You know I really thought my next post after the I Scream one was going to be another post about torture but then the sweater thing happened and I wound up re-reading my post on anxiety and…it was weird, because I said I don’t understand anxiety as a disorder very well in it. I made a pretty good analogy about hoses concerning anxiety, but otherwise felt uncomfortable talking about it, and actually did kind of a poor job on panic attacks, mostly just parroting what I’d learned in class.
And it was weird because I forget it wasn’t that long ago, only a handful of years, when I didn’t suffer from anxiety, and I’d never had a panic attack. Apparently, it was sooner than I thought because I thought my anxiety started being A Thing around when I got married, but judging by the post, no. And guess what? Talking about anxiety and panic with experience is way more words than just learning about it from a book, so the next post isn’t goign to be follow up on I Scream either. Just remember – the reason I talk about this on a writing blog is because you should know about mental disorders when you write. You should know about them anyway. But writing mental disorders is frequently common and very often done badly. Know it.
Now to think, remember, I didn’t always have anxiety is weird as orignally, it was quite hard for me to accept this new disorder because, you see, I’m an extrovert. A poster child extrovert. And social anxiety, well…there’s a reason why everyone assumes I must be an introvert if I have it and so badly. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, of course, but I’m not one and the worst part of all this was losing my extrovert. I mean, it was an aspect I’d cultivated, worked on. In middle school, I saw a show where people were doing random crap in public just ‘cuz. I wanted to be that fearless. And I worked at it, erasing my shame bit by bit, until I could say the most random crap to anyone. I had mime battles with a friend across campus. I walked up to people I didn’t know and rigamarolled shenanigans. I honed the skill in high school. In college, I became expert at promoting the Quill and Sword, fearlessly prowling campus in my medieval garb, I threw on a black cloak and carried a red lightsaber to meet up with a friend and duel at lunchtime, I blasted Knights of Cydonia as I charged to the testing center on finals day. And then suddenly…I couldn’t talk to anyone. I couldn’t say hi, what’s your name, what do you like? Everything I worked so hard, so hard to build, it was just…gone. And in its place, crippling anxiety.
What happened to me? I’ll never really know. Maybe it was all the hormones from having a kid. They changed me permanently in other ways.
But it doesn’t matter now because the anxiety is a part of me and that’s that. Do you understand how devastating this change is for me? I mean, we very often talk about it in such a way as to conflate it with introversion. So let me explain: I want to be around people. I love people. I want to talk to them, learn about them, find out what they’re passionate about and delight in it, I want people, I need people. I need a lot of people. We all need social interaction, like a plant needs sunlight – but introverts are like shade tolerant plants that actually start wilting if you put them in too much sunlight, and I’m like a friggun sunflower who starts dying in the shade. (I assume they die in the shade as their name implies they are the sunniest of flowers. If I’m wrong, just insert in your head a flower that dies in the shade.) I need people, and anxiety makes people terrifying. They make people immesurably, paralytically, would rather face down Ye Elder God terrifying. This disorder makes me hide my sunflower face from sunlight because I can’t stand to look at it.
For me, this anxiety is an explosion of What If. What if they think I’m dumb? What if they think my writerly-ness is weird and creepy? What if no one wants to be around me? What if I lose everyone I love, chase them off because of who I am. irredeemably? WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF!?
And I can’t talk the what ifs down. If I push and push against them and scream, THIS IS NOT WHO I AM and try to bulldoze through it, it’s like a series of ice-cold hands reach out and pull me down, screaming the what ifs all the louder, shaking me to my core, shaking me until I shake myself in fear of the what if.
Slowly, slowly, I’m regaining my extroverted self, once again becoming a socialite.
It helped that there were friendly, outgoing people in my current ward (church congregation if you will) who reached out to me when we moved here. And that we have friendly neighbors. And that Tyler is so understanding – because he has his own anxieties, especially about me. And that my friends offered support when I explained my new problem. But most of all, it’s helped to just accept this is a part of my life now and rather than trying to deny it and just act the way I always did which only exasberated the problem, and instead being gentle with myself and asking the people around me to be gentle too, and to try to understand.