I haven’t written in two weeks.
And here I thought the world would crumble without my word-meandering. To be fair, a lot has been happening. I was in Big Rapids watching my sister get hooded and graduate for the College of Pharmacology as a doctor. I think that’s how you word it. I hung out with my niece, who’s very rapidly becoming fifteen. Usually, I panic at the idea of her getting older, but I realized that she’s now old enough to get my jokes and also (for a brief shining moment) think I’m cool. I was officially promoted to Director of Operations at my work, which has been humbling and overwhelming on levels I cannot express. More than once in the past two weeks I’ve stayed in bed for longer than 24 hours. That’s probably not healthy, but it is what it is. I got a raise. I know this because I did payroll for an entire company today. And today, well, today I worked for fourteen hours—8am to 10pm. I almost cried at the end.
I was spurred to write something, not by my lack of writing these past two weeks, but something that came up in the meeting. The topic of anxiety was touched on, which I’m always compelled to add my two cents to. I found myself getting frustrated, like usual by what people were saying, which led to a pretty foundational revelation about myself. So where to begin?
I think I need to start roughly a couple of weeks ago. It was a Thursday. I was preparing for a day of in person interviews and I was teetering on the edge of breakdown. I tell myself I can do anything, and for the most part that’s absolutely true. I’m always doing new things I never thought I’d ever be able to do. I’d reached a point in training with Scott to be the Director of Operations that crossed at precisely the right place with doing in person interviews where I legitimately had to stare down the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to continue on with the job. I was scared. Scott called me on this.
Well, he said I looked “low energy,” which is a little annoying. Like, yeah, I’m low energy. I’ve been working nonstop without breaks to figure out how to do his job. I’m stretching myself beyond my physical and mental capacity. Screw you, Scott. I’m more tiffed about it now than I was. I actually just sat down and honestly told him that my anxiety was border line out of control and I felt physically ill from all of the interviewing. Everything else about the promotion I could handle. The higher level of people almost killed me.
What ensued was ten minutes of Scott trying really hard to help. I will give him that. He spoke from a caring place, both as a boss and a friend. Part of me recognized that and felt so blessed. He was on his way out. He didn’t have to take the time to give me a pep talk. He could have said, “Suck it up, Sunshine,” and left it at that. The other part of me wanted to shriek and shake my head and pull my hair out because he didn’t understand what I was feeling at all. What was worse, despite trying to explain myself, I wasn’t saying the right thing to make him understand. I wanted to pull a Chandler and scream, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” I was angry at him. I was angry at myself. As much as I insert myself into conversations when people talk about anxiety, I hate them because I never get my point across.
Tonight, I tried to point out to coworkers that anxiety isn’t rational. Talking with my coworkers shouldn’t be terrifying. They are all amazing people. As I spoke, telling that that even though the idea of talking to someone you enjoy being around shouldn’t be hard it’s scary when you have anxiety, I also raised my hands to show that I was visibly shaking in fear just by speaking. Then, a few people wanted to know what people with anxiety are so worried about.
And that’s the problem. That’s my big issue. People talk to me like I’m afraid someone’s going to start screaming at me if I tell them they’re wrong or voice my opinion. Sometimes I think people assume that I have the irrational fear that someone’s going to beat me or pull a gun on me or wait for me in the parking lot so they can hit me with their car. They hear me say “It’s terrifying” and they see me shaking, and they make the rational jump to, “She must think something scary is going to happen.” I don’t.
Do you want to know my worst fear? The fear that drives all of this crazy and gives me the most trouble? I think I’ve known it for a while but I haven’t put real words to it tonight. My closest confession has been that I want people to like me. Everything I do is a crafted image of myself to make people like me. Why? My biggest fear is being a nuisance. The worst, most horrifying thing I can think of is being 100% annoying to someone. I’m crippled by the idea and possibility that when I show up, someone groans on the inside or outside, wants to roll their eyes, and is completely disgusted by my presence.
Speaking to people one on one or in public is difficult. I don’t want someone thinking, “Why is she speaking? Won’t she shut the hell up?”
Being in public is difficult. “What a fucking waste of space. Why is she even here?”
Doing my job is difficult. “All you do is ask stupid questions. You mess up even the smallest tasks. Why can’t you understand any of these simple ideas? Why won’t you just leave already?”
I face a constant barrage of my own brain humiliating me, like it’s trying to prepare me for the inevitable day when someone finally says what I know everyone has been thinking all along. Someone’s going to have to say it eventually. There’s going to be a time when everything comes to ahead.
And, of course, I’m crazier than a shit-house rat. Oh, people have probably been annoyed by me in the past and wished I wasn’t in their space. Though, it’s arrogant of me to think that they were 100% all consumed by their hatred of me. I think you have to put effort into making someone hate you that much. Most people, if I believe their behavior is mostly honest, seem to like me and think I’m awesome. I don’t know why, but there it is. But see how awful and dangerous social anxiety can be? See how it can be a tiresome struggle? It’s sucks, wholly and completely. And I just wanted to share that because people obviously don’t get it. Maybe they won’t ever fully get it because they don’t experience it personally. My hope is, however, that they grow to understand it a little more and maybe the next person with anxiety they talk to, they’ll be able to be an even better support than they already are.