I would have never described myself as someone anxious by nature. I always saw anxiety as a form of weakness. A couple of years ago, one of my friends suddenly cancelled all the upcoming plans we had together, including a weekend in Iceland. She said she was going through a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. At the time, I pretended to be understanding but in reality I couldn’t really understand what would cause this behaviour. We haven’t seen her for a couple of months and one day she said she wanted to meet up again. I found her slimmed down a lot (she was already slim) but back to her normal self, almost cried when she said “Girls, you don’t know how happy I am to see you again today”. What was that invisible monster who did that to her?
Now I know better. Anxiety is not a form of weakness. Anyone can experience anxiety at some point in their life. Like I said, I would have never described myself as an anxious person… Until this year. For example, I experienced anxiety twice already in the last 2 weeks:
Situation 1 – Going out with friends for lunch
I had this lunch planned at the restaurant with 2 ex-colleagues I haven’t seen for a year. It required using public transport as we live opposite sides of London. I was really looking forward to seeing them but I was scared of travelling by myself. I already postponed this lunch several times and I wanted to see them before another potential lockdown.
We were officially entering a second wave of covid19 infections, new rules have been put in place in restaurants and public places. It’s allowed to meet up with people from different households, up to 6 people max.
I have not taken the tube by myself this year… And we’re already in September. Scary stuff. What if I lost my independence and self-confidence since this pandemic started? Would I know how to react if something unexpected happened?
My guts were in the front line in the battle with my anxious thoughts. I was constipated all week until the day when I couldn’t stop going to the loo, something that looks like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). My guts are like my second brain.
Situation 2 – Going to the dentist
I lost a filling on one of my teeth when I was stuck in Fiji during lockdown. I was obviously very anxious back then because I didn’t have an easy access to medical facilities, it didn’t cross my mind to try and go anyway. I just thought I would be careful when eating and just wait until I’m back in London to go to the dentist. It took me 6 months to motivate myself to book an appointment… And the day finally arrived last weekend.
Same period, same regulations. My dentist has reopened for several months now and is reassuring when it comes to safety measures and hygiene.
I really need to get my tooth sorted out even if I don’t feel any pain. Isn’t a dentist the last person I want to see though? What if I get infected there? I’ll be vulnerable with my mouth open and this virus is invisible…
IBS symptoms again.
What I learned…
So, can I still say I’m not an anxious person? I guess not, not after that. These 2 situations would have never been a source of stress for me until this year. Perception of danger is very subjective after all. We make judgements about danger and our ability to cope every day. But sometimes when we feel too anxious, we overestimate danger and underestimate our ability to cope. It’s that balance we need to maintain to avoid unnecessary “what if…?” questions.
If I listened to my anxiety and let it dominate me, I would have avoided these situations in a first place: I would have cancelled on my friends and make up an excuse, and I would have convinced myself I didn’t need to go to the dentist. Instead I decided to be brave and it boosted my self-confidence. I feel less anxious about going out, although I still prefer staying home as much as possible because it feels safer. It wouldn’t be a good thing to not experience anxiety at all nowadays, it would lead to stupid behaviours like thinking bad things never happen to you.
Have you experienced anxiety lately because of the pandemic? If yes, how have you overcome it?
Big Girl x