GUEST: This line for checkout is ridiculous. How long is it going to take? CONCIERGE: I apologize, sir. It’s hard to say, but I don’t think it should take much more than 10-15 minutes. GUEST: You think or you know? CONCIERGE: It’s hard to say for sure, it all depends on the individual checkouts. …
Social anxiety isn’t “omg I hate people lol I wish I was sleeping and watching netflix!”
It’s “I want desperately to be able to hang out with people but I hate the feeling of sheer panic and fear I get around them so I don’t/ can’t and it eats away at me every day so I end up just staying home and say I’m sleeping or watching something”
“The thing about an anxiety disorder is that you know it is stupid. You know with all your heart that it wasn’t a big deal and that it should roll off of you. But that is where the disorder kicks in; Suddenly the small thing is very big and it keeps growing in your head, flooding your chest, and trying to escape from under your skin. You know with all of your heart that you’re being ridiculous and you hate every minute of it. The fact that many people don’t recognize or have patience for your illness only makes everything worse.”—
I once had a therapist tell me that having an anxiety disorder is like having a faulty alarm system wired up in your brain — instead of going off just when there’s danger (like it would for somebody without an anxiety disorder), it goes off all the time, over little things that don’t actually warrant an anxious response at all. It’s like one of those asshole smoke detectors that everyone’s dealt with at some point or another, the ones that go off whenever you turn on the oven or try to cook something on the stove — you can yell “OH MY GOD, I’M JUST BOILING WATER” all you want, but the stupid thing is going to blare on undeterred. That’s what having an anxiety disorder is like: it’s the smoke detector, and you’re the person on the ground yelling “SHUT UP, SHUT UP, THERE ISN’T ANY FUCKING FIRE.”
Under normal circumstances I don’t talk about my mental health stuff on the internet much — out of anxiety, actually, more than anything else — but I wanted to chime in here because I think this is something people really don’t understand about anxiety disorders. Friends: we know it’s irrational. We know we need to calm down, that things aren’t as bad as we think they are, that our reactions are making things worse than they need to be, that it’s all in our heads. We know. It’s what makes it all so incredibly infuriating, because in life you can just — you know, smack the smoke detector with a broom or take the batteries out or something. An anxiety disorder doesn’t work like that, though god, I wish it did; it requires years of work and active effort and (for some of us) medication to dial down our reactions, even when we know, right down to our bones, that our reactions are wrong.
If you’ve ever read that when someone is having an anxiety attack, it’s not helpful to say “Calm down” or “Stop panicking” or shit like that: this is why. We are saying that crap in our heads already, only we are saying it louder than you, and with more frustration and self-loathing, because we have been trying without success to calm down and stop panicking for the balance of our lives.
I know it can be exasperating to deal with someone with anxiety — boy, do I. I deal with an anxious personality every waking minute of every single day, and let me tell you there are times I want to smack myself with a broom, take out my batteries, and let my whole fucking house burn down. But the thing is, if you have someone in your life with anxiety and their shit is bugging the hell out of you, you have an option at your disposal that they don’t: you can walk away. And if you’re someone who gets frustrated by other people’s anxiety, who can’t be patient, whose very nature compels them to point out that it’s not a big deal and we need to calm down and we’re making it more than it is — that’s okay, everyone has shit they can’t deal with, but use that option. Walk away. Tune it out. Don’t pile on, because that’s actually so counterproductive to the goal of getting the calm, rational person you know out from beneath their anxiety. The more you say the things we’re already thinking (this is stupid, just shut up already, calm down, this isn’t a big deal, why can’t you calm down), the more we become convinced everything in our heads is true, and the longer it takes us to shut it down.
As always, the best way to be helpful to someone with any kind of mental illness is to ask them, ideally during a time when they are calm and in control: what can I do, what do you need, what should I avoid doing, is there anything that helps. But short of that, I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have people in my life that I know aren’t going to echo back at me the shit I’m already yelling at myself. So: try not to do that to people. That’s all we’re asking. Try not to.
GUEST: Hi. I’m wondering if you can help me. Do either of you speak Spanish? COWORKER: No, I’m sorry. GUEST: Why not? I don’t understand. COWORKER: I apologize, but I can understand your English perfectly, sir. How can I help you?
I am struck occasionally, usually while snuggling the cat, with our faith in domestication.
The cat is a small, ferocious predator, twelve pounds of…well, flab and fur, frankly, in Athena’s case, but what muscle there is is strong all out of proportion to her size. I have watched three 150+ primates try and fail to subdue a ten pound cat, and consider it not at all unusual. The cat is as flexible as a snake and as strong as an ox. She has quite dainty looking teeth and claws, but there’s nothing dainty about their ability to flay flesh from bone.
If the cat and I were in a duel to the death, I would almost certainly win. I am 15+ times larger than she is, after all, and while my teeth and claws are pathetic, I have prehensile hands capable of doing terrible things. But if I had to go in naked, as the cat does, (and assuming the cat was aware that she was going to have to kill me, and not taking a nap in the corner) I can pretty much guarantee it would be a Pyhrric victory. I’d look like I’d gone ten rounds with a wolverine. I would need stitches. A lot of stitches. Possibly a glass eye. And antibiotics by the truckload. It’d be a mess, and there would even be a chance of an upset if the cat managed to go face-hugger on me.
And yet, despite the knowledge of the shocking amount of damage my small predator could inflict, it never occurs to me to worry. I pick the cat up and she tucks her head under my chin and purrs, canine teeth centimeters from my jugular, and despite the fact that I am carrying a ruthless carnivore in a position where she could, with great ease, remove me from the gene pool, I am thoroughly content with the world. Even knowing full well that cats are not even a truly domesticated animal, that Athena’s kin might best be described as “consistently tamed,” my greatest concern is that my black tank top is now coated in white cat hairs.
We have such faith in the process of domestication, despite the sheer unnaturalness of what’s happening. Small predators do not curl up on the chests of large primates and purr in the wild. And yet, every now and again, generally when my small predator is purring on the chest of this particular primate, I think How strange, how strange… that we’re doing this, and even stranger, that we both take it completely for granted, and find nothing unusual in such a completely unlikely alliance.
Y’know people say shit about social media along the lines of ‘OMG no one cares what anyone had for breakfast’ and like.
I do? I care. I’m pretty sure a lot of people care. I want to hear that the people I care about are having delicious breakfasts or saw something odd at work or flirted with a cute barista. Or just any little thoughts they have that they feel are worth sharing.
I’ve always kind of assumed that’s how you’re supposed to feel about your friends.
“Menstrual pads have been mentioned as early as the 10th century, in the Suda, where Hypatia, who lived in the 4th century AD, was said to have thrown one of her used menstrual rags at an admirer in an attempt to discourage him”—