wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Anxiety – the frenemy

Apologies for the absence as of late. What with the job hunting and Dan’s thirtieth birthday I’ve been a busy bee!

I’m delighted to announce that I have a new job and I’m so excited to start 🙂 – I’m also delighted about Dan’s birthday, but you know…

The new job feels like such a huge achievement. For all those who read my blog regularly, you’ll know that interviews are one of my key triggers. I had my first major panic attack during one… and subsequently ran out of the room (long story). Seriously, the very word ‘interview’ makes my stomach jolt!

Let me put this into context, I haven’t had what I would call a serious/formal interview in over a year, which for me is problematic because I like to keep on top of my triggers.
So beforehand I knew that things were going to be rough… and boy was I right! The journey to the venue was a blur of the following:

Thoughts: “You can’t do this, you’re not ready” – “you’re going to humiliate yourself”

Emotions: TERROR, dread, panic, anxious

Physical symptoms:

  • The heart palpitations of a hummingbird on speed
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heavy/numb arms and legs
  • Floaty sensation
  • An overwhelming urge to shit myself, (don’t worry I didn’t).  

By the time I reached the venue my legs had turned to jelly and I could barely think straight.
After walking through the main reception (God knows how I managed to do that), I nipped into the toilets to compose myself. The same thought circulated through my brain on loop “GO HOME, get out NOW!” However, I did some belly breathing and looked at myself in the mirror. As distressed as I was feeling, I knew deep down that all of the symptoms were part of the ‘anxiety trick.’ I felt very uncomfortable, but I wasn’t in any danger and if I gave in to this now then it would be much harder next time. So I let the panic and all of it’s rage wash over me like a wave… if I was going to make a complete fool of myself then so be it.

When I walked into the interview room I immediately thought, “good girl, no matter what happens now you’re fucking amazing, because you’ve faced something that scares you. It doesn’t get much braver than that.” But to my relief, after two minutes the wave begin to retreat. Despite being so horrific five minutes previously it was now dissipating.   

Ironically I think I gave the best interview of my life! I was 100% myself rather than a ‘robot saying the correct things’ if that makes sense?

What is my point then, with this terribly self indulgent tale? In a nutshell it’s this: IF YOU DO NOTHING, THEN NOTHING WILL CHANGE. Anxiety is the master of keeping us trapped. It’s a crafty bastard, one that can take on many forms.
Here are the main three to watch out for:

  1. The terrorist – impossible to ignore. Very aggressive physical symptoms and distressing thoughts such as “STOP NOW.” This form often appears right before a stressful event.
  2. The bully – cruel and belittling. Mainly exploits the emotional symptoms of guilt and self doubt. “You’re pathetic. Who would want to speak to you.” Sound familiar? That’s the bully talking.
  3. The frenemy – the sneakiest one of all. Convinces you that doing nothing is actually the right decision.

The frenemy is the one that I’d really like to focus on because it often goes undetected.

I was talking to a friend of mine who’s been having trouble with anxiety for years. Her ‘go to’ response is to avoid situations that makes her feel anxious, and the tragic part is, she doesn’t even realise she’s doing it.

Her: “I’ve been thinking about Adam’s BBQ thing and I’m going to give it a miss. I’ve been doing too much lately. I’m really tired and emotional. I’m just going to have an early night.

Me: **Thinks** Noooooo… do you know how many times I’ve heard you say this? You’re being tricked into maintaining your anxiety.   

Now, I’m actually a big believer in relaxation. I think that sleep and ‘downtime’ are very important, particularly if you have anxiety. However, they can also be used as an excuse to ‘check out’ of life and avoid dealing with problems. The frenemy tricks a person into believing that if they ‘just relax and give the party/meeting/holiday a miss,’ then they’ll feel better. The truth is.. that’s rarely the case. Believe me, I wish it was because I would’ve been cured years ago!

To be clear, I’m not suggesting my interview example be used as a comparison. That’s far too extreme to begin with!
Anything, no matter how big or small is good as long as it involves action. For example, it could be any of the following:

  • Going to see the GP to discuss your anxiety
  • Booking a session with a CBT therapist
  • Joining a gym (and actually going).
  • Starting a new routine
  • Giving up coffee or alcohol
  • Go to that event, even if makes you feel anxious – come up with a plan if you need to such as, “I only have to stay for an hour.”

But for God sake beware the frenemy! I’ve curled up with her so many times (and still do on occasion), but she never makes it better. It’s not easy, but taking action is the only way forward. 

Maybe that should be my halloween costume this year? Anxiety in frenemy form… I’ll have a look on Amazon. If they can do a sexy Red Riding Hood (so wrong), then a sexy frenemy should be fine!

