Anxiety is the Worst

I wouldn’t say it’s crippling anxiety, but it’s definitely dragging one useless foot anxiety. I emailed the coaches for my daughter’s probably swim team today. I have some baggage with that, having started to swim early with what I recognize now as limping but not yet cane-worthy anxiety. I remember going into the building by myself at five, never really making friends, never being fast enough for the coaches but too fast to be well-liked, and knowing I just had to make it through or my mother would be disappointed and angry. Perhaps my five-year-old self has blown this out of proportion. Maybe anxiety didn’t start punching me in the gut until I was eight. Maybe I wasn’t an outsider right away. Maybe the coaches didn’t loom quite so large, didn’t criticize quite so much. It doesn’t matter, not really. That anxiety stayed with me right through high school and while I eventually had plenty of friends and became a team captain, an assistant coach, and a lifeguard, I still feel like I’ll throw up every time I see a lane line, block, or the black lines marking the path on the bottom of the pool.

On a smaller level, I’m gripped with sick fear each time I’m supposed to be some place where talking to a lot of other people about everyday things is expected. Can you believe I spent ten years attending parties with foreign dignitaries? No, I can’t either. I’m well-liked, I’m adept at small talk, I connect with others easily, I’m a strong public speaker. In other words, you wouldn’t know that inside I feel like I’m banging on the walls to get out trying to stay clear of the black whirlpool of panic whenever I’m supposed to be in a group with more than two others. Even one person, on an occasional basis, has the capacity to nearly paralyze me although I sometimes surprise myself with a glimpse of the me who used to attend group gatherings with only mild trepidation.

It doesn’t stop me from my professional obligations, mostly. I don’t usually attend “fun” gatherings because for me they are torture. I do go to conferences and meetings and trainings and workshops confidently with a smile because it’s the expectation and I’m particularly good at drowning out the screaming in order to be professional. Still, there are only so many times you can beg off because you aren’t feeling well or have a family requirement. And it does prevent me from doing things I might enjoy if only I could make it past myself.

I left a promising career.
I left a monthly gathering of friends and acquaintances.
I haven’t attended team building parties with my staff.
I’ve made excuses not to attend big work gatherings.
I’ve skipped live music, parades, block parties, and festivals.
I’ve put off visits with friends and family.
I didn’t take my daughter to swim team kick-off. I lied to my kid. She didn’t meet the coach. She didn’t buy a suit. She didn’t meet any other kids.

It’s this last one I’m ashamed of. Sure, she can register at anytime and she’ll get to do all of those things at practice. But I read the handbook and there is a series of “fun” events (not to mention volunteering at meets) throughout the summer. Add this to the “fun” events the girl scout troop has and I am sitting here typing and struggling to breathe. I don’t want my daughter to see this. I don’t want to pass it on in any way. But I don’t want to do this and I can’t ask my wife to do everything.

Yes, I could see someone. I could breathe deep and exercise and meditate. I’d rather have a pill to make it stop. I’d rather be a different person. But here I am and I have a few more decades to grit my teeth and endure.

There is no good last sentence here.

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8 Responses

  1. Solidarity. I can relate to virtually all of this, particularly your list – I’ve done it all too. You’re not alone. ❤

  2. I can so relate to this. I could have written the generic bits myself. Like you, I can chat it up with the best of them when I have to, but inside I am looking for a way out. I already feel like my anxiety and introverted-ness is causing c to miss out on things. Especially now that I’m not working and I have no excuse not to have those play dates with the other moms. Also, my anxiety totally destroyed my career. Well, my job anyway. I guess the career is still there when I’m ready for it. I really do wish we could grab coffee. Of course we’d both be too freaked out to actually go, but still… the idea is nice.

    • I’m absolutely worried I’m passing it on and have no idea how to stop. Maybe our kids can find a common therapist somewhere in Mississippi.

  3. I could have written this. From the age of 5 on. It is my life. So many people do not understand what it means to be a functioning person with severe anxiety. We make it work. Even if it is the hardest thing we do that week, that day, in that moment. You are not alone.

  4. *hugs*
    Medication really does help. Being able to just shut down the panic cycle can go a long way toward calming your heart and brain as well. My wife uses beta blockers for the specific situations where she knows her panic will go into overdrive and I might have used them once or twice, too, and they are friggin MAGICAL. I would ask your doctor/therapist/whomever about maybe trying them out for those specific social situations where you’re climbing your mental walls to get out.

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