Things that make me anxious, part 1: Orcas .
I am the Queen of Procrastination. Seriously, if I run out of Insta to scroll and Netflix won’t load (and there’s some kind of deadline looming), I’m going to get me some scissors and cut myself a big ol’ fringe (bangs). It doesn’t matter that I don’t particularly suit a fringe. It doesn’t matter that I’m always running too late to successfully style a fringe. What matters is that I would rather be doing anything than whatever anxiety inducing thing I should be doing.
Where does the Queen of Procrastination reign supreme? Well, YouTube. So I have watched, like, a lot of Shark Videos. I actually love sharks. I think sharks are beautiful, strong and wholly misunderstood. Most people are scared of sharks, though; they have big teeth, they can smell a drop of blood from 10 planets away and they come with their own ominous soundtrack. I totally get why people are afraid of them. So why am I not? Why am I the only bugger who got stuck with this random phobia?!
I think it started with a visit to Seaworld, Orlando - although, retrospectively I remember not being too thrilled about them in some Attenborough I saw as a child. Against my better judgement, I had been talked into a trip to see Shamu Rocks! (Shamu doesn’t want to rock, Seaworld - leave him alone.) and I was totally overwhelmed. Partly, I was upset that the whales were effectively disco dancing for fish while being blasted with strobe lights and KISS, it just seemed so weird and unnecessarily cruel.
But as these huge creatures moved I felt the familiar warning signs of an panic attack. Killer whales are massive. They are really big. And here they were, in-the-flesh in front of me. I was breathless, dizzy and being pulled by gravity towards their tank. I could not understand why we were messing around with these giants! I found myself feeling suddenly afraid of the crowd around me. I was repulsed by the cheering and laughter, disgusted by the idea that we (humans) would pay people to toy with the lives of these whales for our own entertainment.
Several anxiety fuelled hours later, I found myself back in the villa. I vowed to never go near Seaworld again. I recognise of course, that my anxiety came from compassion, rather than fear of the animals themselves. But the damage was already done. Anxiety by association, yo!
Orcas make me anxious. It is a fear that rarely rears its head, if I’m honest. But when it does it’s so powerful. Other than the one time I hyperventilated my way through Blackfish, I do what I can to avoid killer whales altogether (photographs, cartoons, irl). In fact, in a cruel twist of anxiety, my brain jelly has expanded and now I’m afraid of whales in general. Brilliant.
The sea has become my mortal enemy, despite my previous love for it - born from growing up on the Welsh coast, because of course I “chose” to be afraid of the only damn whale that can be found in all parts of the world’s oceans. So bye-bye vague notion that I’ll one day swim with sharks. Hello, barely paddling while scanning the horizon for dorsal fins.
Despite the obvious beach inconveniences and frustrations, mostly the anxiety makes me sad. I really want to like orcas. Hell, I should like orcas - they’re feminists for fuck’s sakes. They are graceful, powerful and incredible problem solvers. But it only takes one tree to make a thousand matches and it only takes one panic attack to ruin something beautiful forever.
So for now, I’ll settle for respecting orcas from a safe distance. I’ll limit my youtube browsing and Googling in favour of my own calm. And I will probably always be jealous of you, because you can probably watch Free Willy, and you can probably watch it without breaking into a cold sweat.