This week has been an event to say the least.
Truth be told I’m not quite sure where to start, and while I always talk about stress and anxiety in tangible terms – relating to our visa – I was forced to face my mental health head on this week and really ask: “What the hell am I doing?”
I’m writing this in the comfort of Lewis’ house.
Poaching their wifi and their washing machine, I’ve made base camp here this evening for a bit of peace and quiet from my neighbour’s incessant thirst for ‘Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About…’ videos on YouTube.
And my wifi ran out.
And it’s super expensive to buy more this week.
And it’s just nice to have a change of scene.
That being said, I can hear panpipes floating over the sound of the cicadas.
Entirely disorientating, I could close my eyes and imagine I’m still in Asia on a humid night like tonight.
I think I older I get the more I value stumbling upon friends. Real friends, the ones you know are still going to stick around when the miles between you increase again and real life, in one form or another takes over again.
I’m also here to debrief on the week, not just our weekly ritual, there’s nothing better than a good old fashioned gossip with the ‘wife’ – when he stops stealth snapping every move I make.
Tonight he treated us to Thai.
After the exhaustion from my ‘awkward’, a solid morning assessing children and nurturing the younger teachers and a few pretty intense chapters of the book I’m stuck in to at the moment (A Meal in Winter, check it out) it was nice to have a cheat meal, a good old giggle and feel spoiled.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating when I say I had a mental breakdown.
I didn’t reach for a razor and do something dramatic to my appearance, there were no narcotics involved and no, I didn’t impulse buy a Porsche, but by my usually reserved public standards I think my performance could definitely contend.
First things first, let’s get this out there:
I have social anxiety.
That wasn’t so bad.
I’m already regretting typing it, that fear that I might be judged, because really, that’s not me. Social anxiety just doesn’t seem to fit my personality. I love meeting new people, I love travelling, never really had any problems getting to know people or making friends, I’m always pushing my comfort zone, right?
But the days I’m not are the days I don’t leave the house, I curl up with a book, because it’s more acceptable to lose your day to a good book, but really it’s because the thought of bumping in to someone, or worse, someone I know is making my breath catch in my chest.
I talk about my ‘stress’ or my ‘anxiety’ in terms people can understand, but the reality is, the visa might not be helping, it might well be a trigger, but this? The not being able to call people, the hating clubbing, the claustrophobia in crowds and that weird spaced out look I get when I’m in a really busy shopping centre, or how much I hate London? That’s all chemicals in my brain doing the wrong thing, that’s all me. That’s always there and if you really think about it, always has been.
It’s not always a problem, of course, but right now: I’m dealing.
I know that I’ve not been happy at the pool for a few weeks and it’s really been taking it’s toll on my sanity. I’ve not felt like I’ve been in control of my emotions, I feel demoralised and miserable at the thought of another full day at the pool, and mostly I feel like I’m not teaching the way I know I can teach.
I feel like a budget teacher and I’m delivering budget lessons.
No thank you sir.
So I had an interview for a sales role – something I know I can do, and hey, sales usually means money, something I’d love a lot more of at the moment (it’s really hard being an independent woman when you have to rely on your man to pay your rent and buy your food every other week).
For the most part, it was great. I felt good setting out for the day.
I’d spoken to my babygirl in the morning and despite my concern that it was going to be street fundraising, she pumped me up:
“You’ll be great at it, and if nothing else your big boobies will help you make sales.”
After all, street fundraising was just like doing outreach, at least it wasn’t going to be something horrific like door to door.
It was door to door.
I sat on a low level stirring of anxiety all day and mindlessly talked about teaching and swimming and Zac and Melbourne and all the stupid articles I’ve read and Trump and anything to distract myself from the fact we were going door to door.
Every five minutes I had the same internal dialogue:
I can’t do this, it’s intruding, but people are being nice, it seems normal, they’re clearly making money, but it’s their house and what if they have a dog and they set the dog on me, and then what if I don’t make my sales for the week because of the dog and I’m back to square one, but I am seeing parts of Auckland I wouldn’t see otherwise. I can do this. This will be fun. But there’s no set wage, and what about the dogs? I can’t do this.
Over and over and over and over.
I was exhausted and by the time I was in the office, with Jason (an Irish guy I promised I’d suitably stereotype on here), I didn’t have the usual poise and grace to sit on my emotions and before I knew it, he’d asked me what was really wrong and I was in tears.
It was the first time I’d ever actually told anyone about my anxiety, first time I didn’t try and hide it, first time there wasn’t a huge crushing weight at the thought of admitting I was sort of broken.
This strange Leprechaun of a man turned the interview to a make do counselling session and promised he’d tease me mercilessly if I did join the team.
I agonised over and over and over.
And he was right – I did sleep well.
Best night’s sleep I’d had since I got here, but it wasn’t enough. The thought of intruding on people, of relying on my sales and then not liking the job and not being able to quit because I had nothing to go back to was making my palms sweat. I’d already scratched my calluses off in the ‘interview’, there was nothing left to fiddle with and I still enjoy lifting heavy things, I need my calluses.
For me, it was a big enough step that I said to two different strangers that day: I have social anxiety and right now I don’t think I’m bigger than it, was enough.
I could do it, of course I could, but at the moment I don’t think I should.
Now I’ve just got to work out how to tell them.
I’ll worry about that tomorrow.