A Day in the Life of a Ball of Anxiety

It will come as no surprise to regular readers (or Twitter followers) that I have anxiety.

Diagnosed Generalised Anxiety Disorder, I mean, not just normal anxiety about money or exams or whether G.R.R Martin is going to die before he finishes Game of Thrones.

I’m outspoken about it because I spent many years suffering in unmedicated shame, too anxious and embarrassed to seek help. When I finally did, citalopram changed my life. A few days after I started it, when I drove home from work for the first time ever without going over and over every social interaction to analyse just how idiotic I’d come across, I found myself laughing maniacally at how free I felt.

So, you know, I traded anxiety for looking like something that’d escaped from a lunatic asylum in 1923, but swings and roundabouts.

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Most days, the drugs allow me to experience life with normal levels of anxiety about normal things. But some days, The Drugs Don’t Work.

Last week, I had one of those days.

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I was due to travel to Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s town) and stay overnight for a meeting the next morning. Naturally, I’d packed six months in advance because you can never be too prepared, but what if i’d forgotten to pack something?

That’s all I could think about the night before.

Brain: Let’s go through our daily routine and write down every object we could possibly need.

Me: Okay! Who needs sleep anyway?

Brain: Right! So, first things first – wake up, crawl out of bed while groaning, “Why, Evening Anna? Why do you stay up so late watching compilations of cats falling off things on YouTube even though you know I, Morning Anna, will suffer?”, stumble into the bathroom… TOOTHBRUSH!! WE NEED A TOOTHBRUSH!

But we can’t pack our toothbrush – we need it in the morning! What if we use it and forget, in our bleary-eyed hatred of Evening Anna, to pack it? WE WILL BE TOOTHBRUSHLESS IN A FOREIGN LAND AND REMEMBER THAT STUDY WE READ IN 2007 THAT LINKED TOOTH DECAY TO HEART ATTACKS OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO DIE TOMORROW

Me: Okay, brain, it’s okay – it’s Stratford-upon-Avon, not the Gobi desert. In the unlikely event that the hotel doesn’t sell toothbrushes, there will be a shop nearby that does.

Brain: BUT WHAT IF WE HAVE TO DRIVE TO THE SHOP AND THERE’S NO PARKING?

Me: Well… we… OH MY GOD, WE’LL HAVE TO ABANDON OUR CAR IN THE STREET!

Brain: WE CAN’T DO THAT!! FUCK, WE’LL HAVE TO DRIVE AROUND AND AROUND HOPING TO FIND A TOOTHBRUSH ON THE STREET BUT EVEN IF WE DO, HOW WILL WE GET IT BECAUSE WE CAN’T GET OUT OF THE CAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET BECAUSE OTHER DRIVERS WILL BE ANGRY WITH US FOR HOLDING THEM UP!

Me: OMG

Brain: OMG

–screen fades to black while Anna rocks back and forth in a corner–

–Cut to the clock showing an hour later. Camera follows a trail of 237 PostIt notes leading from Anna’s forehead to the bathroom mirror, each one saying PACK TOOTHBRUSH.–

Me: Okay, we’ll have a toothbrush. It’s all fine.

Brain: Remember that time you stayed at a hotel in 2006 and the complimentary shampoo dried out your hair and it was a hot mess the next day?

Me: OMG

Brain: OMG

Me: Nono, it’s fine. I’ll pack some conditioner. If the hotel shampoo is bad, the conditioner will sort us out.

Brain: What if it leaks in your bag?

Me: It.. well.. EVERYTHING WOULD BE RUINED

Brain: AND WE’LL DIE

Me: NO! I’ll put it in a plastic bag and tie it tight and pack that in my case so any leakage is contained.

Actually, I’d better double-bag the bag. Just to be sure.

Okay, I think we have everything we need for the first ten minutes of the day.

Brain: Lol, did you forget toothpaste?

Me: Lol! Close one! I… but… HOLY FUCK BUT I CAN’T PACK THE TOOTHPASTE BECAUSE WE ONLY HAVE ONE TUBE AND I NEED TO LEAVE IT HERE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T GOING TO STAY IN A HOTEL!

Brain:

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Me: No, look, it’s okay. We’ll buy some.

