If you’re just joining the program and haven’t been watching the World’s Longest Pilot (the first 31 years of my life), it turns out that I am, at heart, an anxious creature. I think a lot of people who don’t have anxiety, and even some who do, think of anxiety and imagine panic attacks, or not being able to sleep at night because you’re worried that you won’t be able to pay the bills or finish all of your homework or find a partner or get pregnant. And anxiety can be those things.
For many people, though, it manifests in other ways. For me, it’s a slightly paranoid voice in my head making me second guess and worry about pretty much every action I take and everything that happens around me.
Sometimes it’s not so bad, and I go days or weeks without really noticing it, partly because it is such an ingrained part of my life that I don’t register it as abnormal. And then sometimes there’s an unexpected knock at the door and I spend half an hour hiding on the floor of the kitchen because it’s the only room where no one can easily see me through a window. It turned out that the knocking was someone from craigslist that I had scheduled to come pick up a free item. I learned this because they emailed me later to try to reschedule. I didn’t reply because I was too anxious about them being mad at me for not answering the door the first time. There’s still a wicker cabinet in my garage that I don’t want, and it is henceforth going to be referred to as the Anxiety Cabinet.
After a couple of months with much less anxiety than usual, it hit hard and fast today. I was out working on yard cleanup, including trying to get rid of a bunch of leaves that mysteriously appeared along our frontage a couple of weeks ago. A woman driving by slowed down and called out her window “Hey, thanks for cleaning up your sidewalk and gutter!”
Regular brain: Yay, my neighbors are friendly and appreciate my efforts to keep my stuff nice!
Anxiety brain: She’s probably being sarcastic and hates me for leaving all this out here for the last few weeks. Also probably whoever left this here didn’t just accidentally drop it off a trailer when crossing the speed bump, they probably did it intentionally because my yard was already messy.
Regular brain: OK, maybe that first bit is true, but the second bit is nonsense.
Anxiety brain: Also my shovel is really loud and probably all the neighbors are watching out the windows wishing I’d picked a more logical, or at least quieter, tool.
Regular brain: I give up. Just put the stuff in the bag.