I started a job two weeks ago. I woke up a bit late for my second day. I panicked because I didn’t want to be late. I started thinking about how embarrassing it would be to come into work half an hour late on my second day.
So, instead of coming in a bit late, I called in sick. And then, because I was embarrassed about having called in sick on my second day, I quit the job.
This is what anxiety feels like.
In a matter of seconds, my mind is able to turn a small issue into a catastrophic one. I woke up with the intent of going to work. I saw the clock, and I froze. My mind started racing, and the thought process went something like this:
7:45 – first alarm. Snooze.
7:50 – second alarm. Snooze.
7:55 – third alarm. Fine, I’m awake. Turn the alarm off.
8:30 – I wasn’t awake. Fuck. I’m late. I can’t be late. It’s my second day. Fuck! I can’t believe I would do this. How am I so stupid? Why did I turn the alarm off?! I can’t go in. I can’t. They’ll be mad at me. Everyone will talk about me. It’s my second day and everyone will already be talking about me and how I’m always late. I’m not going in. I’ll call in sick.
8:31 – scramble around the house, looking for the phone and the number to call. Ring. Ring. Ring.
“It’s Becca – I just started yesterday – this is really embarrassing but I can’t come in. I’m… sick.” Seriously, Becca? You paused? As if they’re gonna believe you’re sick now. They’re not stupid. You can’t go back there.
“Okay, no problem, hope you feel better!” no, she doesn’t hope you feel better, because she doesn’t believe you. Why would she?
8:33 – back to bed. It’s over. Go to sleep. Dream about something better. Don’t get back out of bed. It doesn’t lead to good things.
I slept until about 3pm. When I woke up I felt so stupid and embarrassed. I got up, I went to my computer and I wrote an email. I quit the job. I felt extremely relieved, which made me extremely confused. How was I relieved about quitting a job when I so desperately needed the income?
Everything overwhelms me and I just can’t seem to focus on a solution. I shut down.
I was off to a great start: I found a job within a few days of being home from my backpacking trip. That’s amazing! But, I had a bad moment. I slept in a bit, and the fear of being reprimanded for being late (which, at the end of the day, is not that big a deal!) resulted in me giving up entirely. Of course it would have made much more sense to face the fact that I was a bit late – own it, apologise for it, and carry on with the day. Unfortunately I can’t always think this clearly.
When you’re overcome with anxiety, you just want to run away from it. You want to make that feeling go away, and you’ll do whatever you can to make that happen – you won’t even consider the consequences. You just need that instant relief. Or, you might consider the consequences, but you won’t care enough in the moment. You’ll do whatever it takes to release your problem right then and there, even if it causes a worse issue later on.
You’ll deal with that one when you come to it. Probably, you’ll “deal with it” by running away and thereby chasing the next problem that will undoubtedly present itself. It’s a rather vicious cycle.
So, how do you overcome anxiety?
I typically have the ability to think rationally. I’m very self-aware and I know and understand my thought processes quite well. But there are so many versions of me. The anxious Becca can’t think rationally; she jumps to conclusions and gets crippled by fear. The paranoid, delusional Becca can find something negative wherever she looks. The depressed Becca just doesn’t give a fuck – about anything. The manic Becca is pretty similar – just much more energetic.
It’s only the calm Becca that can view a situation objectively. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out yet how to make her stick around for long.
What I really need to do is breathe. I need to breathe and I need to learn to talk myself out of these irrational thoughts. I need to learn how to communicate with myself. I have the knowledge in one state of mind, but it won’t transfer over to the next state of mind. I need to learn how to make that happen.
That’s much easier said than done.