Brain: WHAT IF THERE’S NO PARK–

Me: –We’ll get it en-route. I’ll stop at the services–there’s always parking at motorway services–and buy some toothpaste.

Brain: But you know those places are overpriced because they have a captive audience of motorway travellers.

Me: Shit, you’re right. Well, we’ll stop at a convenience shop when we come off the motorway.

Brain: BUT WHAT IF THERE’S NO PARKING?

Me: Well, we’ll… I DON’T KNOW THIS IS TOO HARD WHY IS DENTAL HYGIENE SUCH A STRUGGLE THIS IS WHY THE PEOPLE ON JEREMY KYLE LOOK LIKE SHARKS ON METH

God dammit! Look, forget about parking. Worst case scenario is I have to brush my teeth without toothpaste and I read a study that said the mechanical brushing action is far more important than the toothpaste anyway.

Brain: Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Cool. Let’s sleep.

Brain: OMG I just had a thought. Wanna hear it wanna hear it wanna hear it wanna hear it?

Me: No! It’s five a.m. and we have to drive a hundred miles tomorrow.

Brain: Okay. But wannahearitwannahearitwannahearitwannahearit?

Me: Oh FFS, fine. What is it?

Brain: Remember six months ago when you looked up the hotel’s menu to choose your dinner in advance so you wouldn’t look like an idiot when the waiter asked if you’d chosen and you had to say no?

Me: Don’t.

Brain: Remember what it said?

Me: Please.

Brain: This is important. We have to PLAN. What did it say, Anna?

Me: It… it said sample menu only.

Brain: We don’t know what the dinner options are, do we, Anna?

Me: N-no.

Both of us:

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So, that was my day before I woke up and went to work, followed by the 100-mile motorway journey.

I won’t treat you to a blow-by-blow account of the rest of the day, but a summary of the things that made me anxious.

  • Fretting that not only can I not prepare for my dinner order but I will have to do maths to make sure I spend under £25 because if I go over my allowance my company will fire me (even though I could just pay the balance direct to the hotel) BUT WHAT IF?

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  • Worrying that people will talk to me at dinner because they feel sorry for me eating alone. Hatching plans to get there the moment dinner service starts to reduce the chances of any other diners being there.
  • Worrying that if I’m the only diner, the wait staff will be attentive and I won’t be invisible.
  • Worrying that my alarm wouldn’t go off the next day and I’d miss my meeting.
  • Arriving at work to find CARDS AND PRESENTS for my birthday.
  • Worrying that I’ll forget to thank somebody for their card and/or present.
  • Worrying that I won’t show the appropriate level of gratitude. Too much = psycho and everybody will hate me. Too little = ungrateful bitch and everybody will hate me.

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  • Dying of embarrassment that I had no idea people did cards and presents here, and I haven’t bought anyone anything since I started in December.
  • Worrying that people are judging me for the brand of treats I brought in to celebrate my birthday.
  • Worrying that I missed someone off my, “Hey, there are treats in the kitchen!” email and they will think I hate them.
  • Somebody coming up to my desk to wish me a happy birthday just as I’d taken a bite of my sandwich, and it was a tough ciabatta-like bread, so I had to make a snap decision: chew and swallow, or answer without swallowing? and knew it would take me half an hour to chew and swallow while they watched so shoving the bite of sandwich into one side of my mouth like a hamster and talking with my mouth full I HATE MYSELF

And this is when I’m on medication. Can you imagine my life five years ago?

But, seriously, that was a bad day. Most days now are good. If you’re suffering, ask for help!

And don’t forget your toothbrush. Or you will die.

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27 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a Ball of Anxiety

  1. buggybite says:

    Seriously. I can help you with the first dilemma. I did this a long time ago. I have a little travel bag, all packed all the time, with all the bathroomy stuff I’d need for an overnight stay. The only thing I need to do is occasionally check to make sure all the perishables (spare pain killers, shampoo, etc) aren’t woefully out of date.

    I also carry the basics (folding toothbrush, interdental brush, etc) in my handbag at all times.

    It really does help. I did this after doing exactly what you feared …forgetting to pack my toothbrush because I had to use it in the morning. Brushing teeth with toilet paper is NOT recommended. You then have to brush the toilet paper fragments out from between your teeth …which is where a comb can help, if you remembered to pack it.

