Having recently had a twitter rant about anxiety and my feelings towards it, I discussed a topic that a lot of people engaged with, so I thought I’d expand on it a little (see, you lot fuel my material without even knowing! And no, I don’t pay commission).
At the beginning of my little anxiety nightmare, a large portion of my focus was on what other people would think of me, because of my anxiety. It’s one of the reasons I started out as anonymous on Twitter. I wouldn’t tell anyone! What would they think? They’d think I was bonkers. They’d see it as a sign of weakness. People in the street would think I was barmy if I started having a panic attack right outside boots. This caused me to hide my condition from a lot of people, including family, and it’s where things began to get dark for me.
I remember starting my first session of my second course of CBT. I’d discussed a few things with my therapist before she suggested facing up to my fear of going into supermarkets. She asked what I found difficult, and out I came with it.
“I’m worried what people will think of me when they notice.”
“When they notice?” she said.
“Yea, when they see me having a panic attack.” I said really concerned.
“When did you last have a panic attack?” she asked.
“In a meeting yesterday morning, it was awful.” I explained.
“And what did you do when everyone noticed?” she asked.
“Oh, no one noticed, I just worked through it.”
“So”, she said “if you had a panic attack, in a confined space during an intimate setting with people who have no idea about your anxiety, what makes you think people in a supermarket who aren’t even paying attention to you will notice?”.
I didn’t have an answer. She was right. What about me made me so special that a supermarket would stop and turn to see my hands shaking and me fidgeting because of a panic attack? Her question really got me thinking. I’d had multiple panic attacks in one day before then and managed to hide them, so why was this time any different?
That notion stuck with me the next time I went into a supermarket. I noticed everyone was buzzing about their day, and I was as anonymous to them as the rest of the people in there. All of a sudden, I wasn’t anxious about hiding a panic attack because there was no one to hide it from. Instead, I was focused on doing what I was there to do.
This set the precedence for how I worked through my anxiety, and it helped me to realise how much I’d let other people’s opinions affect me. This is when things changed for me, and my decision to worry less came into play. I began feeling proud of my achievements against my anxiety. I’d stared my biggest fears in the face and done it anyway. I had no reason to be ashamed of what my physical reactions were.
As time has gone on, my attitude is now more solid.
I know I’m a good person. I spend a lot of time helping and supporting people through difficulties they’re facing, I live life with compassion for other people in situations other’s may judge them for. I live without judgement, because I know how it feels to be judged. I’m generous, offering my time to people who need it, either via twitter supporting mental health causes, or in person helping people in multiple ways.
I know I’m a good person.
And because of that, why let someone else’s opinion affect me? I can walk down the street, and someone walking towards me could instantly create an opinion of me. Their opinion could be really negative, it could paint me in the worst light. It could be complete lies. Based on the fact they don’t know me, it probably is. The important thing is to know that this opinion has absolutely no affect on my life and quite honestly, I just don’t care anymore, and that feeds my fight with anxiety.
I don’t care if my legs trembling make someone think “He’s odd”. I don’t care if not being able to go into a hospital because I’m having a panic attack means someone thinks I’m a “wuss” or I should “man up”. I don’t care if lacking in confidence makes people think I’m inadequate, weak or not worth their time. I honestly don’t care, because the reality is their opinion isn’t fact. It’s their opinion, which is based purely on a negative part of my life without focusing on any of the positives.
If a person decides to build an opinion based on my actions that have absolutely no direct influence on their life, why should their opinion influence mine? I’m a good person, I have good friends, I have good beliefs and values, I don’t judge anyone, I don’t harm anyone, I just get through life in the best way I can. If someone is talking about me, looking at me funny, that’s OK, because it has no affect on who I actually am.
If you’re going through life with whatever issues you have, trying the best you can, being the nicest possible version of yourself and helping other people in ways that can potentially change their life, yet someone you barely know comes along with a negative opinion of you, that really is OK. It’s fine. Let them have the opinion. Whether that opinion has a direct effect on your life is down to choice. You can choose to let it affect you, or you can choose not to care. If you ask me, it’s time not to care.