Den Of Geek

Aug 11, 2017

This week, a few tips to help anyone suffering from anxiety make steps towards feeling better, from writer Rae Earl…

We’re trying something a bit different this week. Rae Earl is the author of the brilliantly funny, sharp and often heart-breaking My Mad Fat Diary books, which were adapted by Channel 4 into a similarly ace TV series. Based on her real-life teenage diaries, they shared Rae’s experience of trying to cope with teenage life and mental health problems in late-eighties/early nineties Lincolnshire.

The diaries are terrific. Rae is terrific. And when we chatted to her earlier this year about her work, she offered so much terrific advice on mental health and coping with anxiety that we’ve stuck some of it below. Over to you, Rae…

1. Create!

Get out a pad, write something, draw something, get some bloody Plasticine, it does not matter, make music, create. It’s no accident that years ago there used to be that joke about mental health hospitals making you do basket-weaving. It was a joke, but actually there’s a lot of therapy in that, for your hands to do something, for you to be working towards the goal of something. Is there such word as ‘tactility?’ There should be! Tactility!

That act of physically making something is very important. I’ve got multiple diaries on the go, multiple bits of art on the go… it’s not for anybody else, I won’t share it, it’s not for anybody else, it’s just for me.

There are people who might count themselves out of doing creative things because they don’t think they’re good at drawing or a good writer or whatever, it’s a load of old crap, don’t think that. Don’t think that. Get out there and try anything.

2. Move

If you’re able to, just walk. Get your headphones on and go for a walk. If you can’t leave your house because the anxiety’s too much, try to move in your front room. I’ve done that. I had a trampoline in my front room for a long time in the nineties. I still regularly—technical term—lose my shit. I close the curtains and I fricking go for it and I’ll tell you what, if there were videos of that, it would be the wrong sort of social media sensation because it would be frightening. It’s almost trance-like and yet completely hilarious at the same time I suspect. I give not one shit. It is wonderful to go off your head to the KLF, I firmly recommend it.

3. Write

I think a great thing to do, and a thing I still do every day is write everything down. Don’t write it online. As soon as you write it online, there is the possibility of sharing. Go old-school, get yourself an exercise book and just write down everything that’s bothering you and let it free, let it go. If you’re frightened, if something you feel is ludicrous is giving you anxiety, write it down, because in the act of purging that anxiety, you’re acknowledging it. I hate to quote Dr Phil, but you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge—that’s a great line of his.

4. Tell someone how you’re feeling

You need to go and tell somebody. I wish I’d… If I’d had access to some of the care that’s around now, I think I could have been happier and, I hate to say it, more successful in life generally, because a lot of my coping mechanisms weren’t always very healthy – they were necessary, but not healthy.

So you’ve got to go and talk to somebody. Don’t be frightened, they’ve heard it all before and worse. They honestly will have done.

I still have challenging days and I still would have no hesitation in going to get the correct help for that. I’ve got a better grasp of it now, how my head works, just by being older, so I know what I need to do to make it better. In my case that can be as simple as going for a huge walk with music, it can be as simple as just putting every phone down, turning the bloody television off, turning the radio off and just sitting quietly for half an hour, just listening to bird noise—which I realise makes me sound ferociously middle age! But it’s something I’ve always done. Just turning off from the world.

5. Aim to feel better

Just give yourself permission to feel better. If not feel good, feel better. Aiming to feel good puts enormous pressure on you if you’re starting from rock bottom, trying to feel better I think makes you braver. You try new things. Just feeling a tiny bit better is a step up from feeling as bad as you did feel. Give yourself permission, right now.

It’s All In Your Head: A Guide To Getting Your Sh*t Together by Rae Earl was published on August 10th.