Speaking with my future brother-in-law last week about his anxiety issues, he had no idea that I suffer with anxiety too – have problems with anxiety. Anxiety issues? Attacks of anxiety? I’m not really sure how to label it and I know ‘anxiety’ is sort of a buzzword and seen as overused right now, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.
Anyway, he had no idea of my issues. Truth is, not a lot of people really do. I have learnt to cover it up, so only the ones who really know me – know I have it.
I didn’t know it was so much of an issue until I got my first marketing job. My boss called it my ‘rabbit in the headlights look’, whenever I would have an attack. This job took me so far out of my comfort zone, that obviously I’m grateful for the opportunity, but in reality it only taught me to fake ‘being OK’ on the outside when I may be crumbling on the inside.
To the outside world, I appear calm, cool, collected. But inside, and those that really know me know, I spend most of my day feeling nervous, on edge and feeling like I’m failing at everything.
Go with the flow. Take it all in your stride. Fake it till you make it. ‘Let it go’ – yes you have to sing that one. It’s sayings like these that saw me through that job and still see me through today. But have they been good for me? I’d probably have to say no.
They’ve taught me to not deal with situations and my feelings, to just power through and hope that I come out the other end unscathed. But by not allowing myself to work out what it is about the situation that brings on my anxiety and instead just ignoring it, how can I ever truly feel like I can overcome things, succeed on my own merits, and work through my anxieties?
I don’t feel like I’ve learnt or grown as a person, I just look like I have.
I was inspired to write this piece today after a pretty restless sleep last night. My brain was working a mile a minute berating me for how I had handled the day.
I had had a slight issue with work just before I was leaving for a half day in which I needed someone’s help and they obviously didn’t want to give it. I got it, but they weren’t forthcoming with it. Sadly, I have to say, I’m getting that sense a lot more from my new work colleagues, but that’s another story. So that was going through my head a little.
Then for my impromptu half day (I had time off to use or lose), I thought I would be brave and take a trip to the cinema on my own; after my mostly successful solo trip to London and the House of Minalima the week before.
I had to meticulously plan my route of getting there; it was a cinema I hadn’t been to before and is a newish (recently refurbished) luxury one – if I was going to the cinema on my own, I was going luxury, and thankfully made it with no problem. Even so, this subject still ran through my head; I got to the train station far too early and had to wait, I got to the cinema far too early and again had to wait, for all my planning I felt like I’d still cocked this up. Even though I hadn’t.
When I got the cinema, I had 25 minutes to wait until the call time for the film, so thought I’d get some popcorn and a drink. I’d not been there before and only saw the bottled drinks, afterwards I noticed the big drinks machines where you helped yourself to a variety of weird and wild flavours. I’d failed again.
Then straight away realised that buying the drink and popcorn now was a stupid thing to do because I still had 25 minutes to wait for even the sodding adverts to start…and I needed the loo but that would have to wait until the end of the film. Where could I possibly leave my popcorn and drink?
I made my way into the screening room early and found my seat. F11? It was dark, I looked at my ticket and made out E11. I moved.
The seats were reclinable so I got myself settled in a good position and waited.
After two minutes I spilled my popcorn everywhere. Of course I did, it’s me. I don’t have any of my childhood breakables left – because I broke them. My sister still has her special plate with her name on it, her special cup with the engraved rose, and some other stuff that escapes my memory, but not me. I can be a bit clumsy, and therefore try my hardest not to be, but what can I say, it’s deep rooted. I scooped up as much as I could from my seat and put it into the drinks pocket. Classy. A little while later two ladies came up to me saying I was in one of their seats but not to worry as they could just move along one since the aisle was otherwise empty. E11? I’m E11, I said. I looked again at my ticket. No. No, I was F11. Dammit.
More people came along but they said the same, don’t worry about moving, we’ll just move up one. Until the seating got filled up and I had to move. I would just like to point out – it was 2 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon – who were all these people?! Upon moving, I suddenly realised there was a whole lot more popcorn on the seat and obviously I’d put it in the cup holder too. I apologised profusely – I had ruined someone else’s ‘luxury’ experience before it had even started.
I scooped up the popcorn from the cup holder and ran round to F11 – then had to look like a weirdo as I put a handful of popcorn into the cup holder before ramming my drink in there too.
Ultimately it was a good job I’d lost most of the popcorn as I sat there chomping my way through most of the film – I felt really guilty with all my rummaging, trying to do it as quietly as I could, until i just gave up and didn’t eat any more. And honestly, I wasn’t even enjoying it that much. The salted stuff was far too salty for my liking. So I just ate it for the sake of giving my hands something to do. And don’t get me started on trying to open the fizzy bottle of drink during the screening.
The film came and went (it was Bridget Jones’s Baby I went to see by the way, I loved it but I’ll save that for it’s own post), and I left on my journey home – physically undamaged, looking normal but disappointed inside that I couldn’t just do something properly and not embarrass myself for once.
Then I became even more disappointed that I was bothered by that crap. No one got hurt, no one died, no one shouted at me, I won’t be seeing any of those people again; so why did it bother me so much that it was stopping me from sleeping?
Do you know what it all boils down to? I struggle being on my own. Doing things on my own. When I’m with other people I give them and myself, lots of room for error. Together we can make as many mistakes as we want, we’re only human after all. When I’m alone, things have to be done just right, I hate to look stupid because that’s how I feel inside most of the time, and when alone, I don’t have anyone to laugh with me, tell me it’s OK and that it doesn’t matter. So my brain goes straight in with the harsh tones and they stay there.
At 5 o’clock in the morning as I lay fidgeting and fighting against my own brain, I decided to just give in. Instead of fighting it, I would let it think. So I challenged my brain to go ahead and think about whatever it wanted; berate me, love me, think about inane crap, plan the next day, incessantly go over the wrong doings of the day before; whatever. I wasn’t going to fight it. And during that ‘free-reign’ brain session is when the idea came for this post.
I don’t know what time I got to sleep, but 8am this morning when the alarm went off, I knew I’d done the right thing in the end. Once I’d let go of trying to control the thoughts and just sat back and watched what was going on, my anxiety didn’t have the fuel of me backing up the craziness with the more scenarios that it needed to keep burning. Instead my mind drifted from one topic to another until it switched itself off at a point that I don’t even remember.
Is there a real point to this post? Possibly not, but maybe someone will read this and think – hey, I go through that stuff too, I’m not the only one – and be consoled by it. Someone else may just find it funny, which really it is. One day I hope I can truly say that I find these situations funny when they’re happening and that I can be confident in my own company when in public. But I also have to allow myself the space to not be OK sometimes when things do get a bit on top. I can think about them, I just shouldn’t engage with them.
Until next time. x