First, let me tell you that I shared more pictures of stunning Cortes Island, BC, and beautiful Hollyhock Resort where I spent four days at a writing retreat, at the bottom of this post. So, if you’re not in the mood for reading about the oh-so-fun topic of anxiety, with a side dish of introversion and MS sensory overload, scroll on down.
Retreats are meant to be times of reflection and self-learning, right? Yeah. Nailed it. I realized that I have been in denial about having anxiety my whole life. This is not something I can blame on the monster of MS. Maybe it’s more acute now since the brain-frying relapse, but it’s how I have always been.
I have always felt inherently unlikable. Fuck. There I said it. Not to be confused with the more pathetic, whiny ‘nobody likes me’. I have a very small but very powerful group of people who like me just fine.
It’s in the unfamiliar, unscripted moments where I do every thing I know how to be friendly, open, interested and engaged (it uses a spoon just thinking about it) and most often the vibe I get is… meh. Or, I’ll talk to you until someone more interesting comes along. Or, I’ll talk to you now like we’re connecting but later I won’t even remember that I talked to you.
The questions then become: Do other people feel this way? Is this just my anxiety? Paranoia? Or am I, in fact, unlikable?
Don’t answer that.
I got called a snob as a teenager because I was so ‘shy’. Truth was, I was this weird thing called an introvert but that wasn’t a recognized thing at the time, it was called being a snob, or anti-social. That’s partly why I started self-medicating early on with drugs and alcohol. Well, and it was the 80s – age of excess.
I have learned as an adult to manage that instinctive desire to hide and forced myself to put myself out there. Knowing everyone is just as self-absorbed as I am helps – I’ll call this Exhibit A, for reasons you’ll see later. But I still find it exhausting, as all hard-core introverts do.
Then, there’s the dwindling number of spoons from being out of my routine, and the sensory issues that make my body react to the chatter of mealtime in the cafeteria like that guy in the old Operation game, except for instead of my nose – that would be unfortunate – my whole body lights up inside. It all adds up to being a tad overwhelming.
So, my body goes into self-protection mode which means withdrawing and being seen as, guess what – anti-social. I don’t want to be the person that uses my disease as an excuse but at the same time it puts limits on me over which I have no control. How to explain that to a group of strangers? Answer: Exhibit A, no one cares because everyone has their own issues.
I have a history of feeling like everyone else understands something about the world and I never got the memo. I don’t mean the existential shit, I think I have as good of a grasp on that as anyone at my age. I mean the social, human stuff. It goes back to always feeling the outsider, feeling less than, needing to excuse myself for taking up space in the world.
I thought I had a better handle on it by now.
I found myself in that classroom, with all these amazing women discussing all sorts of interesting topics and the thought of speaking up had my body vibrating and tingling in all the wrong ways. Damn nervous system.
When I did manage to pluck up the courage to say something, most often I felt like a complete idiot. Red-faced, tear off my sweater before I spontaneously combust embarrassment. Even though – Exhibit A! Note to self: nobody gives a flying fart.
What the whole experience made me realize is that I have had undiagnosed anxiety my whole life that I have, and continue to manage with drugs* and alcohol. In a much healthier way now than in my teens obviously. Promise. Usually anyway. Major lifestyle changes and the coping strategies you can only learn through experience, not to mention an amazing family, all help too.
But it’s always there. Even in the most beautiful places.
That tingly, vibrating thing I mentioned above? That has completely invaded my body in a most annoying way as I’ve written this post, along with the tears coursing down my face. Anxiety fucking sucks. MS sucks. But, do I regret putting myself out there and trying something new? Never.
Do I regret putting this post out there, at the risk that someone answers ‘that’ question? That remains to be seen. 😉 If even one person can relate to just one part of what I’ve spilled here, it’s worth it.
Whenever I feel like things get too overwhelming, and I need to force myself into the present, I think ‘just put one foot in front of the other‘. Did you hear the song from the Santa Claus Is Coming To Town movie when you read that, or is it just me – the Christmas and musical geek? 🤓😊 Putting on my headphones and listening to music always helps too. Spotify is my new favourite app.
I would, of course, welcome any comments, answers, illuminations, wisdom, advice, input. More pictures below.
Have a wonderful week!
Here are some articles you might find useful if, like me, you sometimes feel you were dropped here from another planet. My results from the anxiety assessment were surprising, and yet not.
*Cannabis aka marijuana aka weed aka pot aka ganja, etc is known as a tribal medicine for multiple sclerosis. Meaning MS was one of the first diseases to be recognized as gaining relief from its use. All I can say is I’m grateful that I’ve lived to see the day that it is legal and the medical community is finally starting to recognize the powerful benefits of this natural remedy. But that’s another post.