I feel like we’re friends. You get me. We like quite a lot of the same things, good wine, takeaways on the sofa, comfy ‘loungewear’ (read pjs) and a good box set.
We also like sending ourselves into a complete meltdown for no reason, other than the fact that we’re anxious beings and we’d quite like to hit ourselves over the head with a stick.
Am I right?
I’m going to be completely honest here, like, oversharing, heart on sleeve, you’re probably going to judge me, honest. Last week I had the opportunity to go to an event, in Wandsworth, in the *most* amazing house, which would have ticked all of my house porn boxes, I would have been paid, cold hard cash (hello freelance writer without a regular income) all for half an hour or so of talking. On camera. To strangers.
Now, some of you are probably sitting there going, “ok, so when is she going to give the reason for the anxiety?” To the rest of you, the ones like me, you’ll be doing exactly what I did.
ON CAMERA? TO STRANGERS?
Confident I am not
You see, I can come across as a very confident, bolshy, cocky, shut the fuck up kind of person sometimes. I’m fully aware of that. It’s what I like to think of as my ‘online persona’ – a bit like Beyonce has Sasha Fierce, only mine isn’t as cool and I have no idea what she would be called. Probably something like Crazy Cathy. Catchy. I’ll work on that.
So while I can type away on here, on social, or even in email and messages, put me in a room full of strangers and ask me to talk about myself? Well, ha, good luck with that.
I can talk about YOU all day long. Face to face, if you’re a stranger, we’re good. If we’re focussing on you I am as happy as Larry. If I have to start dealing with the attention being on me? Hell noooooo. I don’t know what it is, I just hate attention on me.
You’d think, being not far off 6ft, red hair and a mouth to rival Mick Jagger, I’d be pretty used to people looking at me. Maybe that’s why I’m not too good with it, when you always stand out, it’s pretty hard to blend in.
So, back to the event. I was all set to go, uber was downloaded, childcare was sorted, everything was in place. Only, the closer the day got, the more worked up I became. I watched something recently where Will Smith was saying worry takes away your day, or words to that effect. The gist of it was, don’t worry about it until you’re doing it, because it achieves nothing. Yeah, great advice there Will, don’t worry about….. PAH.
I tried not to worry, oh my god did I try! Blanking it out, thinking about something else whenever it popped into my head, telling myself to not be so ridiculous, all the things you’d try and do to not worry. Does that ever work? Does it balls.
Of course I was worrying. Right up until the day before when I had a giant meltdown at my kitchen table and thought to myself, this is not worth it. Yeah, great, I get paid, but I would be a nervous wreck the whole day, I’d probably make zero sense and I would hate every single second of it. Or not, which is much more likely but you try telling me that when I’m ‘having a moment’. So I cancelled. And the relief was instant. If you’ve never had that anxious feeling washed away by plans being changed or cancelled then you might not quite understand, think of it like being told an event you really didn’t want to to go, but had no choice not to, had been cancelled and you don’t need to go. It’s like that, only 100 times better.
Naturally, I felt guilty but that pretty much gets swept under the carpet compared to the feeling of not having to put myself out ‘there’.
Aren’t I brilliant? *eye rolling face inserted here*
I think I can safely say I have a tick in the Social Anxiety box. Yay me. Social Anxiety Disorder (or SAD, isn’t that hilarious?) is classed as a “persistent and overwhelming fear of one of more social situations where embarrassment may occur”. So basically, I’m nervous about making a tit of myself, which is really ironic when you think I do that daily, often on purpose, to make *other* people feel more relaxed?! (Can you see why my husband is often baffled by me?)
It can have a whole host of physical symptoms, which, despite experiencing some of them myself, still amazes me, how powerful the mind really is. Symptoms like dizziness, racing heart, upset stomach, or my own personal favourite, feeling like you’re not in your body. Like, you’re watching yourself from another position. Can’t describe it, can’t explain it, absolutely bloody hate it. (Tell me I’m not alone with this one…!)
How to Help
For those normal beings, who don’t quite understand the absolute arse of anxiety, it’s very easy to say “just go, you’ll enjoy it once you’re there” or “it’s really not as bad as you’re making out” or, my own personal favourite, “I don’t get you, you always seem so confident” please stop saying those things. We know, we know everything you’re saying is true. We also know we are completely blowing things out of proportion and you could bet money on the situation being none of the things we imagine.
Still not going to help us. In *any* way.
The best thing you can say is, “ok, I get that you’re worried, do you want me to come with you?” or, “don’t go if you don’t want to, it’s not that important” or even “let me cuddle you while you internally combust” (note, that only works if you’re really close, like married or dating, otherwise it’s a bit weird, but, maybe it’ll help, who knows with us!) There is no need for you to fix us, or to even try and suggest that we’re over reacting. We know we are, you pointing it out won’t help.
One day, we’ll figure out a way of working with our anxieties rather than against them, but until then, just putting up with us is enough.