I was recently tagged in a humorous image about having anxiety and the dumb things it causes you to do. While I responded with a hearty internet laugh (you know the kind, the one where you’re typing ‘LOL SOOOOO ACCURATE’ yet in reality making a barely audible tuh noise) I reflected on the last few years of my life with an anxiety disorder, and all the stupid shit I’ve done as a result of said disorder. Geez, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve made a seriously awkward-penguin of myself I’d have a lot of dollars. Well, eight dollars…if you’re counting by the list I’ve compiled in this post.
- The time I pretended to leave my house just to get someone else to leave my house.
Yeah, you read that right. I was once feeling so incredibly anxious while having a friend over to visit that instead of saying I needed some time alone, or saying that I felt unwell and would they mind if I went to bed, or asking them to go, or you know…just simply letting them know that I was feeling rubbish and could they please maybe possibly leave so that I could get myself together, I decided to tell them that I had somewhere to be, so they’d have to go because I was about to walk out the door. Not only was this a completely ridiculous move because I couldn’t think fast enough to come up with an actual place to be, so I just said ‘OH I just remembered I have to go somewhere! Now. Right now, in fact! Okay Bye!’ But there was also that key factor of me being an agoraphobic. So I had to get in the car, turn the car on, reverse out of my driveway and drive around the block while breaking out into a sweat because of the fact I was LEAVING MY HOUSE all just to avoid having a massive panic attack which I ended up having anyway. Cool beans.
- The time I walked 1.4KM just to go to a different toilet block to avoid seeing a stranger.
I had physically bumped into a woman while shopping at the grocery store. I apologised, and then had to do the awkward walk past once again over in aisle 4. Then when I was walking to the toilets, I realised she was also going there. I didn’t want her to think I was following her, so I left the grocery store and walked over a kilometre away to another public toilet block. And I really, really needed to pee.
- The time I signed up to buy a family in a third world country a goat.
Now don’t get me wrong here – charity is awesome. I am all for donating to worthwhile causes and supporting those less fortunate. Two years ago however, I was not in any kind of position to be supporting anyone when I could barely even support myself. So when the smooth-talking charity guy cornered me between the $2 shop and the health food store and showed me all these sad photos of kids with little signs saying ‘one goat would feed me for a year’ (really?) and I was so nervous that all I could think about was the fact that because he’d seen me purchase something from the $2 store he would know that I had money (It was a dog toy! A squeaky rubber chicken! Why do I always have to buy the god damn rubber chickens..) so obviously I agreed that I could absolutely buy poor Jukai and his family a goat. Two goats, even. Alright, a goat for every calendar month. Where do I sign? It took 45 minutes to go through all the forms and listen to charity-guy’s spiel and when I’d finally finished setting up the direct debit from my account I realised I couldn’t even go to Coles and finish my shopping because I now had no money and I was too anxious anyway. I went home and cancelled the direct debit, so Jukai and his family never got their goat, I never got my groceries and Charity-guy probably didn’t get his bonus. My dog did get his squeaky rubber chicken, though.
- The time I walked the entire perimeter of a shopping centre on the outside just to avoid the charity promoters.
Yeah, that was the week following rubber-chicken-charity-goat-gate. Lesson learned.
- The time I was 45 minutes late for work because I couldn’t find a car park.
Sounds like a legitimate reason, but there was actually multiple car parks available. But I’d already tried to park in one, failed, a bunch of teenagers witnessed this, and so I couldn’t go back again and park there. So I drove around for 15 minutes until I found another park, and then had to spend 30 minutes in the toilets just outside of work trying to mentally recover from the awkwardness of screwing up parking a car in front of a bunch of kids who couldn’t even drive.
- The time I bought $100 worth of clothes that I couldn’t afford and hated anyway.
I hate retail workers. And I can say that, because I was one of them. I know their sneaky tricks, I know when they say ‘ohmygosh that looks SO GOOD on you!’ it’s about the seventeenth time they’ve said it that day, I know that when they tell me something has just come in and is really popular what they actually mean is ‘it’s really overpriced and that’s why’. So I don’t know why their jedi mind tricks always work on me when I myself was trained in the art of retail-bullshit. Oh wait, yeah I do – it’s because I have anxiety and I’ll agree to just about anything to escape a situation I’m uncomfortable with. So when the sales attendant at the clothing store told me that I HAD to buy that white crop top because it went so well with that navy skirt which just came in and is really popular, naturally I had to buy them both even though I hated them and only tried them on in the first place because I was trying to escape the conversation she was starting with me as I was browsing. It took me four days to work up the confidence to go back there and return the items.
- The time I told someone I was moving to Brisbane because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
I don’t even know how to explain this one. I saw someone I hadn’t seen in ages, they asked me where I’d been and instead of saying the truth which was ‘I’ve been agoraphobic and housebound for over a year’, or dodging the truth and saying ‘oh just around!’, I panicked said ‘I’ve been living in Brisbane, I’m just back on holiday!’ Yeah, that happened.
- The time I hugged my boyfriends cleaner.
This is a favourite story among my friends, one I’d legitimately blocked out of my memory for a long time until someone brought it up recently and I felt the embarrassment wash over me once again. I was at my boyfriends house, making some food in his kitchen while he was at work. His cleaner, whom I had met once before, was there and I was talking to her while drinking a can of soft-drink. When I’d finished the can, she held out her hand to take it from me, presumably to throw it out. I horrifically misjudged her body language, assumed she must have been going in for a hug (this is the cleaner I’ve met ONCE), so I leaned in and wrapped my arms around her. She went rigid, pulled back, and said “I was going for the can”. The worst part was I tried to continue the hug.
See – I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the awkward-penguin bit. I think when it comes to ridiculously uncomfortable reactions to totally normal situations, I take the cake. And then I probably return it a couple of days later when the coast is clear. We all do dumb things, and those of us with anxiety disorders do far more than our fair share of dumb things. But the next time you’re feeling bad about something dumb you did because of your anxiety, just remember that somewhere out there is a guy who thinks I live in Brisbane.