One of my worst features, I’m told, is that I’m a pessimist. Personally, I like to think of myself more as a “realist” (and therefore be the glass full of piss…) but I can see why people could think of me as a pessimist instead. I definitely tend to err on the “it’s going to be terrible” side of things…
Dreading the future
Even as I’m typing this now, I’m thinking about the week I have in front of me and I’m absolutely dreading it. Tomorrow, I’m obviously going back to work, but I’m also going to be watching Wrestlemania until about 12.30 in the morning (yes, I am indeed a 27-year old wrestling fan – think what you will, but I love it!). On Wednesday, I’ve got some post-work drinks and curry with people from work. Friday, there’s a possibility I’m going out (as in out-out) with a couple of friends for a birthday which no doubt will be until the early hours of Saturday morning. I’m then seeing my girlfriend’s show on Saturday evening.
Sounds terrible right? I’m sure you’re thinking “you should be looking forward to seeing your friends and your girlfriend’s show!” – and I absolutely agree and I do look forward to it. I love the time that I spend with friends and loved ones. But at the same time, I dread it because I feel it’s going to be exhausting.
And this is something I’m not sure a lot of people who don’t have anxiety understand about it – anxiety truly is exhausting.
Like many of those same people, I used to think of anxiety as just a kind of nervousness about certain situations which was ultimately something that would eventually subside and that the person would soon “get over”. However, now that I’m on the other side of the fence as it were, I am fully appreciative of just how tiring it can be.
Forever fighting exhaustion
Mentally, anxiety is relentless. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there can be days where I can control my anxiety and come across as a normal, sociable guy. But then there are other days where the last thing I want to do is to socialise or talk to anyone. The common factor though is that anxiety is ALWAYS there.
When I wake up, I’m already thinking about the day ahead. I’m thinking about the first thing I’m going to say to my colleague at work or the first text I’m going to send. The majority of the time, I’m still thinking about what happened the day before and sometimes I’m even thinking about certain situations that have happened well in the past.
As the day goes on, and situations crop up that exacerbate my anxiety (say, talking to my boss), not only have I been rehearsing my lines – again, something I mentioned in a previous post – but my head is full of these nagging thoughts and doubts that something terrible might happen, like I’ll stumble over my words or mispronounce something, opening myself up for ridicule. It’s like having someone constantly telling you that you’re going to mess up and that you’re going to make yourself look like an idiot – and trying to handle that whilst achieving the opposite is genuinely exhausting.
That’s just the mental side. Anxiety causes physical exhaustion too. Something I am very prone to is finding it very hard to go to sleep at night because of my anxiety. In the past, I used to just write it off as a bad night’s sleep, but actually, now that I’ve been able to think about it and pinpoint the reasoning behind my difficulty to nod off, I’ve come to realise that it’s my anxiety being it’s usual douchebag self.
The same thoughts that are going through my head when I wake up are still going through my head when I’m going to sleep, joined by memories I have of the day I’ve just experienced. Once again, I’ll find myself focussing on conversations I’ve had throughout the day or throughout my life, trying to re-imagine the ones that I feel like I’ve “messed up”. Something else I’ve noticed is that I almost grade my performance in certain situations. For example, I’ll re-run a conversation I had at work and think about what I did right and what I did wrong in the situation (most things are inevitably placed in the “wrong” category).
And this is all what I fear to be responsible for my pessimistic everyday attitude. I constantly tell myself that these situations are going to be tiring, that they’re going to be filled with times where I’m going to have to challenge my thought process. That leads me to wanting to back out of things and finding excuses for why I can’t do them. I start telling myself that I’m going to hate whatever event it is that’s coming up. I start formulating excuses to myself of why I shouldn’t go – something like “well I don’t like that guy so I’m not going to enjoy it. Might as well not go”. I say this with genuine shame, but there have been numerous times in the past where I’ve cancelled plans with my friends because of this very thought process.
I hate it because I like to see the positives in things and I don’t like to think of myself as having such a downer attitude. But I feel like I can’t help it. It feels like it’s so much easier to believe something is going to be terrible, therefore giving a reason to avoid it, then be surprised when I enjoy myself, than being positive and eventually feeling let down.
A work in progress
I’m working on it. With the help of my CBT and my therapist, I’m gradually managing situations better and better (at least, I think I am). I’m definitely challenging myself more than I used to and I think that, along with being able to pinpoint my negative thought processes, is the first step to enlightenment (I couldn’t think of a better way to say it so I’m sticking with enlightenment).
I know I can do it, it’s just going to take a long time.
…See, I can be optimistic…