Stopped by a Wall
I know what events, locations, and situations trigger my anxiety. I know how to prepare for those times so my anxiety doesn’t take over. I know how and when to get out of a situation.
I know what to expect most places I go, so I’m usually in control of my anxiety. Because I’m in control, I can push it to the background as an inconvenience in my life (you can read more about that here). I’m not upset I have it or jealous of people who don't. It’s part of me and that’s okay.
But when something happens that I don't expect, I can’t always stop my anxiety from taking over. And sometimes that unexpected thing is small.
For example, a few weeks ago I was having a good day. I was fine. I wasn’t anxious.
I was going to have dinner on campus with my boyfriend before my last class of the day. I don't like the cafeteria, because it’s noisy and crowded. But there’s usually empty tables in the back and it’s quiet there. So I’m okay.
But when there’s events that need part of the cafeteria, a wall gets put up that blocks off the back part of the room. All the tables are pushed closer together. My quiet corner is gone.
I think you can see where this is going.
The wall was up. I had no idea it would be. I found an empty table as far back as possible and decided it would be fine. It’s not like I had another option. But I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t do anything. The noise and stimulation of the cafeteria was too much. (for more on what that felt like, read this post about sensory overload).
My boyfriend could tell I wasn’t okay and ate quickly. As soon as he was done, we left. I got out as fast as I could and as soon as I left the cafeteria, I started crying. Literally, I sat on the floor and cried.
He asked me if I would be able to go to class. I said I had to. It started in less than twenty minutes. He convinced me that I didn’t have to go if I couldn’t. He helped me calm down. Then he took me home.
I skipped class because a wall was up in the cafeteria.
I know I can't help that I have anxiety. I know I can't help that I got overwhelmed. I know that my reason for skipping class was entirely valid. But I was still frustrated.
I mean, a wall. It’s not like something big happened. It’s not like anything in my day went wrong. But there was a wall I didn’t expect and I lost it. One wall and I went from fine to overwhelmed and crying in less than fifteen minutes.
Those are the times I’m upset I have anxiety. Those are the times I’m jealous of those who don't. Those
are the times that it’s part of me, but that’s not okay.
When my anxiety takes over, I’m reminded that my brain isn’t quite normal all over again. I’m reminded that my anxiety impacts my life in ways I can't predict or stop. I’m reminded that other people don't have to worry about the wall in the cafeteria.
Plus, I know it’s just a wall. I know it’s not worth panicking over. In that moment, I was consciously thinking that I didn’t need to be anxious. But in that moment, I wasn’t in control of my response or thoughts.
I wasn’t in control of my brain. My anxiety was.
That’s the part people tend to not understand. I couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t pull myself together. I couldn’t be brave and get over it. In that moment, being brave was waiting until I was out of the cafeteria to cry. Pulling myself together was admitting that I needed to skip class. Calming down was leaving the situation, not facing it.
Because even though I’m usually in control of my anxiety, it can still take over when I’m not prepared. It’s real and it can make something like a wall in a cafeteria grind my day to a halt.