The last few weeks have been pretty bloody odd.
Something terrible happened to me.
We were blindsided.
As the days are passing, things are starting to return to “normal,” although on the inside, I’m still not quite back.
I find myself lying in bed in my childhood home in Aberdeen tonight, not really engaged with how I got here, a trip usually planned and executed with military precision.
Bar a few very close friends, I have closed off my diary to the Christmas holiday “should sees” in favour of me time.
Please don’t be offended if you think this might be you!
I’ve not been drugged, nor am I depressed.
Don’t worry, I’m actually ok.
Despite what these ramblings might suggest.
I just feel like I’m starting to wake up from four weeks of aimless drifting, draining random emotions in my wake.
Usually, I’m completely manic in the run up to Christmas and by that I mean suffering from high levels of self-inflicted anxiety caused by my need to ensure that everything is perfect.
This year, stuff hasn’t been done and I honestly couldn’t care less.
I’m perfectly calm.
As someone not particularly accustomed to tragedy or grief, this is the weirdest, most unexpected and, bizarrely – an overwhelmingly positive – side effect.
Hopefully this is what they call a “normal response!”
Clearly being massively self-aware, it was quite timely that I should read an article on this very subject.
In his regular Saturday Guardian feature, “this column will change your life,” journalist Oliver Burkeman describes this calm-in-crisis state as being symptomatic of something called the, “region beta paradox.”
A.k.a the opposite of what I would call the “worried well syndrome,” something I now recognise in myself, despite having been heavily critical of others about in the past.
The theory behind this label is that when truly bad things happen to someone, a line is crossed which releases the necessary coping mechanisms which help us to recover.
The converse response should therefore hold true in respect of an individual’s approach to more trivial matters – such as Christmas, in my case – where if in doubt, panic sets in.
Burkeman hilariously, and somewhat flippantly, examines this syndrome by referring to a buzzfeed article, highlighting that sometimes responding to trivia can evoke total meltdown if the necessary biological crisis threshold isn’t met.
If you don’t have time to read the above, just do a Twitter search using the phrase “Wholefoods has run out of…” And you’ll get the gist.
A more measured comparison seems to come from studies that suggest that people close to a person in crisis often become more distraught than the person in crisis themselves, teetering on the brink, yet falling short on coping mechanisms.
But should this mean that second hand grief is somehow not quite as worthy?
I do feel that I need to stick up for the caring stress heads out there a little on this. It does seem unfair in a way for those with a better insight into bad shit to trivialise things that are pretty bloody-annoying-slash-stressful for others, or indeed to bandy around the term “first world problems” as an explanation for losing the plot over something generally considered by the sanctimonious as silly.
Distress is subjective.
A perfect example can be seen in a post that I wrote earlier this year in which a guy eventually got arrested in my local post office for taking umbrage at being told that a form he had filled out was not acceptable as it was completed in blue ink instead of the required black.
To me this seemed crazy. To him it was worth everything that day. Without knowing any more than what I saw, I’m not sure how psychologists could say for sure that this wasn’t his unique way of reacting to a major life event anymore than attributing it to being a total over-reaction to an annoying rule – but who am I to question clever clogsy brain academics?
As Burkeman states, “the worst thing that has ever happened to you is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.” And responses to things have to be considered in that context.
So now something bad has happened to me, it is proven that I’m capable of achieving appropriate internal crisis management. I’m now wondering whether my new found discovery of beta paradox theorem will help cure me from over reacting and getting stressed out about so-called trivial things in the future?
Is there really anything wrong with me over reacting to other people’s idea of what trivia is?
Could all of this just be part of the complexities of individual personality, therefore rendering this syndrome a load of old tosh?
Surely I’m allowed to get annoyed or stressed at minor things without making it into a “thing?”
I would love to hear what you think.
Yes, this would cheer me up immensely.
[Featured Image sourced from Twitter, proprietor unknown.]