Well, i’t s been a hot minute since I posted anything on here because quite frankly my last post was so incredibly epic that I thought could ride that wave of success for the rest of time.
Unfortunately for anyone who actually bothers reading this, though, I’m back. I’ve been spending time recently being a) anxious b) sad or c) an indescribable shitstorm of emotions that take up too much space for me to bother attempting to comprehend.
My mental state, and my ever-wonderful therapist, got me thinking about how I behave when I’m anxious (all the time, then) as well as how I think and feel. I’ve been in therapy for eighteen months, and recently my sessions were due to finish.
That is until, of course, I rocked up with a list of things I still wanted to address. Lo and behold, my sessions got extended and I’m expected to roll my sleeves up and get stuck the fuck in.
I don’t know if anyone’s cracked on to this, but changing behaviour is HARD. Particularly when it’s been ingrained in your brain for half your life. Nevertheless, to regain some form of emotional stability and a renewed aptitude for functioning like an actual person, persist I must.
Today, dear friends, I’m going to write about things that anxiety makes me do as a means to excuse my shitty behaviour. These things aren’t necessarily the exact same as what I gleefully threw in my therapist’s face a few weeks back, but they’re still important. The more you know, right?
The Passive Aggressor
I’ll start with a firm family favourite. We’ve all seen shitty memes and unoriginal jokes about what a woman means when you ask what’s wrong and she replies, “Nothing.” I’m going to move past that stereotype by completely reinforcing it, with the caveat that it isn’t because I’m a woman. It’s because I have horrible anxiety.
Not so funny now, is it? Allow me to explain. If I’m upset about something external like work or Jeremy Hunt, you can bet your last penny you’ll hear about it. Probably on Twitter. If someone I know or care about has upset me, though. Ha! Different story.
Whilst I may want you to know you’ve done something to upset me, probably something that is small and relatively easily solved, I won’t say anything. Oh, no. Instead I will literally just pretend everything is fine and carry on. I might tell someone else about it. If you’ve done something to upset someone else I’ll probably tell you. Me, though? Nah.
To me it’s not worth the terrible risk. You see, if I say that something’s upset me the only possible reaction you’ll have is to laugh at me and call me unreasonable. Never mind that most of the people I choose to associate with are, in fact, fully fledged adults with requisite emotional development and not snotty teenagers.
In my head, they’d be reasonable to anyone else but not me. My feelings, no matter how valid or otherwise, are not worthy of attention from anyone else. Guess what happens when I do this? I sit in my rumination station and tear myself apart over it, wondering why on earth someone would do such a thing and furthermore, why they’re being so unreasonable about it. I have to take myself on a little train to reality town in order to remember that they can’t be acting unreasonable if they don’t know something is wrong.
This is a real son of a bitch, let me tell you. A significant portion of my mental health problems could probably be resolved if this wall was knocked down and set fire to.
What do I mean by ‘the wall’? Well, as a useful (not) coping mechanism from the ups and downs of life, I’ve built a wall that effectively shields me from strong emotions. I detached myself from the realities of actually feeling things a long, long time ago. The wall is sturdy.
I’ve discussed it with my therapist, but what really got me recently was when a friend commented on it, even referring to it as a wall. Call me an idiot, but I assumed nobody else would have noticed.
They do, though. When you’ve known someone for a while, it probably becomes pretty fucking obvious that they never actually share anything with you. To the casual observer it may seem as though I am merely coping, processing things quietly, getting on with it.
For those who know me a little better, I expect the link between my shaky (at best) mental health and my complete inability to feel or share anything has been established and quietly noted. Even with prompting, though, it’s unlikely I’ll give anything away. It’s safer to hide. The wall even goes for positive emotions – yes, this might be good, but don’t let it feel too good because EVERYTHING ENDS, and then I’ll be sad!
When I mentioned this classic bad boy to my therapist he told me it wasn’t actually projection. In true form I’ve forgotten what it was he said instead. Regardless of its clinical name, I will readily and enthusiastically assume that someone else is feeling the same way as me, or that they are feeling how I would feel in any given situation.
What I repeatedly fail to acknowledge, though, is that I’m fucking mental and it’s very unlikely anyone is feeling the same way as me. A case in point is the ever-suffering Mr Seeds. I relentlessly needle him to ‘tell me what’s wrong’ because I’ve gone full Lindsay and assumed he’s thinking or feeling a certain way about something he probably isn’t even thinking about at all.
The real cherry on the top of that shitpile is my endless prodding actually then makes him anxious and feel as though he’s doing something wrong. Oh, look! My inability to cope with anything affects other people, too! Who knew?
In the spirit of fairness, this ludicrous habit does allow me a degree of empathy. When someone is feeling something it doesn’t take much for me to understand why they might feel that way, for the most part. For the remainder of the part, though, I’ll struggle to empathise at all because it isn’t precisely how I’d react. Perfect. Contradiction, thy name is Lindsay’s Anxiety.
