I am ever cautious when it comes to a case of self-diagnosis.
One too many times after a serious night out at university armed with no dinner and quad vods (four shots of vodka for one British pound. Yup you read it right) lying in my bed unable to even look at the light from my phone and covered in Supernoodles, I convinced myself I had somehow contracted alcohol poisoning.
Then there was the time in second year when I decided I must have cervical cancer because I had irregular periods. Classic. And luckily for me my old friend Google completely backed me. Hint, if you ever want a friend to indulge your hypercondriac tendencies, Google is your bezzie.
And I am even more cautious to prescribe myself an anxiety disorder, which at best I am under informed about and at worst completely blind ignorant.
But the more and more I think about myself and my character and my tendencies and the way I conduct my life, regardless of whether it strictly falls into the category of ‘social anxiety’, I am aware of a crippling anxious influence in my day to day life.
Now this does in no way control me, it ebbs and flows on the outside, rearing it’s head to varying degrees depending on other factors. You know, have I just eaten a whole profiterole stack and my sugar levels are crashing into orbit, have I just watched a particularly gripping episode of Don’t Tell The Bride etc.
But it’s there, none the less.
I had never considered it before as a problem, rather than just ‘part of my personality’ – I even once mistook it for high emotional intelligence – ie. I am so empathetic and considerate of what other people are feeling and thinking in a way that many people are not….yeh I know awks.
But the more I continue to think about it (and of course over-analysing never did any millennial female any good I’m sure) I feel it’s something I need to address.
For example, I shouldn’t be convinced that as soon as I leave the office my colleagues are talking about me and hate me and think I am dreadful at my job. I do.
I shouldn’t be convinced that my friends think I’m irritating and annoying and will eventually disown me and leave me alone to watch Netflix re-runs and drown in Tesco Chinese meals for one for the rest of my life. I do frequently think this.
I shouldn’t end up doing all the washing up in my flat, because I’m worried my flatmates will think it wasn’t me and I’m convinced none of them like me but they all just hide it from me and continue to co-exist with my habits (for some weird and unperceivable reason rather than just ask me to move out?!)
For the record, I don’t just think I’m emotionally stunted and people are actually and plainly sending me all these ‘we don’t like you’ messages and I’m really bad at taking a hint.
I think I fabricate it all. I think I’m cripplingly worried that I will offend other people, people will misunderstand my humour for rudeness, my apparent confidence for narcissism or just truly and simple people will decide they don’t want me around anymore.
If things go wrong with friends, even as little as someone doesn’t text back – which strictly speaking isn’t anything wrong at all ahem – I will rack my brain for hours to think of anything I could have done to cause offence. It is not conducive to a sound mind and productive work, let me tell you that.
And thank god I don’t have to use Tinder because that would just be a minefield of despair, dinner dates and tube journeys frantically refreshing my WIFI at any station.
In an article I read recently, a psychologist summed up the reasons she believed many twenty somethings are suffering with similar feelings to my own; ‘Young women were brought up with the illusion that they can control their lives…so they feel a need to control the uncontrollable.’
In a nutshell. She is right.
I want to be able to control and know for certain the feelings and perceptions of those who I don’t. And won’t if I continue to behave like an erratic anxious bundle of nerves.
I am lucky that this has never manifested itself into something more, many women are debilitated by their anxieties. But nevertheless I don’t want to downplay, dismiss or patronise myself because the feelings are real. They are genuine.
My partner-in-crime bed-partner told me; ‘You just care too much what people think. Just stop caring.’
Oh if only it were that simple my friend. Oh if only.