The First Seven Days of Things and the Eighth

When I purchased these silly books (a few of you have asked – you can get them on Amazon), and decided to do one thing per day, I honestly thought that the books would be more prescriptive.

Go hug a stranger.

Jump out of an airplane.

Plant a garden with your neighbors.

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Color me surprised when I read the first few days of things and they are NOTHING like what I envisioned. For starters, they don’t tell me what to do at all! It’s all very subjective and reflective. At first it seemed like just more work for me to sit back and think of something to add to these journals. Ironically, the book I was most hesitant to try turned out to be the easiest this first week – what made me happy this last week was extra time outside with my family. And the most difficult things were those that inspire – which I learned that when I choose those things I need to do them in the morning because I’m spent by 9pm and have little creativity to offer. I’m posting each day to my Instagram rather than writing about each one – so head on over to get a better feel for the types of instructions I’m getting from the universe through these books. And read on for what is now yesterday’s post…

Day 8: Today I did battle with my inner demons. Perhaps it’s not apparent to everyone but I experience social anxiety on the regular. I am diligent in my efforts to hide it but it’s always there. I’m a duck on a pond.

Today was our Summer Outing at work. Fun, right? WRONG. This stuff is exhausting for me and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to find a way – any way at all – out of attending. Shocked? It’s a fun BBQ sports picnic with friends/colleagues, how could anyone possibly be anxious about that? It happens. For me. A lot. It’s hard to tell if this is something that gradually grew over the years or just appeared. I couldn’t tell you with certainty when it started happening, but a strong case could be made for the early 2000s.

Regardless, events like this – a work/social outing – fill me with dread. I mean the increased breathing, rapid heart rate, sweaty palms kind of anxiety. While I have a good handle on it now, it wasn’t always so. It doesn’t keep me from my life but it does make enjoying certain aspects of that life much more difficult. There was a time when the feeling kept me from going to parties, to the store or even to class. So scared that I couldn’t leave the house, or if I did I would spend 30 minutes in my car trying to psych myself up for whatever social interaction lay ahead. Even with that, there was only a 50/50 chance that I’d get out of the car. Sometimes I would just drive home in defeat. It’s a battle. It’s a constant battle. It’s a constant battle that no one else sees. And that makes it so fucking hard.

Today’s battle and my particular brand of social anxiety comes in three forms:

Self-doubt. The feeling that I am an outsider. I don’t fit in. I don’t belong. I’m a fraud; a fake; a poser. Not only do I feel this way, but everyone around me knows it to be true as well. It’s incredibly awkward to know that you have no right being there. How can one possibly act normal, engage in casual conversation or {GASP} have fun when you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin. I’m far too preoccupied with counting all of the hundreds of thousands of reasons that I don’t fit in or measure up to the crowd I’m surrounded by.

Paranoia. I am convinced that everyone is talking about me. Talking shit about me. It’s like one of my biggest worries to have people act nice to your face and then to turn around and rip you to shreds. I love conflict – shit, come at me with all the mudslinging you like. But putting on a front so that I can be humiliated behind closed doors… how can I defend myself against that? The funny thing is that, in the moment, I think so little of myself but am convinced that I’m important enough to be the topic of everyone’s conversation and condemnation? Kind of self-indulgent for someone so insecure.

Fear. A paralyzing fear of “what if?” I’m stuck imagining every possible awful scenario. The ones where I’m hurt. The ones where I’m embarrassed. The ones where nothing happens and I realize I matter to absolutely no one. Now there is no indication that some apocalyptic event is upon me, but I am so sure it’s coming. So sure, that I spend hours before and most of the time during these events planning my fight or flight response. What’s my escape plan for when things go sideways? With my brain preoccupied with fear and escape, it’s hard to live in the moment to look around and see that things are going to go sideways.

It’s unlikely that any one knew that a battle raged inside today. But then again, no one was around to watch me panic, self-flagellate and rack my brain for excuses to stay at work or cut out early. Because believe me, I did. My therapist once told me that the key to winning these battles was to ride the anxiety to the peak. Like a giant wave, your anxiety will grow steeper the closer you get to your trigger event. DO NOT BAIL. Do not run to safety. Stick through the discomfort. There will be a moment at the top where you are in the worst panic ever but that same moment you will look around and see that it’s nowhere close to the disaster you envisioned. There is no boogeyman. Just as it rose, the anxiety will fall.

Today I rode the wave and found a way to quell the self-doubt, to calm the paranoia and to overcome the fear. Go me.

#ksamdoesonething #onethingthatscaresyou

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