Anxiety is a total fucker. It comes out of nowhere, refuses to listen to reason, and can make even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable.
Case in point: I finally went to the hairdresser yesterday after putting it off for months. I was a badly-needed visit. My fringe had grown past the end of my nose, the ends of my hair were starting to resemble rat tails, and the grey hairs I started to grow at 17 have been pushing their way through with a vengeance.
I’ve hated my hair lately and it’s made me feel terrible about myself everytime I’ve looked in the mirror or left the house. So why did it take me more than two months to just go and get it sorted?
Anxiety. That’s why.
Certain things can trigger my anxiety and once that happens, everything makes me anxious and then I get trapped in endless cycles. For example, feel anxious and miserable because of physical appearance, fail at going to the hairdressers, feel even more anxious and miserable.
I put it off for so long because it’s something I find hard to face. I’m aware that probably sounds ridiculous but it’s true. First I have to actually pick up the phone and talk to someone to make an appointment. Get through that and the only reward is having to actually visit the salon.
I’m usually convinced that the stylists are judging me harshly for letting my hair get into such a terrible state in the first place. They’re always perfectly friendly and give no indication that they’re thinking any such thing but my brain insists that they’re just very good at acting and hiding their true disgust. I feel the need to apologise for my hair and have been known to invent reasons why I’ve left so much time pass between appointments.
And then they ask me what I want done with my hair. I usually mumble for a bit while internally I’m screaming “I don’t know, I have no idea, I’m not a proper person, please just make me look like a human woman”. In the end, we just agree that I’ll have the same cut and colour as my previous visit.
Now that all the logistics are sorted, it’s onto the small talk. It won’t come as a surprise that I struggle with this bit. I’m usually determined to try my best but I inevitably turn monosyllabic, like I’ve got a daily quota of words I can say and I’m scared I’ll reach my limit too soon. The stylist usually gives up after a while and we lapse into uncomfortable silence instead.
There’s a brief reprieve when I’m left alone to read while waiting for the colour to take. Once that’s over and my hair has been rinsed, it’s time for the actual haircut and more questions about what I want. How long do I want my fringe? Where should my parting be? When is this going to end so I can go home and drink tea? There’s usually another failed attempt at small talk and then it’s done. I’ve got my glasses off during all this so, when asked if I’m happy with it at various stages, I just smile and nod at the head-shaped blur in the mirror.
And that’s pretty much it. That’s my usual trip to the hairdresser. Sometimes it goes ok, other times my anxiety kicks in and it goes like I’ve just described above. When it’s the latter, I get annoyed at myself for letting anxiety get to me so much and I berate myself for not being stronger, more sensible, more, well, normal.I channel all my feelings into anger at myself for not just getting on with things. And, next thing you know, we’re back in that endless cycle of anxiety again.
I’m going to try something new though. I’m not going to berate myself, I’m going to tell myself that I achieved something yesterday. I’m going to ignore the fact that mental processes made it the experience more difficult than it should have been and choose to focus instead on the fact that I went and did it and got through it.
If you’re reading this and have never suffered social anxiety, you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts and shouldn’t be spilling my crazy all over the internet. Tough. This is my tiny part of the internet and I’ll do what I want with it. That’s why there are so many Dean Winchester gifs and photos of my cat on here. Writing this has been pleasingly cathartic and is helping nudge me towards seeing yesterday as an achievement rather than evidence of inability to function.
It’s like I said at the beginning of this, anxiety is a total fucker. It turns rationality on its head and makes simple activities and interactions feel like major challenges. I haven’t learned how to banish it yet but I think I’m making a good start by learning to occasionally acknowledge personal achievements rather than failures.