Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I am huge fan of author and mental health advocate Matt Haig. Just the other day he tweeted this:
“Sometimes when people seem rude or distant or cold they might really just be anxious or shy or sad.”
It got me thinking.
Living with anxiety, I know that there have definitely been times I might have come across the wrong way; that I might have seemed rude or distant or cold. I know for sure I’ve ran off and hidden in my room for hours on the trot – that I’ve slipped away from a busy room or that I might even have needed alcohol to feel even the tiniest bit comfortable at a family do.
Sad isn’t it?
Sad, but true.
I guess it’s easier to seem rude, rather than attempt to explain anxiety sometimes. “I’m sorry I can’t stay downstairs for the BBQ because frankly the idea of sitting across from a bunch of people exchanging niceties over a chargrilled sausage gives me the heebie jeebies” – rather – “I’m not hungry, I err…think I’ve got a migraine coming on…”. The joke here being actually I’m starving and I’d love nothing more than to be a normal functioning sociable human with a burger in my hand, but I just… can’t.
To put it plainly, I’ve got no chill.
& it doesn’t stop there.
See anxiety plays on our inability to explain what’s going on in our own head. It knows we’re confused, lost and that sooner or later isolation will become the ‘comfort zone’; “If I can’t understand it, how will they?!” We’re quietly convinced that we’ll be judged, misunderstood and bitched about so we keep schtum. We stop showing up to friend’s houses, to planned gatherings or spontaneous days out. We make excuses and come up with reason after reason as to why we can’t make it. Eventually it might seem as though we’re being downright rude – that we’re lazy and can’t be bothered to make an effort. Folk might even assume us to be shit friends. But here’s the T. We just can’t explain it. & it’s bloody terrifying to try. Maybe there’s an element of shame or pride – I can’t let them see me like this, so best I don’t show up. Maybe, just maybe, it’s too scary a prospect to imagine how someone might react; to be rejected or looked at differently.
It’s not me, it’s my anxiety – but I can’t tell them that. I’ve just sat here for ten minutes (see: an eternity) and imagined all the ways me leaving the house could be the worst decision I make today. What if I get attacked or hit by a bus or lose my purse. “Can’t make work today… I err… flu.” I’ve just let my brain go overtime and now I’m petrified of getting on that train. “Sorry can’t make coffee today… staying in for a parcel” Oh this is someone new I’m meeting… ok.
Run.Be cool. Too late. I feel awkward awkward awkward. Dictionary definition of awkward: ME. I’m coming across terribly, keep jumbling my words. Be yourself ffs. Best not to say too much more, just nod and smile. Woops just said the wrong thing, definitely sounded rude. You’re a dick, well done. They’re definitely gonna bitch about me now. This is why you don’t fit in. Fuck fuck fuck. Go back to your hiding place, you shouldn’t be allowed around anyone.
You’ve just spent a few moments inside the head of a person living with anxiety; now imagine that on a constant, never ending loop. Now imagine trying to explain that.
I guess the point I wanted to make today was, don’t be so quick to judge people. That person that’s coming across short or aloof, is probably shy as hell and itching for the ground to gobble them up. The friend that’s continuously cancelled on you or seems distant, might need you to check in on them. The new girl might seem cold, when in actual fact she just needs a little understanding. I might seem anti-social, but it’s my anxiety.
Anxiety does a lot to ensure we feel isolated, but I can’t help feeling that if we were all a little more mindful of each other, those of us suffering would cope just a fraction easier. Let me know your thoughts on this post, it was a little scary to publish (will it ever not be?!) and until next time my sweet peaches,