anxiety’s secret agenda: whispers

Today was a day like many others. For some it could be considered downright ordinary. Routine. But not so much for me. I’m striving for a new normal. A new ordinary. A new routine. Routines are my friend. They help keep me grounded. They help keep me calm. They help keep my anxiety at bay by providing a sense of consistency. A feeling that everything is as it should be. I’ve been a remote worker, primarily working from home, for the last 7 years. My normal is getting up, seeing my folks out the door, grabbing a bite to eat, pouring a cup of coffee, and sinking into my day. At home. Alone. My interaction with people usually online or limited to my family and close circle of friends. All carefully curated, scheduled, and couched in calm so I can be as effective at life as possible. I’m trying to stretch my arms and legs outside of that box a little bit. And as that happens I’m doing my damndest to remember that not everything is a setback. Not everything is apocalyptic. Not everything that seems huge to me is even a blip on another person’s radar. But it can be hard to let go sometimes. Which brings me to the whispers of anxiety. The ones that seek to keep me on edge, off balance, and constantly second guessing myself. You see one of the things that shakes me to my very core is doing something stupid, embarrassing, or rude in what should be a normal social interaction. It’s weird in that I don’t care what people think of me a lot of the time. But when I interact socially with someone I don’t know or don’t know well or even know super well I am constantly afraid I made an ass of myself. The thought whispers to me until it’s all I can hear. It will plague my thoughts all day, it will keep me awake, it will wake me up from a dead sleep. What if I hurt their feelings? What if I was rude? What if I made an ass of myself? What if I did something to embarrass someone else? My brain will spin for hours and sometimes longer worrying that I committed some interactional wrongdoing. That I somehow fundamentally ruined someone’s day. There was a time I rushed to get off of a call because my contact had gotten lost in my eye. It was more than two years ago. I’d consider myself friends with the person who I was on the call with. I still worry that I upset him by being rude.

Narrator: She did not.

Back to what I was saying early. I’m trying to work outside some boxes. Adjust my expectations. Try new routines. As part of that I’m working from an office a few days a week. That’s good. That’s healthy. Forced interaction. Support of the community. Perspective on what people are doing. Separation of work and home life. Setting boundaries. Also these chairs are pretty comfy and they roll.

But I was here early. And I was really focused in on work. And I hadn’t had quite as much coffee as one might expect for 8am.

Narrator: She’d had quite enough coffee.

And an unexpected social interaction came up, and I made an inaccurate assumption about someone else making an inaccurate assumption and words fell out of my mouth. And then I was corrected and that’s just horrifying and then I apologized and then we moved along and I am sure everything is fine.

Narrator: She is not

You see while I know, logically, that everything is fine I feel like I’m an asshole. And it’s so early in the day and what if I ruined this persons whole day because I’m an insensitive lout? What if they also suffer from anxiety and think I hate them. I don’t even know them, I can’t hate them. So I took to twitter, of course. And the suggestion was made that I just apologize and move on. But I already did apologize. And I’m sure I will move on at some point. But since I haven’t moved on yet. Since it’s still circling the anxiety drain in my head I thought it was a good example. A good reminder. A good thing to document. You know in case I was every super duper weird with any of you in an interaction. So you know why. Or in case you ever feel super duper weird in an interaction. So you know you’re not alone. But also so I could say I’m sorry again one more time. For the contact lens thing, for being rude, for abrupt departures from conversations or parties, and also if I’ve ever just been standing there staring, or laughed at an inappropriate moment. Chances are if you thought it was weird I still think about it from time to time. I’m working on it

Narrator: She really is


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