I have issues with anxiety. So, it's kind of funny how I get told, quite often actually, how calm I am. I mean, I guess I can see it. I don't tend to get riled up about stuff very often - not in certain situations anyway. Like at work, I am told frequently that I have a calming effect on people. I suppose that's a good thing since I'm a social worker. I can't explain why, except to give God ALL the credit, but I am generally not uncomfortable in emotionally charged situations. Someone is sad or grieving? I'm on my way. Someone is angry, furious even? I'm on it. Confused? Agitated? Unreasonable? Show me the way. I will be on a mission to make things better. I love the opportunity to diffuse, comfort, bring clarity and healing. In every job I've ever had, the most challenging people are my favorites.
But then there's the fact that I am also crazy. I mean, my family and some lucky friends know all about my crazy, but I am usually able to conceal it well enough from the rest of the people in my circles. Where things are a little less transparent. Where it's kind of a necessity to keep a lid on the crazy and maintain some assemblance of normal. Like at work, and at church, and well, in public - it's kind of important not to FREAK THE CRAP OUT. But there are some situations that get me rattled and anxious that probably don't bother normal people.
1. Small talk. We just met five seconds ago and you want to talk about something deep and personal? Well pull up a chair, my good friend, I'm all about that. Let's get some coffee and bear our souls. But saying "hi" and "how are you" and trying to figure out something superficial to talk about makes me all kinds of uncomfortable. I never know how to answer the "how are you" question. I don't like to be fake, I much prefer real and transparent. But if I don't know you very well then I am not quite sure if you are just being polite, or if you really want to know that I'm a little crabby because I got into an argument with my husband/child/dog this morning and have a headache and a raging case of pms. Is that what you want? Or will you look at me like "Heh, um ok. Well, nice to see you (wow, TMI much?)"
2. Running into people I know while shopping. Uh boy, here we are - carts approaching. Should I stop my cart to chat or will we do a drive by hello? What if I stop and you don't want to, but feel obligated to stop because I do? And then we will be in a full on small talk situation. And if we do stop, how long will we talk? Am I blocking an aisle and people are getting mad at me? GAH! This has nothing to do with whether I like you or not. I probably really do, and in another situation I would love to chat a while, but when I am shopping I am on a mission and I just want to get in and out of there as quick as possible and if I see you I might skip two whole aisles just to avoid the awkward grocery store greeting scenario.
3. Sitting in back seats of cars. This is a claustrophobia thing as well as a motion sickness thing. If it is a large vehicle with a roomy back seat and I have the whole back seat to myself and some Dramamine in my veins, I will probably be ok. But put me in the middle between two other people in a cramped back seat and I will go into full freak out mode. This also applies to buses. I just can't do it. No way, no how.
4. Being in a crowded room. It doesn't even have to be like shoulder to shoulder crowded, it can be a spacious banquet room, but even then I could not sit at a table in the middle of the room. I would have to sit in the back, or along the side where there is easy access to an exit. This stems from my social phobia as a child. First days of school were so stressful for me because teachers made seating charts and I didn't know where I would have to sit. What if I had to go to the bathroom or vomit or something and I was sitting in the middle of the room and had to get up in front of everyone? I was much better in high school when teachers started letting us pick our own seats. I would always strategically place myself closest to the door. I still do that to this day if I go to a workshop or church or any other type of gathering.
5. Having to introduce myself in a meeting. I can lead worship at my church or give a presentation at work, but when we have to "go around and introduce yourself" all the blood drains from my brain and I suddenly can't remember my name. I have even been known to write my name down on my notepad in front of me in case when it's my turn I freeze. Seriously.
6. Paying at the pump. This has to do with my (I know it's irrational) fear of getting arrested and going to jail because I did something illegal and didn't realize it. This is not new for me, it's been a (irrational) fear of mine for my entire adult life. I am a rule follower. I don't even speed (ok, maybe four miles over). I wear my seatbelt, even if I'm only driving a block away. I put my cart back. And I don't park in the spots designated for "senior shoppers". Ever. So I am always a bit anxious paying at the pump with my debit card because what if my card doesn't work and I drive away without paying for my gas and an hour later a cop shows up at my house to arrest me? Accidently shoplifting, having someone stash drugs in my car, or running over a pedestrian are also ideas that freak me out because they could land me in the slammer. Or, I suppose, the psych ward would be a bit more realistic.
7. Walking out of a store without buying anything. This also stems from anxiety #6. As I said before, when I shop I like to get in, get my stuff, and get out. I do not enjoy leisurely pushing a cart around without a purpose anymore. So if I happen to go into a store for one thing, and they don't have it, I will leave and I always feel like all the employees' eyes are on me walking out of the store without going through the checkout line, and as I take those first few steps out the door and onto the parking lot, part of me (the crazy part) waits to see if alarms will go off and I will be tackled by the Target security guy for shoplifting nothing.
8. Taking the first item off the shelf. Ok, this one sort of borders on OCD. I don't buy the first item in the row. I might pick it up and look at it, but if I decide to buy it I will grab the second one in line and put the first one back. There are a couple reasons for this. The first item was handled most by other shoppers and probably dropped. Or wrinkled. Or sneezed on. If I am going to spend my money on something I want it to be in mint condition and booger free. Also if it is a grocery store item in the refrigerator section, I have this thing that the stuff in the front row is not as cold as the stuff behind. That probably isn't true, but it is a thing for me. And everyone knows they put the newer stuff with the later expiration dates in the back. So I will always reach in the back for the coldest, freshest stuff. Because I have a thing with expiration dates too.
I'm sure I could come up with more, but that is probably enough neurosis for one blog post!