For a while now, my anxiety has gotten the best of me.
It’s limited my self-confidence in my work and had me overthinking every little moment in my personal relationships. And for a long time, I didn’t realize what was happening. All I knew was that things went bad, a lot. And because of that, I stopped putting myself out there. To avoid the bad.
And when I say I stopped, I mean. Full stop. Get off the train, go back home, climb under the bed, and stop. I stopped submitting my work to competitions for awards. At networking events, I stopped showing up. I stopped hanging out with my friends. I stopped pursuing personal romantic relationships. And I climbed into my bubble, and I told myself if I stayed there, I would be safe because inside my bubble I couldn't make mistakes and I couldn't get hurt again.
But like all bubbles, mine popped, and it made a thunderous sound when it did.
During the pandemic, these years (omg YEARS!) spent alone, my social anxiety has completely skyrocketed. I mean, if you have a friend that sends you messages on FB and then deletes them before you can see them... hi, that's me. For most of the relationships I have now, I tiptoe through them because I don't want to make a mistake... which of course just adds to the anxiety and ultimately becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy.
Recently, I had one of those anxiety-filled moments where I felt almost driven to block out everything and everyone. Like if I could have crawled into my closet and never come out again, I would have. I took a chance and put myself out there and instantly my brain said that I made a mistake even though there was no external evidence of that being true.
Now years ago, when something like this would have happened, I would have first, shut down completely. Second, over thought every minute detail of it. And third, acted out in some way that forced me away from the situation. And if I'm being honest, I've had some Hallmark movie moments in my life. Like, if there was an audience, they'd be screaming at the screen for me to get my shit together.
Looking back, it is very hard (and embarrassing) to believe that girl, that woman, who struggled so hard just understand herself, was me.
I'm not going to lie and say that I have completely mastered this situation. But what recently happened showed me I have grown a lot and that I am getting better and even though it's still difficult and sometimes terrifying trying to understand the nuances of the world around me, I know things are never as bad as they seem. And also, those intrusive thoughts that tell me I completely messed up, embarrassed myself, or I've chased someone away are mostly just me overthinking.
I mean I do have an amazing imagination. Sometimes it works just as hard concocting false narratives for my own life as it does for my characters.
This is one of those posts that I'm writing not only to share a part of myself with the world but so that I can reflect on this. In five years or ten, maybe more I will look back on this blog post and I will recognize the vulnerable position I was in. And I'll applaud myself for putting this out there because it is hard to say, “Hello my name is Jessica. I’m 34 years old and I don't really know who I am, but I'm learning. And I'm unlearning the bad habits of beating myself up for internally perceived mistakes.”
I hope that when I do look back on this post, the woman I am is happier and healthier, and surer of herself than I am right now. Because I’m working my ass off trying to get there.