Oh I can’t believe how much of a state I am in right now. As always, there are many reasons for me to be in a hell of mood tonight. While things in life have generally continued to go well, my mood has continued to fluctuate insanely, and after another day of high emotions I am so tired of feeling this way. It’s finally occurred to me that my mood keeps changing because I am utterly, utterly self obsessed. Having begun to analyze the deeper reasons behind my biggest worries in life, I’ve realised that nearly ALL of them focus on what other people think of me. A few of the things that I’m worried about are quite important, such as money and getting a job after graduation. But about 90% of my anxiety is based on other people’s evaluations of me.
Today I’ve managed to make the leap from thinking it was just other people’s thoughts and judgments which scared me, to the knowledge that I’m only scared about looking bad in people’s eyes. I’m not really worried about people’s feelings, I’m only worried about how I look to them because I want to look good. I’m desperately concerned with doing everything perfectly so that I can get what I want, which is universal approval.
I’ve come to this realisation as a number of recent occurrences have led me to feel unnecessarily awkward around certain people. I’m talking about silly, embarrassing incidents which always seem to befall me. Yesterday someone from my home group texted me to tell me he wouldn’t be able to make it, and I texted back saying that I hope he gets better soon, automatically assuming that he couldn’t come last night because he was ill. He has a condition, the details of which I can’t go into because it would be breaking anonymity, and in the past he’s missed the meeting due to illness. But yesterday he wasn’t ill, and he told me so, which led me to feel incredibly guilty, as he probably now thinks I’m making all kinds of assumptions about him.
When I next see him I’m sure I’ll feel so awkward around him that I won’t be able to speak to him for another three months, purely out of shame and guilt. These terrible thoughts made me not want to go to my home group yesterday. Not for the first time, I wanted to stay at home and watch TV, but because I’m the literature secretary I had to force myself to go, which led me to feel resentful of the entire meeting, yet again. When I got there I could hardly speak to people, even friends; I tried to share about how I was feeling but the words wouldn’t come out properly, which led me to feel even angrier. Afterwards I’d promised to go for coffee with one of the newcomers, and I’d been looking forward to having a chat with him, but a whole group ended up going and so I felt like I was tagging along behind while all the others rushed ahead, seemingly so much more confident and comfortable with the social situation than me. It wasn’t so bad in the café, as I realised that any resentment about not being able to have the private chat with this newcomer that I’d been looking forward to was purely about selfishness on my part.
Today has been equally stressful, for many more reasons. The weather was beautiful, so I decided to go for a long walk in the afternoon, as I always do in nice weather. London is so much better in the summer. My walk mostly took me around central London, my second home these days. From the start I kept bumping into people I knew, which was very unusual. One of the people was a girl from my degree course, who I hardly ever speak to. In my head it was an intensely awkward interaction. I seem to find it harder speaking to people I vaguely know than I do to complete strangers. In the early days of the course I was quite good friends with this girl, but we kind of drifted apart after a while, as I have with so many people over the years.
Anyway, it was very nice of her to stop and chat to me today, but I just didn’t know what to say. I was sure she must be thinking terrible things about me, like: ‘that J is such a horrible person, ignoring me for years!’ Even though her exterior suggested nothing but pleasantness, I couldn’t help imagining the resentment underneath, and I bet I won’t be able to speak to her again the next time I see her. I have absolutely no idea what she thinks about me – I just can’t believe she’d actually like me, after all this time. It’s mad, I know, considering she made the effort to approach me today!
After that I bumped into someone else further down the road, a person I know from one of the social networking websites that I use sporadically. It was a similarly awkward encounter, and again I could only stop to chat for thirty seconds before my fears about being judged negatively forced me to run away. I have absolutely no evidence to suggest that these people dislike me, but my head is determined to believe it, and I keep creating awkward situations with them because I can’t just be normal with them. If I haven’t seen someone for a while, my head just assumes that they’ve gone off me, so I stop making the effort with them, which then causes me embarrassment and shame when an awkward situation like the ones I’ve just described arise. It’s a vicious cycle, and although I know how to stop it, I don’t think I can, because I keep taking my eye off it, which just feeds it more and more.
I went to a step 11 meeting tonight, where they have ten minutes’ meditation at the beginning, which seemed to help. Afterwards I was meant to be going for coffee with a good friend from the fellowship, but once again a big group seemed to want to join us, and so I was left feeling like an outsider while my friend’s attention was focused on all these other people who I only vaguely knew. I literally had to force myself not to fall behind and disappear home. At the coffee shop I was only a very minor part of the group conversation. Everyone was talking about working in the music industry, for some reason, a subject which is hardly my forté. My friend D, who I was sat next to, turned to include me in the conversation a few times, which was nice. But my head was so full of anxiety about being in a daunting social situation that I couldn’t sit comfortably at all. It was that old fear of not fitting in again; they all seemed so attractive and young and interesting, while I felt boring and invisible. I can’t believe this is still happening to me, after all this time. Instead of getting better, it appears to be getting worse.
By the time everyone had decided to go home I was thoroughly exhausted. All I’d done was sit in a chair drinking tea, hardly a strenuous activity. It’s the washing machine head which physically wears me out. It’s no wonder I get colds and sore throats all the time – I’m chronically stressed out. When I was on the train home I realised I had left my bag in the coffee shop. Just what I needed to happen! And then when I got home I found my mum in a bad mood because the hot water has gone on the blink, as it does sometimes. Whenever she’s in a mood and I’m in a mood, it’s a complete nightmare in this place. It thoroughly depresses me. Right now I’m trying to say helpful things to myself, such as: ‘this will pass’, ‘I’ll probably feel better in the morning’, ‘it’s OK I can go and get my bag back tomorrow’. Even if they don’t have it, I had nothing valuable in it except some photocopying I’d done for University.
It’s not losing the bag I’m really upset about. If that was the only thing that had happened today, I’m sure I’d be fine tonight. As ever, it’s just one of many stressful things that have happened today. All these things happening on top of each other is not helpful to me in the slightest. Life is like that, I know. Sometimes, things happen on top of each other at the same time. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I will. I certainly have no intention of drinking tonight, which is good. But whenever I’m stressed out by life, the fact that I’m sober doesn’t seem to matter that much to me, while I’m trapped in this prison of anxiety and fear. Sitting with the feelings is a really, really hard thing to do, and I still hate it, and I probably always will. I’m sick and tired of worrying what people think of me all the time, of not being able to feel comfortable in all social situations, of living with a mother who’s emotionally unstable, of being completely unable to control my emotions. I realise that the AA program has an answer to these problems: step 3 tells me that I need to hand it over to my higher power, who always has my best interests at heart. But I still can’t hand everything over, months after I ‘officially’ did step 3, and that bugs me.
I don’t just want to become less self obsessed, I want my self obsession to be removed completely. I don’t want to wake up one more day and worry about social embarrassment from first thing in the morning. Yet I know I’m going to wake up tomorrow and still be the same, and it drives me crazy. I’m so sick of this illness, it’s like a curse! God, I can’t wait for my sponsor to get back from his holiday next week (he’s been in LA for two weeks). I have so much to tell him.