I’m going to get right to the point here: I suffer from anxiety.
My heart’s racing at the thought of writing this article.
I’m imagining all the things you might think of me – ‘You’re a terrible writer,’ ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ ‘What qualifies you to write about anxiety?’
If catastrophizing were a GCSE, I’m sure I’d get an A*, right up there with heart palpitations and special achievements in insomnia.
And you might be there with me. You know you’ve got anxiety when:
1. You think those Keep Calm tee shirts are annoyingly patronising.
2. You tried deep breathing but it made you feel light headed so you felt anxious about it.
3. You practise mindfulness but keep getting up midway through to check the coffee machine/gas hob/iron isn’t on (it isn’t).
4. You still have exam nightmares despite taking them over 10 years ago. And in some of them you might be naked.
5. You check your phone every 30 seconds when you’re meant to meet your date just in case they’ve decided to ditch you.
Or their train is delayed (but the first one’s much more likely).
6. At night your mind is a constantly scrawling to-do list, keeping you awake remembering that you mustn’t forget things.
7. You forget things because you didn’t sleep well, because 6.
8. You get ready for a night out two hours early (just in case) then pace the room repeatedly asking, ‘Shall we get going, then?’
9. You strategically position yourself on the train platform exactly where the doors will open and you know you’ll get on first, then are horrified when the train doors stop two feet away from you. Hor.Ror.
10. You rush to get a seat on a train while subconsciously listing best to worst people to sit next to. (Worst is next to drunken chatty person eating kebab and pasty combo, who spills crumbs on you and tries to chat you up on the last train home. And then vomits.)
11. You’ve left two hours early for an event (see 8) but the train stops between stations. Dread. Then the tannoy announcement is both inaudible and incomprehensible. Blind panic.
12. You’re so anxious on your night out, you completely forget what you’re saying mid-anecdote and start babbling incoherently while you scrabble around your frantic head trying to remember what you were saying.
13. You laugh maniacally hoping this will satisfy everyone (see 12) as the natural end to your story.
14. Before job interviews you practise your smile in the mirror, trying to replace the look of sheer terror with one of ‘competence and reliability’. Even resting bitch face would be an improvement at this point.
15. You’re two hours early for your interview (see 8 and 11) and have to keep replying ‘I’m fine, thanks,’ to offers of tea and biscuits when what you really want to do is run out of the building, all the way home.
16. You have a bath before bed when you get home as self-help 101 for anxiety, but all that happens is that you can’t sleep (see 6) but you now smell of lavender essential oil. And you’re clean. Bonus.