JAN MOIR: This new age of anxiety is worrying me

JAN MOIR: Today there seems little demarcation between serious mental health issues and lifestyle complaints – which is why I’m worried about this new age of anxiety

High anxiety? Don’t look down, but it’s everywhere. 

Giant rugby player Joe Marler is so anxious about playing for England that he has announced his early retirement from the international game; Nigella Lawson says being anxious has made her stop drinking, because it leads to ‘a horrible tight feeling of worry’.

We appear to be living in a new age of anxiety, with a reported UK-wide increase in feelings of apprehension and dread.

Perhaps it is hardly surprising, given the current political situation, that for many of us there is no longer any comfort in a nice big glass of panic attack as we careen towards the void.

There is a reported UK-wide increase in feelings of apprehension and dread [File photo]

Anxiety is one of the emotions that has been in the headlines during this week’s World Mental Health Day. Being anxious is the new black (cloud).

For a start, I’m rather anxious about the Government’s new £1.9 billion plan to improve mental health in schools, starting with assessments for children as young as four.

What then? A pill for every ill, an indelible mark on junior’s medical record, a cloud to follow them around for the rest of their schooldays?

Never mind small children with developing minds and understandable feelings of confusion, are there any of us who would not qualify for some sort of diagnosis if the right questions were asked?

Anxiety is one of the emotions that has been in the headlines during this week’s World Mental Health Day. Being anxious is the new black (cloud) [File photo]

That is one reason why it’s hard not to get completely lost in this current quagmire, where there seems to be little demarcation between serious mental health issues and what often doesn’t amount to much more than lifestyle complaints.

Getting a dose of the glums, going through the blues, being swamped by low moods — aren’t they all just part of a storm front that will pass in the typhoon of life?

Sometimes one can feel that anxiety is less of a psychiatric problem and more of an intelligent response to the vagaries of living.

Take Harlequins prop Joe Marler, who has played for England since 2012 but never felt comfortable with the honour. He appears to have given up his international career at the age of 28 because he found it hard to cope with the stress and anxiety, resulting in mood swings at home.

Who could blame him? The pressure of representing your country at the highest sporting level must be immense. And while some will have the strength of character to deal with it, some will not. That doesn’t make Joe ill, it just makes him human.

Meanwhile, we all know that Nigella has not had to seek out problems. I certainly agree with her sympathetic World Mental Health Day tweet that: ‘No one ever knows how hard anyone else has found it just to get through the day.’ Or, indeed, the courage it takes for some just to get up and walk out of their front door every morning.

And while I would never, ever underestimate the crippling, terrible effects of depression — or the bravery of those people who struggle with it — isn’t there a danger that, increasingly, plain old negative emotions are seen as an indication of a condition, before being swept up into a diagnosis?

When someone is truly suffering from a mental illness, it is not an absence of happiness that is the issue. It is more that they are trapped in a hideous waking nightmare [File photo]

All of which suggests that, for some, happiness is a thing that can be demanded, supplied via prescription and delivered by medication in the quest for a blissful life.

When someone is truly suffering from a mental illness, it is not an absence of happiness that is the issue. It is more that they are trapped in a hideous waking nightmare — one that has a ripple effect for everyone in their circle. These poor souls need all the help they can get, and I speak as someone who once had to help section a friend who had schizophrenia along with other complications. Those months before we managed to get her into a psychiatric ward and access the help she needed were truly terrifying.

Going through that experience today, with underfunded mental health resources, would be even more frightening — especially with waiting rooms and patient lists swamped with those whose everyday distress has somehow been repackaged as a mental illness.

Experiences rarely meet expectations in a world where most of us feel sadness, fury and anxiety on a regular basis, sometimes all at once. Many of us do this without the expectation of counselling or a course of therapy to make us feel better about ourselves — but some of us don’t.

And if adults cannot grasp the difference between normal feelings and pathological ones, what chance do small schoolchildren have?

I also worry that the blazing spotlight now focused on mental health might be to the detriment of those who really do suffer serious psychological problems far worse than anxiety.

For the ones who most need help are sometimes those who can’t speak up at all. Amid all the clamour, we must not forget that.

 I never thought I’d defend Phillip Green, but…

Only an extraordinary series of events and an appalling collection of people could put me in the position of defending Sir Philip Green. Yet somehow this has happened.

The old rogue has been vilified for dismantling a feminist-themed pop-up shop inside one of his stores. I don’t imagine he went around there and tore the plywood shelving to bits with his own bare hands, foaming at the mouth and roaring like a sea lion as he did so. Yet that is the impression Scarlett Curtis gives.

Miss Curtis is the author whose book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) was the focus of the pop-up at Topshop’s flagship store in London. It is a collection of essays by 52 ‘incredible women’. 

