Nervous and twitchy, I chew at my own cheeks. When I am like this, it feels like anyone and everyone in my environment is looking at me. Judging me. Laughing at me. Criticizing me.
I can’t speak for other sufferers of anxiety. I can only write about my own life. Maybe my experience is unique… Maybe it is the exact same as everybody else’s. There is no way for me to know – not precisely, anyone. Others’ words may strike a chord, but we can never convey the feelings, not really. Not entirely.
Dread. That’s the word that always comes closest to summing up the trepidation and anticipation. Gotta go to work? Dread. Gotta go to the shops? Dread. Gotta leave the house for any reason? Dread. It doesn’t have to be an external journey that triggers the anxiety – sometimes it can just be any form of obligated activity: Gotta write an article? Dread. Gotta make a phone call? Dread. Gotta do some cleaning/tidying/gardening? Dread.
It’s just a word, though. The frustration of being unable to articulate your own neuroses follows you all the time. The social unacceptability of your illness, your mental weakness, hangs over you and exacerbates the negative feelings. ‘Self-compassion’ is a word, a technique, that is absolutely vital for such times. It’s normal to hate yourself for struggling to do what others seem – ‘seem’ being the operative word here – to have no problem in accomplishing.
How can I describe these anxieties? There is the cannonball in the gut – a regular experience back when I saw romantic relationships as the be-all and end-all of life and was afraid that my own insecurities would be uncovered at any moment, leading to inevitable doom, dooommmmm, DOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!
Ahem. Sorry about that.
There’s the sickness and loss of appetite. Probably one of the reason’s I’ve remained so damned thin over the years. I have never dieted and rarely exercise, plus I love chocolate, and pizza, and beer, and all sorts of things that should make you gain weight…but I suppose when you’re the variety of anxious that tends to eschew food entirely on a regular basis, there should be no surprise when your body shape stagnates.
Flushing & blushing is pretty common. Doesn’t really bother me as much as it did in my teenage years – maybe it was more apparent then. The sensation of blood rushing to my face is, in any case, less of a concern when I feel like I’m gonna yak all over the place and said yak is mostly gonna be acidic bile ‘cos I haven’t been able to eat since god-knows-when. Lovely image, right?
The twitchiness, and the certainty that you’re doing something wrong – whatever it is – is a near-constant. Should I be crossing my legs in this situation? Is my cough irritating the other passengers? Do I look weird, looking at what I’m looking at? Oh sweet mother of dogshit’s origin, I just made eye contact with another human – do I now look like a sex-pest/dickhead/psycho? You get so tied-up and tight, it makes you just want to crawl into the nearest hole. Just to get away from the exposure.
As well as the inside of my mouth, I tend to chow down on my nails too. Not so much the actual cuticles, more the flesh around them. Mostly either side of the nail, if you know what I mean. Between the chomping of my cheek and the nail-skin, I get paranoid about how it looks to other people whenever I catch myself doing it publicly. ‘Now I know I’m coming across like a total nutcase’, I instantly think to myself.
How can you work – in a job, I mean – when you are under this strain? How can you live your life the way everyone else does, when the sort of actions you would be required to perform day-to-day are so completely unbearable? How can you get to a point where regular employment is not something to be feared, but something to be celebrated for the rewards that it might provide?
If I know anything about myself right now, it is this; I cannot work in a normal job – ‘normal’ here being defined as anything over a couple of hours employment per week – and I cannot envisage that changing in the near future. Therefore, my life is precarious, with very little in the way of safeguards or opportunities for growth – in the sense of saving, anyway.
To some of you, maybe even most of you, I am a bum. Believe me when I say; I wish this were not so.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…Ⓐ