Personal | Meeting New People & Talking About Anxiety

And then he asked "What do you do?".

Recently I had the opportunity to finally my best friend's new boyfriend. They've been together around a year, we've never met, let's just say it was about time! Harry and I were invited over to her new house for a Come Dine With Me style meal which, I will tell you now, was delicious. She made bruschetta, steak, and chocolate soufflé and I am drooling now just thinking about it. In the run up though, I was nervous. The same nerves I get every time I have to meet someone new, or someone I haven't seen in a long time. I'm only really comfortable with people I see on daily/weekly/monthly basis, and even then not in large groups. You see the problem stems from when the conversation swings round to me. Anyone who sees me often will know about my current situation but my extended family and friends won't and in their attempt to make light conversation will end up making me incredibly uncomfortable. In some cases it's led to me avoiding them altogether.

Anyway, Harry and I arrived at the house and were greeted with a hug (me) and a handshake (Harry) by the boyfriend, and you know what? It wasn't awkward. We chatted while my friend prepared the starter and then we moved outside to sit in the garden as it was such a gorgeous evening. It was all going really well, he seemed really nice, genuinely friendly and he kept offering us drinks - score! He popped open a bottle of pink champagne and we toasted my bestie's new job before she went off to get a start on the main and Harry followed to lend his assistance. It was then, as I was sipping my wine, that he asked me "what do you do?". 

I knew the question was inevitable and I had two choices. 

  1. Make something up, tell a white lie, extend the truth and eventually change the subject. (Tactics I am well experienced in).

  2. Tell the truth. 

And so I told him. I told him actually I struggle with anxiety. I told him I'm not working right now. I told him all about leaving university, being self-employed, and about the pressure. I told him I planned to change careers, gain experience and it hadn't worked out. I told him about the panic attacks. Yes it was embarrassing and almost excruciating but he nodded, he smiled, he asked me questions and he seemed to understand. It was the best response I could've hoped for, the one that never crosses my mind as possible when I imagine moments like this in my head, and it felt oddly freeing. It may have been the wine that disappeared considerably while we were chatting but the tension I felt inside began to lift. 

You see the fear of telling someone about my anxiety is huge. The judgement. The misconceptions. The lack of comprehension or understanding. The fear of being told you have "nothing to worry about" or that it is "irrational" (yup, fully aware of that but it doesn't help). The very worse is the fear that they won't believe you, that you're making it up, or attention seeking. Yet I have, in the past, hid my anxiety; hid behind the white lies or the stretched truth and it is probably the worst thing you can do. The pressure to hold up your lie is huge because every time you see that person they will ask "what have you been up to" or "what happened about so and so" and you feel the need to stick to your story until telling the truth becomes impossible. 

Imagine then, how it feels to tell someone, virtually a stranger, about your anxiety outright and not be made to feel ashamed. To leave and and know that you could meet up with this person again and have a genuine conversation without the fear that your lie could be discovered, or that they'll find out about your anxiety, because they already know. I had the best time at that dinner, chatting with friends eating good food and relaxing with a glass, or two, of wine. Harry and I got on with the new boyfriend really well, he was lovely. 

My anxiety has held me back from numerous activities for a long time but on this occasion I didn't let it beat me. My next mission? To tell my hairdresser, I have been stretching the truth for far too long with her, but as least I can always talk about my holidays!



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