I’m going to preface this post with the statement that I’m okay with who I am and how my brain works. I’m okay with having social anxiety and recognize that it’s just one of many facets of my personality. That being said…
Sometimes I get very frustrated with how exhausting my brain makes even the simplest tasks. Lately I’ve been VERY stressed out about the fact that I have to start applying to graduate school programs soon (soon being, like, next semester) and that I have NO IDEA how one goes about doing such a thing. There is an easy solution to that problem, of course, and I’m sure you’ve all figured it out by now: ASK SOMEONE.
Well okay. That’s perfectly reasonable, right? Not to my brain, it isn’t. I knew that career services was the place to go. I looked up their page on my school website and read the words “graduate school application process” listed under “services” about five thousand times. I saw that there was a phone number and I saw that it said “Call to make an appointment.” But for a while, that was as much as my brain could handle. I stared sadly at the email address, wishing it had said “call or email” because real words are hard. Finally, I wrote down in my planner that I would, in fact, call them to make an appointment on Tuesday.
The day arrived. I woke and almost immediately knew today was the dreaded day where I had to MAKE A PHONE CALL. That’s the thing about my brain. I can remind myself that it will be easy and take five minutes and that it will take care of a much bigger issue, but it doesn’t matter. In my mind, nothing in the world could be worse than being forced to have a totally unscripted conversation ON THE PHONE.
I told myself I’d do it when I got out of class. Then, for the 3 hours I spent in class, I would try to focus and then be distracted by my inner terror-filled 12 year old trying to rationalize not calling.
“Tomorrow would be better,” she says. “You don’t really have time to go in today anyway and what if they suggest it?”
“Yes,” still terrified college me responds. “Tomorrow WOULD be better…”
But of course, then I’d just be obsessing about it for a whole additional day. I had this thought probably about 20 times in the space between classes, the rest of which was spent either actually paying attention, trying to write the conversation script even though I of course didn’t know what the other person was going to say, or just plain freaking out.
I dreaded it all the way home. “Should I eat first?” I wondered. “Or just do it right away? Like ripping off a band-aid?” And then the moment of terror. I looked at the phone number. I held my phone in my hand. My heart was racing as if I’d just run a 5k. I typed in the number. Deep breath. I hit the little green button of death and put the thing up to my ear and I felt I was going to burst.
And then I very calmly handled the conversation and then it was over and I had my appointment scheduled and, for a moment, I felt as if I’d accomplished something worthy of an award. This was, of course, mixed with the usual feeling of self loathing at being so freaked out over having to do something so simple.
The thing is, that’s just my brain. I have learned to expect it every single time. And even though in a lot of ways, I’ve gotten a LOT better, I have to actually plan my life around my anxiety. I know that tomorrow I will need caffeine because I’ll be in a state of panic until my 3pm appointment. I know that I will need chocolate on standby because I will spend the hour after the appointment is over analyzing it to death and trying to identify all the millions of things I should have said or done differently. And you know what? That’s okay. I know how to keep me sane, even if that means working around the murmur at the back of my brain that keeps trying to tell me I’m doing everything wrong.