I often find that people have no real idea of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and what it actually means. In my experience, people who don’t suffer from anxiety either think that those of us who do are rude and/or painfully shy. We’re neither.
In fact, we’re just like you, but our brains panic about the smallest, tiniest social interaction that you probably haven’t thought twice about.
Example: Being Invited to a Party:
Person Without Anxiety: Yeah, that sounds great! Where is it? Who’s going? Can I bring anything? Yeah, sure, I’ll just meet you there.
Me (inwardly): OMG…NO! What about All Of The People? I won’t know them and because I’m anxious they’ll think I’m rude. THEN they’ll all be bitching about me behind my back later on and discussing just how standoffish I am. What if I can’t find the place? I can’t possibly go to a stranger’s house/bar/club/shop/bus stop/ANYWHERE I haven’t been before on my own! I will need moral support just to ring the bell/walk in! What if I get really drunk because I’m so nervous and then never get invited back?? Why did you have to ask me?? Why can’t you just leave me alone? WHY????
Me (outwardly): Uh huh…that sounds OK. I’ll check my calendar.
|Please don’t make me do this.|
And it’s not just large gatherings that frighten the life out of me. Oh no. I can be just as awkward with two people; particularly when I don’t know them well. I’m taking friends of friends, family of friends; and anyone I suspect might judge me in an unfair light just because I don’t talk incessantly about nothing (apart from on this blog, obvs)
I am definitely the type of person that it takes a good while to get to know. I’d say about 30 years will do it. I have a small group of friends that I am entirely comfortable with, but I might not always be relaxed if we’re all together at the one time. It doesn’t mean I’m being awkward; it just reflects my anxiety. And, no, it’s not just a case of ‘chilling out’.
A friend and I were recently planning a night in London, where she was off to get some work done on a tattoo and I was tagging along because she seems to like my company. I was partly excited about the prospect, but also partly not. It has nothing to do with the person or the destination, just about all the unknown things that could occur.
I spend a LOT of time worrying about things that will never happen. I also spend an inordinate length of time imagining the most weird and wonderful scenarios (none of them pleasant) that I convince myself WILL ABSOLUTELY happen if I dare to go ahead with my plans.
|One of the many disasters that’s bound to happen when I make plans.|
Just because there hasn’t been zombie apocalypse in Shoreditch before, does NOT mean it won’t happen on the very day I’m there. I’ve seen Shaun of the Dead; I know it’s possible. Also, you know…bombs going off; getting lost; getting on the wrong train and ending up in France; falling over in front of people in the street, and any combination of two or more of the above.
Anxiety isn’t just restricted to social situations. Work events can be equally nightmare inducing. These days, I work in an office and am no longer driving/flying/sailing across Scotland trying to find island huts with no postcode. This has greatly reduced the stress that comes from having zero sense of direction.
This stress has now been replaced by wondering if my Scottish accent is too strong for Welsh people to understand; hoping I don’t often anyone on a second by second basis; being worried about asking questions when I have no clue what I’m doing; and generally being anxious about Every. Single. Thing. It’s not that much fun thb.
One of the worst situations at work is the dreaded Team Meeting. I don’t want to be there; I don’t want to speak; I dread being asked my opinion and, generally, I’m counting down the seconds until I can get out. I like everyone, but I just don’t want to gather round in a big group and talk about stuff. It’s my idea of Hell.
|Lord, take me now.|
Again, this often makes me seem as if I don’t care of have no interest in the topic being discussed. It’s not: I just find it difficult to chat about it with everyone at the same time. Individually? Not a problem. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work in the way I’d like it to and I have resigned myself to being the ‘odd’ or ‘shy’ one.
Interestingly, many introverts and people who suffer from GAD surround themselves with extroverts. I don’t really have any friends who are like me (can you just imagine the conversations?). My partner is quiet, but still very confident, whereas I’m mostly quiet and have no self belief at all.
I often think I must be the bane of people’s lives as there’s just no way I’ll ever be like them. Cancelled plans are my weakness. I say yes to things because I don’t want to offend anyone or let them down, but I simply don’t like being surrounded by people or attending parties. I find it so tiring. There has never been a time in my life that I would prefer to be on a night out rather than camped out at home. It’s genuinely not enjoyable for me. My stress levels are way lower when I’m in front of the TV watching some trashy show in my PJs.
|Me: every night.|
The next time you pass someone on the street who won’t make eye contact with you and shuffles along quietly; don’t think of them as rude or ignorant – consider the possibility the might simply be anxious. When someone spends Saturday night at home on a Netflix binge – don’t assume they’re sad or lonely; consider they might be over the moon not to have to leave the house and people all night.
Often, I get really worn out by having to have a 5 minute conversation with a relative stranger in the street that I were unable to avoid and need some time to recover. Going to work for 8 hours straight leaves me shattered.
I promise I won’t judge you for being out all the time and being frightened to spend any time on your own. Sometimes making constant plans is as much of an avoidance technique as cancelling them.
We’re all different and have the right to be whatever we want; whether this is something we choose or something that seems to be out with our control.
How do you cope with anxiety?