Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm not what I've become...

Today, I'm dealing with a feeling that I experience a lot of. I don't often talk about it, especially with people outside of a close group of friends and family. Over the years, this issue has been a large problem in my life.

I have anxiety. The anxiety that I feel varies on a day to day basis, but it is always a struggle to overcome.

I began to realize my anxiety was becoming a severe issue several years ago. I was in my early 20's and had otherwise been a normal, well adjusted "adult." I had never really noticed how bad my anxiety was getting until I chose to go to a concert alone. This was something I had done in the past from time to time. Most of my close friends were away at college and couldn't come into town for random shows.  I went in, sat down in a random bar chair, and waited for the show to start. Once it did, I wanted to get closer to the stage, but my anxiety held me back. I felt like, if I got up and moved, people would look at me and judge me. Instead of being judged, I chose to stay where I was at.

A few months later, I was going to visit a friend in Chicago. A small group of us were going. I was pumped to see my friend and explore Chicago. Only one problem: I had never flown. The night before our flight, I couldn't sleep. I wasn't worried that our plan would crash. I wasn't worried about terrorists. I was absolutely terrified that the plan would take off, and I would freak out for no reason. Obviously, this is not a normal fear to have. When we arrived at the airport that morning, I was in a panic. Waiting in line to check in, I could feel my heart pounding. It got so bad, I actually considered getting out of line, calling my dad to come pick me up, and skipping my trip to Chicago. If my friends hadn't been there with me, I would have. But I didn't want to look like a chicken, so I stuck it out. Turns out, I love to fly, Chicago is a great city, and I had tons of fun visiting my friend.

That was a turning point for me. I had to get help and figure out a way to deal with my issues. I won't go into all that went into figuring things out. That's a post for another day. You may be wondering if my anxiety is as bad today as it was back then. The only answer I can really give is that I have to take each day as it comes. Most days, the anxiety is minimal and I can handle it pretty easily. I've learned that keeping to a routine and being able to know what is going on beforehand is probably what gets me through most days.

That last part is why I am having anxiety today. In my last post, I talked about my new job. Starting a new job is stressful, especially when it deals with two things that give me the most anxiety: the public and phones. What is it about dealing with the public and phones gives me anxiety? Simply put, everything. One thing I loved about my old job was that I didn't have to deal with customers. If I screwed up, my boss dealt with me. But when you work with the public, there are times when they yell at you. Sometimes, they ask questions that you don't know the answer to. It's a whole multitude of unknowns that terrify me.

Phones terrify me because of the same unknowns. When it rings, my heart starts to race, my palms get sweaty, my lungs tighten and my face begins to flush. Who is calling? What will they want? What if I accidentally hang up on them or give them the wrong answer? What if I can't hear them clearly? Right now, my palms are sweaty just thinking about this. These fears don't just hold true for work phones. Those closest to me know that if they want to get a hold of me, they need to text me. If my cell phone rings, I won't answer it. It doesn't matter if it's my best friend or my mom. I will send it to voice-mail. There are exceptions to the rules. I am getting better about answering the phone when it's someone close to me.

So, how am I dealing with the new job, knowing I can't avoid two of my biggest anxiety triggers? A huge part of this is reminding myself that if I can't wrangle my fears on a simple job, I'll never be able to move to the other side of the world. It helps by just making me suck it up and do it, but the stress is still there. The night I had my first training session, I was a basket-case in the car. I walked in and could barely speak. After I got a little more used to the women that were training me, I began to joke with them. I got called in to work for tonight. It's supposed to be pretty busy and they needed a little extra help. My stomach is wiggly and I've been feeling pretty nervous all day. I know that once I'm there a while, I'll be fine. Mostly, just getting myself there is the hardest part.

In my day to day life, I end up forcing myself to do things I don't want to do in order to live a somewhat normal life. When people first meet me, I don't come off as having anxiety. I might seem a little shy or reserved at first, but I'm usually pretty personable. I find it pretty easy to joke and laugh with people I've just met.

I have big dreams and goals of traveling and owning my own business. I'm covered in tattoos and I change my hair color or style more than most people change their sheets. Sometimes, I don't understand how I'm able to tackle these things with ease, yet can't do simple things without a mini-meltdown. Will I ever be able to just jump into situations without the fear? I can't answer that. All I really know is that I won't let my anxiety hold me back from the things I truly want. Life is for living and even though that's a struggle sometimes, I plan on living as much as I can.

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