The purpose of the book by Miss Curtis, above, is to make teenage girls understand that the feminist movement might be ‘something worth getting involved with’. Quite why the 23-year-old imagines they should listen to her is anyone’s guess, as her privileged position in life owes more to nepotism than feminism

All the famous contributors — including Helen Fielding, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson — are friends of her parents, the film-maker Richard Curtis and broadcaster Emma Freud. So that was nice.

Scarlett has survived years of painful scoliosis, followed by post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. So she deserves plaudits for ensuring that the book’s royalties go to the UN charity Girl Up.

Yet something went wrong in Topshop, when the odd little display was dismantled after two hours. Miss Curtis said this was on the personal orders of Green, whom she described as ‘horrible’ and a briefcase-carrying stooge who represents everything wrong with the evil patriarchy.

Something went wrong in Topshop, when the odd little display was dismantled after two hours. Miss Curtis said this was on the personal orders of Green, whom she described as ‘horrible’ and a briefcase-carrying stooge who represents everything wrong with the evil patriarchy

He said it was a genuine mistake and donated £25,000 to her charity. Pretty decent of him, I thought. ‘A gesture that is not to be ignored,’ sniffed Miss Curtis, who could not quite bring herself to say thank you for the cash.

She also wrote in a national newspaper that Green had ‘spent his career making millions from the likes of me’. Hardly fair, considering one could say exactly the same thing about her father. Look, if she loathed Green so much, then she shouldn’t have been such a big hypocrite as to use his shop in the first place, then bleat about not getting an apology from him afterwards.

Meanwhile, the purpose of the book is to make teenage girls understand that the feminist movement might be ‘something worth getting involved with’.

Quite why the 23-year-old imagines they should listen to her is anyone’s guess, as her privileged position in life owes more to nepotism than feminism.

‘I live in a feminist bubble,’ she says. Well, it’s a bubble of some kind, that’s for sure.

Taylor doesn’t get my vote

 Perhaps it had to happen. Taylor Swift has ended her 14 year silence about her political affiliations.

I know this may come as a shock to you, but she has come out for the Democrats.

No! Yes.

Taylor Swift at the 2018 American Music Awards held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, USA on Tuesday

Now the 28 year old popette has urged her millions of fans to get out and vote in the American mid-term elections.

Vote the same way as her, one supposes.

Are pop fans really silly enough to coipy Tay-Tay’s political leanings just because they like her songs?

Don’t answer. It’s too depressing.

Strictly speaking, I can’t wait for the dance of shame

Over the course of one drunken evening, this year’s Strictly Come Flirting morphed from a mere fiesta of dance steps and sequins into a drama that encapsulates all the beauty and squalor of the human condition.

There is not just passion and love, not just revenge and betrayal but also the timeless sexual power of a mini skirt and over-the-knee boots. Men are so predictable, aren’t they?

On Wednesday, fans enjoyed the delicious vision of penitents Seann Walsh and Katya Jones appearing on spin-off show It Takes Two — summoned to apologise to the nation for their ‘mistake’. Sort of.

Seann Walsh and Katya Jones apologise for their kiss while talking to Zoe Ball on ‘Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two’

He was grudging and charmless, while she was a fallen angel in modest polka dots, her innocent, dewy look supplied by the Who Me? make-up range.

Perhaps we shouldn’t take sides, but I really don’t blame Katya. How many of us have had one Bacardi Breezer too many and snogged a bloke who thinks he is a comedian? Only about ten million at the last count.

You’ve got to admit, their victim faces were magnificent; a twin study of the pain of wronged condemnation. What was going on?

At times, it looked as if they were taking part in a police appeal for the safe return of their kidnapped puppy. Or had they just come to the tricky confessional part of couples counselling? 

At a parents’ meeting when they had just been informed it was their little darling who burned down the gym? Listening to the bank manager explain why he had just turned down their mortgage application? Or all of the above?

Come what may, I am glad they are to be allowed to perform their Dance of Shame tomorrow night. After all, this is a dance show, not a morality contest. 

However, it does seem an apt punishment for their mutual infidelity and the humiliation heaped on their respective partners. Can’t wait to see how the pair of them stagger through the mortification of it all.

 Roll up for a right royal opera

 Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life — but how often does it turn out like that? Why do people even have weddings any more, when all they seem to do is unzip a boiling nest of domestic issues, unhappiness and feuds?

With the nation still reeling over the Meghan Markle family debacle, now we must negotiate the tricky territory of Eugenie’s nuptials today.

Will Philip be photographed with Fergie? Is Harry going to the party in the evening? And why won’t the Duchess of Cornwall be at the wedding? I’ll tell you why. She has an important meeting with a couple of local tots at a school near Balmoral and she has to peel the spuds and butter the tattie scones for a house party, too.

Some say Camilla thinks the wedding is tacky, but I don’t believe that for a second. Plus she seems like the kind of party animal who’d never turn down a free tequila. Cheers!

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