Today has felt like an incredibly long day – though a thoroughly pleasant one. I’ve managed to attend three social events!
Today, at Brighton Open Market, there was a celebratory day marking the turning on of the festive lights. Throughout the day there were wintery family entertainments including performances of carols and music, a visit by a long-legged fairy (on stilts), characters from the Disney Frozen film, and the finale of the light switch on by the cast of the Aladdin pantomime to be shown at a small local theatre. I’ve been really enjoying the idea of this day for a couple of weeks, and had intended to go for the day.
At lunchtime, Oblong had a do with friends and ex-colleagues to go to. I’d considered joining her, but wanted to conserve my energies for the day. She left slightly later than expected, and I needed an hour or two to myself to collect myself, check in online, and get myself ready etc., so I was running behind myself too. I inevitably became distracted and took longer than anticipated, which is quite typical when I am supposed to be going somewhere on my own, it’s quite often a way to put off the required activity due to anxiety about going out, so by the time I was about to leave, Oblong was on her way back from seeing friends. This worked out well, and we went to the Open Market together.
Although many of the festivities had been and gone, we enjoyed an hour peeping and poking at stalls, imagining every bit of old furniture, each cat-shaped cushion, and a full collection of books in our new home. Fortunately we had evening plans, and no intentions of going home in between, so we didn’t buy anything bulky. In fact Oblong intimated that we’d promised not to buy anything, but I don’t remember promising that… So, when we trotted to the charity shops afterwards, I happily bought a couple of bits for stocking fillers which fitted in my handbag.
We decided to start walking to the Seven Dials area, but along the way I suddenly felt overwhelmed, overheated, and lightheaded so we stopped for a moment in the train station so I could collect myself and eat a sandwich and we stopped for coffee on the way to dinner. I realised I hadn’t eaten a thing all day, which wouldn’t have helped the light-headedness. I forget to eat more often than is normal.
At the pub, The Good Companions, I had a thoroughly lovely time (and a thoroughly delicious dinner) celebrating the birthday of one of Oblong’s friends . His friends didn’t seem to mind (or notice?) when I wasn’t very chatty – and I don’t think this mattered since it was the first time I’ve met any of them. Oblong did some more talking, and I had a nice chat with the Birthday Friend, who has his own understanding and experience of mental health issues.
I realised that very often, the thing I am anxious about, is anxiety itself. Not on its own usually, but the thought of getting in a panic when I am in public is one of the things I fear. I don’t want to hyperventilate, I don’t want to feel like I can’t breathe. I don’t want to feel light-headed and afraid I’ll faint – even though I never have. I don’t want to stand sobbing in public, or even feel tearful, or to feel my heart beating so heavily and quickly in my chest, that surely that’s the only thing other people around me can hear. I don’t want to feel wobbly on my own, because without someone to stay by me or for me to hold on to, I feel clumsy (I am clumsier), and I am afraid I will break things if I go into a shop or a smallish room.
I don’t want to overheat and be constantly battling between being too hot and too cold in the crisp November air. I don’t want to be sweating all over, from walking a hundred yards. I don’t want to not be able to have a conversation with you in a shop or cafe – or wherever we are – because I am panicking and the blood is rushing to my head, and all I can hear in my ears is the blood rushing and my heart beating beating beating, racing so much that now, no, sorry, I can’t hear you. I can’t hear anything.
I get afraid of going out, doing things, starting things, and speaking to people because of all the above. I also reminded myself, by way of this conversation, that actually, I am not especially introverted, but the anxiety makes me behave more as if I am. I also discovered that I’m still quite good at faking it in certain circumstances as Birthday Friend thought I seemed fine and well in the context of the evening. I think it might be because we were ensconced in a (relatively) quiet corner of a (n almost) candlelit pub, but either way, I’m glad I seemed alright. I was for the most part.
Also, I really enjoyed their warm mulled cider.
Image credits: Mulled cider: Gemima Fitzgerald and David McEwan; Mulled wine and cider advertisement by the Good Companions