I knew I never really felt like leaving the house, other than for absolutely mandatory activities such as work, but I didn’t immediately recognize this as a sign of dysfunction. People just want to stay home sometimes, right? I mean going out and running errands is such a hassle, it’s not that unusual to prefer the comforts of home. Well, I eventually did start to notice that maybe my responses to doing things outside of the house weren’t so normal. Here are the big 10 that let me know that maybe this whole anxiety thing had a firmer grip on me than I realized:
- My husband could make a trip to the drugstore, swing through the tampon aisle, shampoo aisle and makeup aisle and pick up exactly what I needed without hesitating or having to look around. I guess I had backed out of running to the drugstore so many times that he learned my preferred tampon absorbancy, my primary hair care concerns and whether I preferred a matte or dewy finish.
- I had a mental map of my local grocery store layout. I knew where everything was and would try to surmise where any new items might be located before venturing out. I wanted to be in and out, throwing things in the cart as I continuously walked through the store, not having to search or backtrack for anything.
- We had takeout menus for every restaurant in town. Why eat out when you can wear your fat pants and stuff your face while watching TV instead of engaging in meaningful conversation about why you have been refusing to physically go to any restaurant for the past six months?
- Like a fugitive on the run, I identified every exit immediately upon entering any building. I also mapped out the nearest bathrooms, although I’m not sure how being a fugitive would play in to that.
- Want to drop me off and meet me later? Forget it. I must have a car available to me at all times. No exceptions.
- ‘All dressed up with nowhere to go’ has always seemed like kind of a depressing saying to me, but I learned how much more depressing ‘all dressed up with somewhere to go’ can be when you decide right around your time of departure that it’s just not going to happen. What a waste of makeup and a cute outfit. Not to mention my poor husband who often found his plans to be suddenly canceled. I eventually just stopped making plans altogether, I mean who was I kidding anyway?
- I inadvertently became a pro at pretending to be engaged in conversation while I was actually allowing my panic-filled thoughts to invade all of my brain space. I probably actually seemed like a good listener, rarely interjecting my own thoughts, never changing the subject to put the focus back on me, allowing the other person to tell their life story to the constant nod of my understanding head. Of course, I really had no idea what the other person was talking about. I was too busy keeping a smile plastered on my face while determining how I thought the person might react if I just collapsed and died right then and there, or threw up, or politely said, “please excuse me, I’m having a non-descript medical emergency.”
- Lines. Queues. Whatever you want to call them, don’t even get me started. They made me as impatient as a kid who drank one too many Dr. Peppers on a long road trip with no gas station in site.
- I invented and killed off more relatives than I actually have. You’ve got to keep those excuses for your lack of presence coming and visiting relatives or funerals out of town generally wrap up a conversation involving any sort of invitation a lot faster than “I have to wash my hair.”
- The rules for car rides are as follows:
- I’m the only driver
- My husband is the only passenger. He’s seen the depths of my insanity and we’re still married so he should be able to handle it.
- We will come and go according to my desired timing. Although, if you want to leave someplace early, I’m always game.
- The route will go exactly as planned prior to leaving the house. No additional stops and no detours. If you needed to make an extra pit stop, you should have said something before we left so I could mentally prepare myself.
- Under no circumstances will we ride with anyone, anywhere. If you have an emergency, I’ll call you an ambulance.
- If we are on a multi-lane road or highway, I will always be in the outside lane. I don’t care if there’s a cyclist going 10 mph in front of me. I will not go to an interior lane. The exits aren’t accessible from over there.
- The road trip can and will be canceled at my discretion for any reason including but not limited to “I just feel like something bad is going to happen.”
After reading over this list, I actually just sound like a terrible person. The more you read this blog, I hope you’ll develop an appreciation for my tendency toward sarcasm and attempting humor when discussing difficult things, but I also want to note here how selfish anxiety can seem. We anxious brains are completely wrapped up in our own distorted universe and expect other people to work around our ridiculous boundaries or they can pound sand.
First, I want to say that yes, it does seem very selfish and in many ways, it is. Second, I want to say that you have not chosen to think and feel this way and you are simply trying to create a world in which you feel like you can survive. Go easy on yourself. The will to survive is innate and we are all driven by it. You’re probably a very sensitive soul and care deeply for other people. One day, you’ll get better and you’ll be able to show it.