4 Jun 2013

What's the worst that could happen?

The truth is I think I've always been an anxious person. 
So when the doctor asked me "Do you think you've always been anxious?" I had to wonder.  "Well nooooo, surely not" I scoffed.  Doesn't everyone have an endless stream of mind chatter like little voices constantly arguing with each other?  No?  They don't?  Oh.  Just me then (and possibily the other 9.2% of the British population also suffering from anxiety disorder).

I come from a very stable family and had a very happy home.  OK so my parents did pretend to ring the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang every time I misbehaved which sent me into screaming panic attacks.  It is true that my brothers' favourite game was to hide around the house and jump out on me screaming and pointing like the alien Donald Sutherland in the final scene of the 1979 classic Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.  I too would scream in helpless anguish like Nancy in the film.  Except I wasn't acting.  It is also true that my parents were incredibly forgetful, disorganised and late for everything, especially when it came to retrieving me from social functions.  Once I stood outside Brownies at 8pm on a Wednesday winter evening, waiting for my parents to collect me.  Finally the caretaker from the school who was on his way home noticed me and had to begrudgingly unlock the school again to go back in and call my parents from the school office to remind them that I had been waiting for two and half hours in the drizzle and somebody needed to retrieve me.

Likewise when I was 13 I went to Spain for a month to stay with my best friend and her family who had just emigrated.  It was the first time I had ever flown on my own and I was very nervous and intimidated by the whole process.  On the return journey I trotted excitedly through the arrivals hall looking for my welcoming parents' faces, anxious for their warm comfort after my grand adventure in the big wide world.  "I bet they can't wait to see me after all this time" I thought.  Two hours later, I stood alone in the arrivals hall, my shoulders slumped all my hopes of a happy reunion dashed.  A little tear started to trickle down my face.  A stranger noticed my distress at being abandoned and kindly gave me a coin for the payphone so that I could call them and then another pound for a fizzy pop and a muffin whilst I waited.  "We thought it was tomorrow, your plane" announced my mum breezily as she arrived 4 hours late to finally reclaim her offspring, as if the airplane company had decided to change their flight schedule just to mess with her day.

I got lost in the local indoor market when I was about 6 years old.  A kind old lady responded to my sobbing and took me to the market office, where they sat me in a plastic garden chair with a packet of Jelly Tots and made an announcement over the tannoy system that a small child wearing flares and a tank top (no doubt my brothers' hand me downs) was waiting in the office.  My tears dried and I began to feel safe, saved even.  An hour and 4 more announcements later my Mum finally walked into the office.  "I was in the queue at the veg stall and I didn't want to lose my place" she explained.  "But Mum I've been here ages" I whined in protest.   "Well yes" admitted my Mum, "I decided I might as well finish all the shopping as you were safe in here, and then I had a very quick cuppa at the tea stall".

The irony is of course, that now I am a busy working mother of 3 I find myself following in my mother's footsteps.   History is repeating itself.  Or if it's not history then it's some gene that is missing in our family lineage - the one that deals with calmness and organisation.  Though I have yet to leave a child stranded at an airport... but there's plenty of time for that.

But surely this is all very 'normal'.
Isn't it?

Doesn't everyone lie awake at 3am with sweaty existential angst?  Wondering why the hell I am here?  How long will it be until I die?  Who am I supposed to be?

Isn't everyone terrified of tsunamis?  And not especially keen on big waves either, if they're honest?  If you owned a flat in Brighton for example, wouldn't you have planned your escape route in great detail, the one which involved smashing the window of the local motorbike shop to steal a scooter, so that you could make your Hollywood style get away over the hills to a high and safe refuge point?  Actually, it still bothers me how I'll get the Scooter to start without any keys.  I expect they leave some behind the till or in the staff room.  Surely they all have keys as the bikes must be taken out on test runs.  Oh shit balls, what if they're locked in a safe?  Oh God... I need to work out this plan better.   Ah, no I don't.  I've moved, I don't live in Brighton anymore.  That must be why I moved.  It's way too stressful a place.

Haven't you thought long and hard about the best way to jump out of a moving car should the situation arise?

Or if your train derailed and crashed over sidewise, how you would avoid getting squashed by the fat knacker in the seat next to you and make it to the escape window?

I am a Worst Case Scenario kind of girl.  Ben bought me the book Worst Case Scenario Survival handbook for a laugh.  He honestly thought I would enjoy the pocket sized joke book.  I do, but I use it as an indispensable companion for every journey I ever go on and NOT for amusement.  Because in my mind what the hell would you do if you were struck by lightening, lost in the desert, charged by a bull or attacked by a shark.  Holy shit balls, these threats are real.  We need to be prepared, people. 

I even fear talking on the telephone and actively avoid using it a altogether where possible.  I fear I may actually hear out-loud the nonsense that is spilling uncontrollably out of my own mouth.  This is a problem I have even when faced with the challenge of a normal face to face conversation.  A simple verbal human exchange, how hard can it be?  Well bloody hard if you're like me.  I find myself starting well, then at the first sniff of a pause I panic and my mind chatter takes over and I take off on a tangent...

Social Acquaintance (SA):  Hi, Tess. How are you?

ME:  Great, yes, thanks.  Well OK actually... well I dunno, you know, the usual normal stuff I guess.  Just trotting along like every one else.   Getting by.

SA (looking a bit awkward and sorry they asked):  Oh......?

ME (beginning to panic about what we should now talk about):  I've got a bruise on my boobs!

SA (a little suprised and embarrassed at the extra information):  Oh......?

ME:  Yeah and a massive hang over because I went out on Friday night..., (realising that it is now Tuesday), Yeah it takes me ages to get over a hangover these days... (realising that I went to the pub with some other friends not including this one) Well, it was just a a few mums in the pub, nothing big or anything, in fact I don't know if you know any of them, there's this woman I barely know actually and, well it was quite boring so you wouldn't have even wanted to go.  Not saying that you did want to go because I expect you had something else on, but you know what I mean.   And anyway I thought I should cycle home to save money but as soon as I got onto my bike, I fell straight off the other side.  Jane - not the Jane you know, a different one who I know from somewhere else, said "You're not going home in that state on that bike" and packed me off in a taxi.  A fiver it was just to come down the high street.  Anyway I didn't even know you could bruise your boobs, ha ha ha ha ha.  The handle bar banged me right in the chest.  Do you wanna see?

SA (backing away now, wishing they'd just smiled and walked by):  Well actually, I've... got to... do this thing.  Bye.

I end up spending lots of time on my own just to avoid embarrassing myself in social situations like these.  And this was just a "hi, how are you" conversation.  Why didn't I just say "Fine, thanks - you?".  I'm sure there are better ways to deal with every day life.   NORMAL PEOPLE must learn these ways.  Maybe I wasn't at school that day.  Maybe my parents forgot to take me.  On the other hand, in my mind it's FAR more important to know how to survive if you become adrift at sea than it is to hold a social pleasantry.   You're not going to pack a bullet wound with a little small talk, now are you?