Content notice: Guilt syndrome, fear of conflict, extreme nervousness, hyperventilation.
… I was bordering on the edge of anxiety in the weeks before the conference, to the point where I even considered cancelling our trip.
Having anxiety can be very crippling, depending on how bad of a case you have it. This is because anxiety is long-term. Anxiety follows you wherever you go. You can go awhile without really actually feeling comfortable. This is the main difference between anxiety and nervousness. Nervousness is usually triggered by something and goes away somewhat quickly.
Nervousness is a natural response to an event that stresses you out, like public speaking. It’s temporary and resolves once the situation has passed. It’s much easier to control than being anxious. Even if you’re someone who easily gets nervous.
~ Anxious vs Nervous: What’s the difference?
I can’t imagine what it is to be suffering from anxiety, but I have heard from friends who do, and read about how crippling it can be. Therefore, because in no way I want to diminish the effect anxiety can have on people and their daily lives, I prefer to call what I have nervousness, and not anxiety.
Like 99% of the world population, I too get nervous when I know I have to talk in public. That is what was going to happen this weekend, as I was going to have a session on The Value of Feedback. Yes, my nerves were definitely playing up because of that, but I am passionate about the subject of feedback, and I had prepared well. Also, back when I did my bachelor, my specialization was in teaching, and where I told them I had no desire to stand in front of a class, they did ask me to reconsider because apparently I was good. I took that as a compliment and discarded it after, as even with the compliment, I still had no desire to stand in front of a class. What would possibly have happened with my session is the same that had always happened with exams: the moment it starts, my nerves calm down.
My extreme nerves for the conference started after some heated conversations on social media. In some of them I was involved, in others I was not, but it all caused me to withdraw. It made me feel insecure; unsafe. Guilty.
I tend to pull guilt towards me, and I remember a psychologist telling me that this comes because of my father, and the way he punished us (I am not going to go into those details here). My ‘guilt syndrome’ is so bad, that back when I was in school and our sports team lost at athletics (the entire school was divided into three teams, and everyone had to participate, whether in sport, or as supporters), I felt guilty for weeks. I believed it was my fault, because I was part of the team. It just so happened that the first year I was part of the team, was the first year that they lost in many years, which strengthened my guilty feelings. When two friends had a fight, I felt like it was my fault. When my mom or dad was unhappy about something that happened, my guilt played up even if I wasn’t part of it. It got so bad, that it happened once that the mom of a friend was angry with us (me and the friend) and my friend lied to her mom. Because I was afraid of her mom being angry, I took the guilt on me, and I still remember to this day that I did. I was fourteen.
As an adult I have learned to reason about the guilt I should feel, but if I feel but a bit of guilt, I can’t seem to quiet the voices inside down. It’s a constant fight between the rational thoughts and the voices deep down, and in the dark of the night, those damn voices always win. What happened had me upset for weeks. Crying. Not sleeping well, and when I slept, every time I woke up the thoughts went round and round and round in my head, preventing me from falling asleep again. I fought to catch my breath, noticed I was hyperventilating, felt my heart beat in my throat and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my heartbeat to slow down. I had the same lump in my throat as I had for months before I had my burnout (and as I write this, that very lump is present again, and my heart is beating a bit too fast, my breathing too shallow).
As said above, I had even considered to cancel our trip, but that’s just not me. Once I have committed to something, I do it. Also, staying away would only make it worse. Worse in the way that it would get even more difficult to make the trip next year. I needed to push through, to face whatever it is that my mind told me I had to face. Panic invaded my head and replaced my brain when I thought of the conflict I could be confronted with; the way I can’t ‘think on my feet’ in a heated conversation. I tend to shut down, and just capitulate.
But, I had to do this; had to come to the conference. I had promised Master T to do it. He has been my rock in the past weeks, talking to me and telling me over and over again that I am not a bad person, and that I should put behind me that I felt let down by some.
And then the conference was cancelled…
There was some relief, but then again there wasn’t. We traveled to London despite the conference not going through, and are still hooking up with people who also traveled here. In a way I am relieved I don’t have to speak, because deep down I was afraid my fear of seeing people looking at me with hateful expressions and me not being able to remember what I wanted to talk about. Please remember, this is all me. This is my brain lying to me; creating an image in my mind, which I know isn’t true, but still I fear it, especially in the dark of night. On the other hand I am disappointed that I am not speaking, as I wanted to face that fear, wanted to show those stupid voices that what it told me wasn’t true. That I am safe. Some of these feelings will still surface this weekend, as we venture out to meet people, but as long as I remember who I am, remember that I am not a bad person (Master T is still telling me this), and remember to always stay true to myself, I am sure my breathing will gradually grow normal, and my heartbeat will finally slow down.
They say we suffer the most from the things we fear, and I am sure when I am on that plane back home, I will realize just how true that is.