What I Couldn’t Tell My
Social Anxiety and Much More
30 July 2017
Thursday 20th July
Today was really hard. It was my own doing. I had my second CBT appointment at 9 am in the morning. It was two-weeks from my first, located an awkward distance from public transport – but still close enough for me to get there in time – if I woke up in time.
I hadn’t been able to tell my manager about needing to come in late to work today. It had crossed my mind at several moments through the week but I kept pulling out of asking him for the time off. I’m very nervous around him. He would’ve said ‘that’s fine’ straight-away but something kept stopping me. A fear of being judged, scrutinised, thought about. I want to be invisible, as far as possible. Or, at least, hidden. Hence, my poker face, my monotone, my avoidance.
I don’t feel as if I have the verbal skills. I make everything a big deal by hesitating over my words, spoken with utter seriousness. “Erm, is it OK, if tomorrow I come in late – I’ve got an, erm, appointment – a medical appointment – it’s – I’ve been having quite a lot of headaches….”
Like rodeo, a runaway horse, words splutter out, jolting and not really under my control.
“Sorry to be a nuisance -”
That’s how I imagined starting off. Casual – but too defensive? It sounded good initially but I backed away. I didn’t know how I would say it – so I didn’t. I left it to email, on the morning.
Now, I supposed, having sent the email in the morning, they will think me unreliable. I’ve had quite a few sick days in my several months in this role. In a lot of cases, I’ve texted on the day. In fact, I took a day off within my first week. I had double-booked with some casual work that I’d been doing and hadn’t had the guts to tell anyone. So, I went to neither – just woke up late and realised that I was just going to use texts to get out of both and let the consequences go to hell.
At least the manager was away till next week. He’d probably pick up his emails and I would, later today, have the painful moment of having to open my email and be confronted with his reply. Not that his reply would likely express any negativity – but behind the words, I’d be imagining his judgements – whisperings. “Unreliable – doesn’t give enough notice. What are these ‘medical appointments’? Can I trust him? Is he just not going to turn up on a day when he’s really needed? Am I being to lax with him – perhaps, I need to be harsher - give him a subtle warning...” My manager’s been very considerate to me recently but I know he has an irritable, angry side which seems to be the manner of a bully.
I put all these things aside – as best I could – as I packed my rucksack, with my lunch and football gear, in case football was on in the afternoon with my old work colleagues. Off I went, running late. I hadn’t given much thought to how long it’d take to get there. I was 20 minutes late last time because a bus didn’t turn up – or passed me by. But, I found out from my first appointment that the place, out in the sticks, was quite close to a local station, and actually quite near to the common that I sometimes go to get fresh air.
I took the train one-stop and walked the rest of the way. Except, I couldn’t remember the route exactly, except there were two large roundabouts, one left, one right or the other way round. These being major roads, the signs were not very helpful. There were no other pedestrians and the roads just go on and on, whilst pavements sometimes peter out. My phone was dead, so no checking that.
Luckily, I found my way and was only 10 minutes or so late. But, I felt lifeless inside. Just helpless and despairing. I listed my latest easily avoidable failures. I hadn’t given my work proper notice. I hadn’t planned my journey to get to the appointment in time. I hadn’t even bothered to charge my phone and could easily have walked forever and missed the appointment – when all it would’ve taken was to stretch my arm out of my bed and connect it to the extension lead. But, like an embryo, I had lain curled in bed, earphones in, connected to my phone playing the same ten year old radio show podcast blaring a ridiculous conversation between comedians and their sidekick in my ear. I listen to these conversations, dipping randomly in and out to soothe myself. They seem to be the only thing that soothes me, slightly. The attraction of the shows is the sidekick’s shameless sincerity and ignorance and the professional comedians shameless mockery. Basically, it’s people behaving without fear.
I felt crushed as I started the session with my psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist. I barely remember the first session, two weeks ago. I was dizzy on anti-depressants at the time, anxious facing this tall, young women with a wide, friendly face and glasses in a small room and despairing at the familiar diagram of the cycle of anxiety and depression presented to me.
I felt an even more sense of hopelessness today. So much so, my voice almost broke and I felt as if I wanted to cry. In that tiny room, faced by this young woman who seemed to be irrepressibly content – reminding me of girls from my primary school with her uncomplicated confidence, I felt an utter helplessness – that there was no way I could express myself and there was no way she, or anyone, could help me.
How can I explain my life in a few sentences? My anxiety derives, I’m sure, from physical difficulty of speaking – my throat continually gets bunged, and, also, from an instinctive fear of judgement.
She asked why I hadn’t been able to do the homework of recording my mood hour-by-hour for a week. I couldn’t find the words. She checked my online questionnaire – the self-evaluation of anxiety and low mood. I had put down that I wished I didn’t exist. She asked what specific thoughts I had had. I assured her that I had no intention to hurt myself but I could explain my thoughts. How to explain the hopelessness of being unable to communicate to someone so apparently happy and communicative as this women?