Terra Cognita #3: Waiting

Seven million anti-anxiety prescriptions are doled out to us UK island dwellers every year.

That’s a lot pills just in order to quell the exclamatory voices in our head that yelp things like:

“I’m out of control!”
“I can’t deal with this!”
“Oh, shit!”
“I don’t want this feeling!”
[Add your favourite Anxious Thought here]

Anti-anxiety pills, as we know, work on two levels. There is the chemical substance which slooooows down the transmission of information between nerve synapses tricking the brain into thinking that slow-motion equals “calm” (and in some ways it does). And then of course there’s the placebo effect: I am doing something (taking a pill) to help me with this other thing that I just can’t stand. Or think I can’t stand. No, but really, I can’t.

I am not against taking anti-depressants or anxiolytics, but might I be able to do something to reduce or tolerate my anxiety whilst at the same time being more alive to those bulletins from within – often arriving on the crest of the anxious wave?

I’ve always found the focus of meditation and exercise useful, combined with some sort of broadly “spiritual” word-balm{{1}} but I’m wondering if learning poems{{2}} might work equally well.

I might experiment with this in the next couple of weeks in which I’ll be doing a certain amount of anxious waiting. Waiting for an operation in my case{{3}}, but of course we’re all waiting, for something, almost constantly. So anytime is a good time to be doing this.

Rogan Wolf‘s wonderful  Poems For organisation commissions work from leading contemporary poets which are then offered as wall displays on screen and in Anxious Spaces (GP surgeries, hospitals, dentists).

In the next week or two, I will be “equipping myself” with some of these Poetic Pills, specifically poems about waiting{{4}}, and reporting back to you until my operation as to how effective the learning and reciting of the poems have been in keeping my nerves at bay.


[[1]]Buddhist talks and “sermons” appeal, but whatever speaks to you really. Even the much derided self-help books have genuinely helped me at times.[[1]]

[[2]]Any poem you love will do. But maybe even something relatively targeted to what ails you. Relative being the key-word, as even prescription drugs are fairly arbitrary elixirs, with medicine created with one pathology in mind found to work quite well for a host of others.[[2]]

[[3]]Run-of-the-mill surgery, nothing serious. And yet, and yet, a kind of Woody-Allenesque neurosis attends any surgery doesn’t it? Thoughts like:  “Serious complications arising from general anaesthesia are only 1 in 10,000, death is 1 in 100,000, but those figure doesn’t necessarily make me feel particularly cheery, Doc.”[[3]]

[[4]] I’ve chosen Rogan Wolf’s Across The Way, Angus MacMillan’s Dancing In The Waiting Room, and I Am Waiting by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.[[4]]

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