Categories: Anxiety

Tags: , ,

20 replies

  1. Congratulations! You must be so proud of yourself! 🙂

    “IF YOU DO NOTHING, THEN NOTHING WILL CHANGE. Anxiety is the master of keeping us trapped.” This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I really need to get power over the frenemy!

    • Thanks Amy 🙂 I am proud of myself (which is very rare for me)! It’s great that you’ve recognised the frenemy, you can absolutely get control over it.

      • I’ve only recently discovered your blog, so I’m reading with great interest! Obviously it’s not nice that other people are struggling with anxiety, but it is nice to know that you’re not the only one and there are others who understand!

        I think the frenemy also tricks you into thinking that your anxiety isn’t that bad any more, when you’re actually just avoiding the situations that make you feel uncomfortable. All the little tricks, excuses, and lies you use become such a ‘normal’ part of life that you don’t really realise how you’re living until you really step back and think about it (for me anyway!).

  2. Hi Claire,

    Thanks for your posts. They are good to read as they are always witty, informative and engaging. I appreciate anyone who goes public about things like anxiety and depression.

    I’m 51 and have had these problems since my teenage years. I suspect they’ve persisted because I’ve felt that I’ve had to keep them under wraps. My go to support for mental and emotional distress is always the Samaritans and other telephone helplines rather than friends or family. My GP too. But never real people. I suppose I feel the need for trained people. Perhaps this is mistaken. It’s a risk that’s too hard at the moment. I manage after a fashion.

    This particular post struck a note with me. The frenemy: the encouragement to avoid. Like writing this response. I’ve wanted to do this for a while. But could think of a lot of reasons why not. People may not like you- you don’t want your feelings hurt. I mean this is the summer and some nice days would be spoilt if you were worried or ruminated on the fact that you were ignored. Better not bother than have your feelings hurt. Wrap yourself in cotton wool! Go on… . This is social anxiety in the electronic age. Esocial anxiety. A new idea?

    Kind regards

    Peter

  3. Congratulations Claire! You won, not your anxiety! I hope you enjoy your new job. That’s exciting. Wonderful post. You should be very, very proud of yourself! 😊

  4. Congratulations and well done! Particularly interested to read about the frenemy. A very subtle, dangerous and manipulative aspect of anxiety. Good luck in your new job.

  5. Result!

  6. “An overwhelming urge to shit myself” hahhaa story of my life

  7. I love that ‘I let it wash over me like a wave’ – this is such an important concept 🙂

  8. Congratulations on the new job.
    I am currently at a festival and surviving! having spent the last few days working through all of the above. I am very familiar with the frenemy. Good description.

  9. It is often the case that the reality is less terrifying than the build up to to it. I have to go to a social ‘event’ today, in 5 hours (yes, I’m counting the minutes). Right now I’m wishing that *anything* would happen so I don’t have to go. I dearly wish I could go and hide somewhere, but I guess I know that if I did so I’d be letting people down, and that ultimately it’ll be fine. That’s what the rational part of brain says anyway, my heart rate tells a different story.

    • You CAN do this 🙂 – don’t worry about letting other people down, you’d be letting yourself down, because this something that you CAN deal with. Focus on how you want to feel later ‘proud & self assured’ – you can use this to give you strength for future events. Good luck tonight! 🙂

  10. I have a hard time explaining to people the thought processes that are preventing me from going out but your frenemy description is spot on! For me personally the worst part about my anxiety is the self-awareness, so many times I have talked myself out of things and stayed in bed full of regret and anger at how I am allowing myself to be controlled. Anxiety has closed so many doors for me but I still struggle on, in part thanks to blogs like yours that let me know I’m not alone. All I can do is try to remain confident that I WILL eventually beat this!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. The aspect of being self-aware has been a double edged sword throughout my lifetime actually. I’m aware that my anxiety is completlely illogical, yet for whatever reason, I’m taking out this tiny speck of a problem and it ends up smearing my vision over what I can do, which ends up embedding itself and taking over. I think you really hit the nail on the head with the frenemy for sure!

    My thoughts tend to go: “If I stay here, I know whats going to happen.” It makes me feel safe, yet at the same time it can verge on stagnation, which is cetainly not what should happen!

  12. Thank you for this Claire and your whole blog – I have recently been signed off work after years (like 15) of battling with anxiety and now I have finally found something to read and take comfort in that I totally get! I was just telling my girlfriend how I wasn’t going to go to my friends tonight but after reading about the frenemy and realising I’ve tricked for years I’m going to get out of my joggers and make a rare public appearance 👍🏻 again thank you – Stu

    • Hi Stu, thanks for your message. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you’re going out tonight, even if just for an hour. It’s so brave & proactive.
      Wishing you all the luck in the world 🙂

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