthy as that celebrity. “But I can’t control those anxious thoughts!” you might be shouting at your laptop right now.

Except – you can.

That mind is not something separate and all-powerful to you. That mind is the thing that allows you to experience and perceive the world around you. And so thought patterns begin, and inevitably we attach ourselves to a thought and get carried away with it – what is my purpose in this world? How do I fit in? What if I don’t become rich? What if I fail? What if, what if, what if?

“What if” creates an expectation, right? What if the world ends tomorrow? What if JK Rowling dies in a car crash? What if Kim Kardashian gets cancer?

There is nothing to be done. We cannot do anything that will change the unfolding of life and the universe. To sum up – we have no control. Life will happen.

Anxiety, therefore, comes from the fear of an outcome – what if I miss this deadline? If I miss this deadline, my boss will call me into her office, I’ll lose my job. All of that time spent thinking about how bad everything could go, instead of just surrendering to what needs to be done, and getting on with it.

How does this relate to 2016? A lot of bad things happened, and instead of thinking, “Okay. I accept this, I accept that life is going to throw bad things at all of us. I accept that, I surrender to it, and I am ready for whatever comes next.” we thought, “Maybe next year will be better.” Placing expectation on something that has still yet to pass, and inevitably being upset and anxious because things didn’t necessarily go as planned.

To bring all of this to a close, I will say this. Those anxious thoughts are just thoughts. The same kind of thought as one saying that you do look amazing in that dress. The same kind of thought saying you are good enough to get that job. The same kind of thought that says maybe I do like green more than red. Even something as simple as “Wow, it’s really hot today”. They are just thoughts. You are designed to think, and so, thinking is what you will do. You choose what you want to ascribe power to, but unfortunately, it takes a lot of work to rewire the brain to not attach itself to negativity. It is definitely possible, and every effort should be made to acknowledge that the brain is going to think things, and that we should maybe take 10 minutes a day to look at the things we’re thinking, and evaluate them, without attaching to a specific thought.

That, by the way, is called meditation.

Oh, and one more thing – if you have felt offended at all, or perhaps felt that maybe I was insensitive to people suffering from anxiety, bring me your medication and I will compare it to mine. I still suffer anxiety attacks, even though I have been – by my own choosing – off my meds for almost a year. I still wake up and think that I cannot get out of bed because I actually just suck so fucking much that any contribution I maybe could make would be seen as inferior.

The difference is now I know where those thoughts come from, and I have learned (mostly) not to listen to them.download