High anxiety …

My anxiety levels seem to be increasing no matter what I do. I’m trying to remain cheerful, keep my sense of humour, even if it is morbid. I’m trying to take time to relax, even lying on the floor with Chaplin taking deep breaths and freaking him out.

But last night I was awake for much of the night. I’ve started having nightmares about being locked in Job Centre Plus. And my stomach is either full of butterflies or gurgling to be emptied.

I’m glad I don’t have the added worry of the police coming to arrest me over phone hacking allegations. Arrests are becoming more regular than Emmerdale. They won’t be knocking at my door – unless we can now be arrested for manipulation, feigning interest and visiting places we wouldn’t unless paid, which wouldn’t surprise me after the riots and the hysterical arrests and sentences. I was terrified walking past Krispy Kreme and window-shopping: my wide-eyed glare and dribbling could’ve looked suspicious, threatening even.

The sort of anxiety I now have isn’t short-lived, like the rush you get from a looming deadline or having to face a death-knock or awkward interview. It won’t pass with a laugh with your colleagues afterwards because you don’t have any.

What not to do …

I can remember jobs when anxiety threatened to rip me apart. Or was it shame and embarrassment?

I once interviewed a young woman after her appearance on Blind Date. Remember that show? It was twee, a bit sexist, obviously, but ultimately simple, crass family entertainment.

It meant so much more to the newspaper I wrote for once this young woman appeared. You see, she was very pretty and had chosen a date with someone equally attractive but it had not worked out. In fact, their fall out had been pretty dramatic.

“So, tell me about the date,” asking a simple question with a big, interested smile usually gets the conversation started.

“It was great, the place I mean. We had great fun. No, not like that!”   She glared at me.

I found it easier to look as if I was going to ask an intrusive question than actually ask it sometimes.

“Ok. You didn’t hit it off. Why is that?” Again, lean in, smile, be a friend, look like the whole experience isn’t making you as uncomfortable as her.

Before she spoke we both looked at the photographer, shuffling from one foot to the other, looking to the ground like an overgrown child with a bag full of toys on its back.

She hesitated but continued. “Well, he’s not my type. I don’t want to do him down –”

This was a shame as far as I was concerned. I smiled. “Of course not, but what was it that made it more of a holiday, less of a holiday romance?”

“Well, he’s a bit boring. He kept worrying about sunstroke and getting burned and didn’t drink much and – ” She was off and we were going to get a story.

Thing is, we needed a picture. I looked again briefly at the photographer, now biting his nails and not making eye contact. It looked like I was going to be the one to do the dirty work.

“Thanks for talking to us. Our readers love Blind Date and the goings-on behind the scenes. This will keep them entertained.” Polite laugh and a quick look to the photographer.

“We need a photo,” he said. Suddenly this gibbering wreck came to life and beamed a charming smile in her direction. “We were wondering if you would take your top off.”

As she yelled expletives we rushed towards the front door, muttering apologies. We sat together in his car in silence for a few minutes until I sighed, got out, and drove home knowing we both felt in need of a shower and a stiff drink.

I drank to cope with anxiety then. Not first thing in the morning but enough for it to be a health concern, I think. It’s the drinking to cope with the anxiety that I’m trying to avoid now. It works for a while until it becomes a habit or something on which you depend or The Fear lives you with permanently, increasing your anxiety and making you paranoid. I never got into that mess but I was probably not far off on occasion.

It was reported earlier this year that research revealed sales of alcohol in the US had increased by 10% despite the unemployment rate being above 9%, stating “Wine, spirits and craft beers have led the pack. Sales of midrange “legacy” beers, like Budweiser, have been more sluggish.”

Last year The Prince’s Trust research found that “one in ten young people felt that unemployment drove them to drugs and alcohol”.

While a study of European Union countries in 2009 revealed that “an increase in unemployment of over 3% is associated with as much as a 28% increase in deaths from alcohol use disorders”.

It is easy to find comfort in a glass of wine or a pint. It is a way to “take the edge off” and, for hacks of a certain age, some would say always has.

Bad news:I have a mandatory meeting at Job Centre Plus and I’m dreading it

Good news: I have a job interview next week

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