    I get anxious about forgetting stuff. I can certainly relate to the post-it notes!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy L Sauder says:

    I laughed so much at this because it’s totally relatable. My anxiety makes me freak out about little things too… In fact, last week I blogged about my bad day freakout – https://amylsauder.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/trust-the-chai-tea-latte

    I don’t have any answers for you because of course there aren’t any. If it’s not anxiety about one thing, anxiety finds another. But I hope you get some sleep. I hope your trip goes well. And I hope your teeth appreciate all you go thru to keep them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kim M Watt says:

    Okay. You can have all the dragons, and they can remind you what to pack.

    I get a certain amount of social anxiety – the knowing how to react to people’s gifts or compliments with the right level of enthusiasm is really hard! (Actually, knowing how to interact with people generally without appearing either like the Ice Queen or a small bug that wants to hug everyone is hard). Also, eating. Either I take three times as long to eat as everyone else because I’m taking tiny bites that I can swallow quickly, or I have to be able to hide if someone talks to me. All eating should be done in silence, really.

    And why is it that if you’re in a restaurant, the wait staff always leave it until your mouth is full, then pounce on you and want to know how everything is?

    Hugs to you – hope this week is going better. And I second BuggyBite – having a spare toothbrush and toothpaste in the cupboard is a lifesaver!

    Liked by 1 person

    • annakalingauthor says:

      Waiters definitely do that on purpose, so you can’t moan.

      Waiter: “How is everything?”

      Diner: “SAIS DIFIUA WKAK!!!” *gesticulates wildly at plate of hairs*

      Waiter: “Great! I’ll be over the other side of the restaurant avoiding eye contact.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kim M Watt says:

        Holy cow. That’s exactly right!

        Although, I don’t complain anyway, even if I’m choking on hair, because that would be awkward, and they mightn’t like me afterwards.

        But I imagine they’re covering their bases.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Anna Adler says:

    Great post, Anna, you rock! It’s so cool that you’re open about this topic. Social anxiety shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of (says someone who has a habit of being ashamed of her own anxiety issues…). I’m so glad the medication has helped you! Giggling like someone who escaped from a lunatic asylum sounds like fun… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ritaabuster says:

    As someone who also suffers from Anxiety/Panic disorder, I have been in the same place many times. I have found small little fix-its for situations such as list making, always having an extra everything on hand packed in my large makeup bag. It doesn’t completely quiet the inner voice because then it goes off on the tangent what if you forget to pack that. Or worse leave it at whatever place you are traveling to. I won’t go into that particular phobia. I just wanted to say your not alone and I’m glad that I’m not alone either.

    Liked by 2 people

    • annakalingauthor says:

      I’ve been carrying around makeup I NEVER use for a year because what if I leave it at home and that’s the day I absolutely need an angled eyeliner brush?!

      I’m sad lots of us suffer but also glad we’re not alone.

      Like

  6. saradobiebauer says:

    Your post about anxiety just gave me anxiety.

    I met one of my friend’s dads this week, and I swear he looked at me funny. Pretty sure he was thinking, “Stay away from my daughter, you heathen,” but he didn’t say anything. I’ve been judging myself based on his LOOK all week.

    “High anxiiiiiiiety …..”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A.S. Akkalon says:

    Wait, it’s not normal to stress about forgetting your toothbrush and having to abandon your car in the street?

    Lists help me with a lot of things, except the certainty that if I get out of bed I’m going to die.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A. Thurman says:

    Crapweasels! This sounds exactly like my pre-travel routine as well. I have GAD, have been medicated for ~20 years but the default habits of mind STILL assert themselves.

    Thanks for being so open about it – and for making fun of it. Our brains deserve mockery for repeatedly lying to us!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Angela D'Onofrio says:

    This post. I … I cackled.
    Wife: Why are you cackling?
    Me: (reads post aloud)
    Wife: Oh my goodness.
    Me: I’m laughing because THIS IS US, WE BOTH DO THIS.
    Wife: Yes. Yes we do.

    So … thank you for making me cackle madly in recognition. I will join you in a toast to anti-anxiety medication and raise my bottle of juice upon high.

    Liked by 1 person

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