Anticipation….this word can bring about all kinds of feelings in a person – excitement, anxiety, fear… For me it usually brings about anxiety. You see fear and anxiety have played, and still do, a large role in my life. Even if the event is going to be something good I feel a certain amount of anxiety and worry about how I’ll cope, especially if other people are involved. I find being with a lot of people really quite difficult and most often feel completely drained of energy and bombarded by theirs, even if it’s people I know well. Strange thing is I never used to be like this. In my twenties and thirties I was seen as an extrovert and went out partying quite a lot. Being with others never really bothered me but then I had a severe nervous break down and everything changed. Now I am more of a hermit and struggle to get out and about. It’s not fear of the outside that bothers me – no, I actually like being outside, especially in nature. It’s being with other people that bothers me. Not that I don’t like people because I do, I just get overwhelmed so the easiest thing to do is stay away from them as much as I can.
However, this really limits me and makes me feel very lonely. I often refuse invites because of the anxiety I feel from being with others. It’s pretty sad really. It’s not how I really want it to be. Through therapy I’ve learnt that I need to push through the fear…like Susan Jeffers says…Feel the Fear and do it anyway. Well, it’s rather easier said than done in my case.
A year or so ago my therapeutic group arranged a boat trip up the Medway River. It was a lovely summer’s day – warm and sunny. From the moment we arranged it I said I wasn’t going although secretly I wanted to. But I know it would mean being around people, quite probably lots of people. I felt a lot of anxiety, especially as some from my therapy group kept on at me to go. I felt a bit pushed into it actually but at the same time wanted to have a day out on a boat going up the river and see all the lovely nature. So in the end I did go and I was rewarded with a lovely day out. We stopped at the locks and had a lovely lunch, a few of us walked down the tow path and relished the sun on our backs, good company and laughter. It was a lovely day and I was glad I went.
However, it’s not always like that. There have been times when I’ve managed to push through the fear to go out and the end result has been horrid. Such is life, you can’t have positive experiences all the time. However, I’ve usually found that the feelings brought on by my anticipation of an event are usually unfounded. I feel fear and anxiety and think the worst but more often than not my fears are unfounded and I’ve had an ok time. Maybe not always a wonderful time but I’ve certainly not fallen to pieces. Does this knowledge help me though? Does it lessen the anxiety? Well, if I’m really honest, no it doesn’t. I still have trouble going out, even to do something really mundane like shopping. Most often I procrastinate for hours until I finally pluck up the courage to get outside my front door. Like I’ve mentioned above, it’s not agrophobia but just the fear and anxiety of having to be around large amounts of people.
So why don’t I shield I hear you ask. Well, I do sometimes but it doesn’t always work. It has taken me a long time to find a shield that actually works for me but I often find I have to maintain it, which takes energy. And the bottom line is I really don’t want to be around a lot of people because maybe I am just anti-social…LOL. I know I can be at times, and I genuinely like my own company. But the flip side is that I know I can and do enjoy others company at times. I have this ambivalence towards people and think that ‘ambivalence’ is really my middle name. I’m learning to live with it for now.