The Panic Station , 2 August 2019

On Success & Panic

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On the one hand, I think people who are successful discussing mental health issues they’ve had is helpful, like shining a light back through a tunnel, coaxing and inviting those scaling their way through darkness out.

But on the other hand, I remember the version of me who was rendered inert as a result of panic attacks, unable to hold down a 9-5, let alone able to scale to lofty heights with my career.

That young woman was full of ambition but locked into a world that allowed for none of it to be channelled anywhere.

She once stood on the above street after accepting a day-long stint manning an empty office phone line for much-needed cash that she then had to pay to a friend who came to take over when a panic attack blackened the sky and made staying at the office untenable.

She would not have been cheered by seeing people who have reached dizzying heights despite mental health issues; she’d have felt diminished, more incompetent, less able. She’d have wondered why her anxiety affected her life and career so badly while other people referred to their anxiety but still managed to live a ‘normal’ life.

And, actually, that person has been occurring to me more and more. Much like the myth about creatives harbouring vices that push them to greatness, I think it’s important to remember that mental health issues often incapacitate, and that it is the exception, not the rule, who flourish despite them.

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