I don’t even know where to start with this one!
As most of you will have seen over on my twitter, the last few weeks have been particularly tricky with various anxiety issues, new symptoms, a sense of relapse and general struggle while trying to carry on as if everything is OK. As we know, often things can pile on top of us and we become overwhelmed – well, this is basically what’s been happening to me over the last 6 months.
This mounting pressure has made my anxiety disorder feel much harder to live with, with it affecting me in ways I thought I’d worked through and conquered. I spent so long, so much time and so much effort fighting a fear of fainting, learning to control panic and developed skills that allow me to live a relatively normal life with the odd anxiety/panic episode thrown in here and there. Now, I have a new symptom which is sickness, and feel it’s developing into a form of emetophobia.
That alone terrifies me. Even typing it causes an anxious stir, because my brain cant cope with another thing I have to try and conquer. This has been building, controlling certain situations and has become evident in probably every day over the last month or so to a certain degree, and now it’s something I take into consideration when doing some activities or visiting places.
Because of all of this, you can imagine my SHEER delight at the prospect of a formal meeting with a new client that meant I couldn’t just come and go as I please, can’t just pop out for air, can’t escape when negative thoughts come in to play, I have to sit and endure it. I was absolutely dreading it. It’s something I’ve managed in the past, but my anxiety felt under control, yet now in this new phase I seem to be in, meetings do not feel like something I can do.
Luckily my boss hadn’t confirmed I was going, so I spent the first few day after finding out telling myself I wasn’t going – perhaps phoning in sick, explaining I wasn’t well or that I had a doctors appointment. All I knew is, I couldn’t go! Then an email came through, to the client, confirming mine and my bosses attendance. We’d share a car to the meeting where we’d meet with 4 other people on the panel and have to say the right things, do the right things, all while trying to hide the fact I would be crumbling inside.
I couldn’t do it. “I can’t go, I can’t do that, I can’t do this anymore, I want out! I need to just do what I want to do” ran through my mind as I tried to consider what the hell I was going to do. The day before, I was crippled with anxiety. I dragged myself out of my bed, feeling sick, tense and stomach cramps. I endured this for 4 hours at work, before a migraine came on, and to me I felt so broken, so lost. All because I had to go to a meeting that I didn’t want to go to. I reached out on twitter for support and boy did I get it! People from all over the world, followers and non-followers offering words of encouragement, sympathy, strength, – it was amazing to know in that moment I may have been suffering but I wasn’t alone.
I explained to my girlfriend what was happening, how I felt and she too was awesome, making sure I had a chilled night where I could relax to prepare myself for the meeting (which I didn’t even have a clue how to at this point). I laid in the bath, light off so it was dark and quiet, and just “thought”. I needed to think, to reset myself, to sort myself out. I addressed what my body was doing, what I was feeling. How could I relate this to previous challenges I’ve faced and conquered? I settled, tension easing slightly, and then it hit me.
I was spending all of my time wondering how I could get out of going to this meeting. How could I run away from the anxiety, how could I change jobs, how could I stop myself feeling this way as quickly as possible. My whole day had been consumed by these thoughts of “do I say I can’t go? Can I pretend I’m ill?”. I was tired of thinking like this. I needed to try something new.
Instead of spending my time thinking how I can get out of this, I needed to spend my time thinking how I can get THROUGH this. I can’t avoid it. Going is my job, I get paid to represent the business, It’s important at a time where work is quiet that we get and retain new clients – this is more than just a trip to the supermarket, and deep down I knew it. Also deep down, was my desire to actually do it. On the surface, I’d have avoided this in a heartbeat, but deep down I want to be able to do stuff like this. I don’t want to have a breakdown at the thought of going out for the day, going to meetings, presenting myself to the world as someone who actually does know what he’s talking about. I want all of these things and it was time to get them.
I got out of the bath feeling different. I still felt ill from anxiety, I was still tense, I was still aching all over, but I wasn’t as scared anymore. I had changed my thinking, to suit my approach to this, and I want to share this approach in the hope that even if 1 person reads it and takes something from it, I’ll be really happy.
Initially facing this challenge was all about other people. My boss needed me, he expected me there, what would he think if I didn’t go? What would the client think if I didn’t go? What would they think if I had to leave? What would they think if I felt funny half way through? How would that look?
Everything was about other people and not about the most important person – me. I was the one who wanted to go, I want to do these things, and in order to do so, it has to suit me. This is VERY selfish, I understand that, but in all honesty if being selfish helps me to beat anxiety then I really don’t care. Why do I care what they think I have to leave? If I have to go out then it’s because I’m unwell, it’s as simple as that. If I’m twitching, shaking or tense it’s because I’m standing up to my biggest fear, so if they don’t like it they can balls to be quite honest. If they have a problem with me going to the toilet midway through the meeting for a nervous wee, then in all honesty I don’t want to work with people who get arsey about a basic human function and right.
I spent so long wondering how I was going to please these other people, and absolutely no time considering myself. Not anymore. This challenge was about me and for me. I want to go, I want to conquer it and I want to win. If doing that means some slight adjustments then so be it.
I woke up anxious at 3:30am on the day, and tossed and turned until around 5:15am where I text my boss and told him I’d be driving myself to the meeting to give me a chance to just get my head around the meeting. He was perfectly fine with it – if it made it easier for me he was on board. I left the house at 8:30am having received so many messages, texts and tweets from lovely folks wishing me a good day and off I went. I arrived bang on time (because I got severely lost and the early start didn’t help me AT all) and met my boss at the door. We went into the building, greeted the client and in we went. 4 people sat staring at us as we entered, like walking into the boardroom of Alan Sugar but a more budget version with crap chairs. I sat down, and this was the start.
I spent 3 hours shaking my legs (which I knew they could see but again, I don’t care), twitching, sipping water, sucking polos, and just generally trying to survive. What I also did was engage, interact and put myself forward as a person who was confident in what they were saying which I’m so pleased about. Through all of the anxiety I was able to push through and keep going – and I did just that. 3 long hours passed and the meeting was over, I left the meeting room, left the building and walked to my car.
I did it. I actually did it. I went from crippled with the worst anxiety I’ve had in a long time, so conquering this challenge and presenting myself as someone confident, polite and professional, and I’m so proud of that.
There was no magic, no special methods, I just did this for me. Everything about the whole challenge was for me, and the success was for me. We spend way too much time wondering what a bunch of strangers think about us. I know I’m capable of doing my job and doing it well, I know I’m a good person, I know what I’m going through every single day – so if someone’s prepared to judge me on any of the above, they’re really not worth my time. Thinking for myself saves me today, and brought me back from the brink.
Thank you to all of the people who offered me support – I can’t express what it means to me, and if you read all of that you deserve a bloody medal.