Mental nausea and a mixed metaphor about swans and snorkels

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© Murat Erhan Okcu |

Speaking to groups of people must seem a pretty self-flaggelatory* way to earn a crust, for someone who battles anxiety and other types of mental nausea**.

I really love it. I just flick a switch in my brain and become a facilitator. I recognise how fortunate I am to be able to flick a mental switch in order to function on a professional level.

I remember an old boss being totally surprised – shocked – when I told him I’d been diagnosed with depression.

“But you’re always so smiling and happy!”

I wanted to yell at him that I was just pretending. I HAD to pretend, or I’d just not function at all.

When things get bad, I operate on the swan theory***.

I’m a swan a lot in the evenings. Evening is when most people are active on social media. I love Twitter for the conversations I have, the interesting stuff I watch and read.

It’s hard, though, to be social on demand. My Seasonal Affective Disroder (SAD) brings anxiety and fibromyaglia flares to accompany the dying of the light every frigging night in winter.

There I am being social, LOLing and retweeting and generally being frivolous and silly while on the inside, I’m slowly losing my mind.

I start to feel that horrible, pervasive scratching of anxiety under my skin, a gradually tightening fist inside my chest. Time to get my swan on (no, not in a bizarre and frankly ill-advised Bjork dead-swan-tutu way WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!).

Last night was particularly bad. As evening arrived and my serotonin levels dipped I was tweeting how bad I felt, while LOLing and replying cheerily to other tweets. It occurred to me today how weird that would seem.

It’s not that I’m not real while I’m relating normally on the outside and being screamingly mental on the inside. That IS the real me. The me that isn’t screamingly mental, I mean. The me that’s the swan, gliding on top of the water, gently mental, rather than the utterly batshit self-destructively crazy part of me that’s paddling like mad (literally) under the water.

I think I need to be that swan. The screamingly mental me really needs the gently mental me to keep up those normal interactions, like a weird mental snorkel, keeping just above the crashing waves of mental vomit****. Now and then a few waves splosh over and I choke and cough but the snorkel always clears again with some sleep and a few cuddles.

So next time you see someone being witty and frivolous, while saying they’re depressed or anxious, don’t say “Wow you always seem so HAPPY! I had NO IDEA you were mental”.

Just know that they’re trying their best to be a swan.

Oh and for fuck’s sake, don’t put your finger over the end of their snorkel or someone might DIE.



My lovely friend Dayle Walker from Simply Aware sent me this link, to Tina Turner singing a peace mantra. I recommend it for any of you aspiring swans out there. My domain manager broke my blog so I’ve listened to it eight times already today. So far.

Keep paddling like fuck.

* I don’t care if that’s not a word, it should be.
** Thank you Ben Pobjie for coining that phrase. Perfection.
*** The swan theory is about gliding along the top of the water perfectly calm, while under the water you’re paddling like fuck. I would like to state that this is absolutely the only way in which I resemble a swan.
**** Now try to un-imagine that, now you’ve read it. You’re welcome.

Do you have anxiety?
Are you able to be a swan?


  1. I’m always paddling like fuck. Mostly I don’t look anything near as elegant as a swan xx

  2. So much of this post is me.
    Your words make me smile because I have someone here who understands and at the same time they make me sad…that we are friends in pain…pain buddies 🙂
    Thanks to Twitter and Blogs I found wonderful people like you who make every day that little bit easier to handle.
    Much love.xx

  3. The calmer I appear the worse things are going, as the tighter the grip on my anxiety needs to be.

    ps. mental nausea, LOL.

  4. Excellent way to explain it!!! I am in the same mode right now, even with the SAD, because I get that in summer.the only thing I don’t get is the serious depression, but the anxiety alone can be enough to totally stop your life, nevermind the fibro,etc. Good blog.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What a brill visual and explanative (is this a real word) use of a swan. Great idea. I love it.
    You do realise what a great job you do handling all these issues, just saying and MWAHS

  6. I am reading this with a magazine draped over my head because RIDICULOUS. Also it makes the baby laugh.

    SAD is shit. I cannot wait for Spring. Boo, hiss. I adore you and we can be depressed and hilarious together.

  7. I love this post…evocative. Swans are beautiful, so are ugly ducklings 🙂

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