No, I’m not deluding myself into thinking I’m a character in Harry Potter. Although if I was I certainly wouldn’t be on the Quidditch team owing to my inherent laziness and prior poor form in athletic endeavours.
What I actually mean by this is I’m usually seeking reassurance or validation at the heart of pretty much anything I do. In particular, though, if I interpret (or invent) that something might be even slightly wrong with someone, I will relentlessly worry about how it must be my fault, and if I can, seek assurance that it’s not.
In a similar way to the projection, I’ll needle away at someone, desperate to be told that I haven’t done anything wrong and successfully making their problems all about me. I’m getting a little better at handling it. If I’m anxious or unsure about something I’m better at being upfront about it and not trying to seek validation through ‘covert’ means that are actually incredibly fucking obvious.
My own view of myself is heavily based on what others think of me, so I want approval for my behaviour. If I do something that I think someone won’t approve of – even if it’s a reasonable and adult decision – I will keep it from them, lest they disapprove and… well, I can’t finish that sentence, because I don’t know what would happen if they disapproved. Probably nothing. Better not risk it, though, eh?
The All Or Nothing Bitch
This isn’t too dissimilar from black and white thinking that I wrote about ages ago. In terms of my behaviour, though, in order for me to be considered in any way competent at anything I must succeed immediately. I don’t do well at trying or getting better.
A random example; as a teenager, when I started going to pubs a lot of my friends were blokes. Sometimes this would involve an absolute snore fest of pool matches inevitably descending into wedgies and other such mature behaviour. I’d be lying if I said that isn’t exactly what would happen if we did it now, in fairness. Regardless, I was gung-ho enough to give pool a try and was suitably awful at it. I mean, terrible. Truly.
Instead of, you know, trying again or whatever, I laid down that cue and never picked another one up again. Nope. Not a chance. I wasn’t good at it, so instead of embarrassing myself by trying again, I just gave up and moved on. That’s the first example that popped into my head, but it can be applied to a lot of things.
I’ve stuck at some pursuits, particularly in the work place. It’s a little more difficult to flounce out of a job claiming ineptitude when you’re getting paid and people are depending on you.
The point is, though, that if I’m not immediately passably competent I’ll just give up. All or nothing. There’s no in between, no space for allowing myself to learn. If I haven’t picked it up straight away I’m useless and would be better off removed from society completely.
I’m aware this sounds a bit too much like the Projector, but I couldn’t think of another word. Stellar writing skills from me there, as usual. The Protector is my insatiable desire to protect people from whatever is happening with my emotions, and indeed my life in general.
Again, it’s something I’m getting slightly better at but it’ll always be a lurker. My primary motivation is to stop others from worrying about me. Unfortunately, years of using this fairly flimsy coping mechanism drove me down into a state of such mental ill health that people were worried about me all the fucking time.
Excellent moves. It’s a hard habit to shake, but sometimes you just have to worry people. I couldn’t really have kept my broken leg a secret, for example. Early intervention, or in this case just being honest about feelings, is usually better and leads to slightly healthier coping mechanisms.
I’m not really sure what the root is. Perhaps deep down I think if I reveal my problems I’ll be perceived as weak. People worrying comes with attention as well, and when I’m anxious that’s often the last thing I want. They tend to ask you things, too, and that would mean confronting my emotions. Ha! What a waste of time!
I’ve always found it incredibly difficult to articulate myself. I expect some of that comes from a fear of judgement. That and the simple fact my emotions are very complicated and extremely hard to vocalise.
Well, I’m not a great one for learning lessons, but acknowledging these annoying behaviours has helped me somewhat. At least now I know I’m doing them, and can keep them in check a little better. It’s a shame it’s taken me, ooh, fifteen years to realise it, but better late than never I suppose.
I’ve also realised that these behaviours don’t inherently make me a shitty person. Yes, sometimes I might be annoying, I might be frustratingly closed off, whatever. They come from a very raw, scary place, though, and I can’t help that. Having some clarity means even if I can’t stop myself, I can at least understand.
Anxiety isn’t an excuse to act like a knobhead, and for the most part I don’t think I do. I can accept now, though, how excruciatingly difficult it must be to live with me, to have a relationship. I give a lot to people, I’m a good friend, I’m loyal. I’m also a huge over thinker, closed off, passive and inactive in friendships.
Getting ‘better’ (for want of a better phrase) is an enormous learning curve. There are a lot of things to take in and take ownership of. I don’t have a hope of progressing if I carry on hiding my head in the sand. Opening up about my behaviour gives me a chance to change it, and maybe adjust my mental state.
Failing that, I can somehow mess it up and end up with worse coping mechanisms. Life is nothing if not a trial.