Last night I wrote about a minor run-in with another human being as I cycled home with LittleBear. I wrote about it in a relatively flippant way, making light of the anxiety I was feeling, as I try to bring a level of amusement to my friends so they see the absurd contortions my mind takes as I battle, almost daily, with anxiety that can be paralysing. It's not only for the entertainment of my fellow-man however, it's also to try and shed some light into the darker corners of my mind, to bring them into the open and allow other people to realise that even people who may, on the surface, appear fully functioning, happy and well-balanced may be struggling underneath. I hope to bring understanding and compassion to the world, in however small a way I can manage.
I'm not sure that yesterday's post achieved those aims. I don't think I conveyed the true depth of my own distress. Distress that I had made a stupid and rude mistake in speaking out loud when I didn't need to, and incapacitating fear of the consequences of my actions. I wasn't joking when I said I'd already spent six hours worrying. I was not joking that I would lie awake at night pondering the possible outcomes. In the darkness of the night I pictured Angry Bloke tracking me down in the playground and confronting me as though I were an American referee he was a Colombian defender*. There was finger jabbing; there was pushing; there was shouting. I got up this morning feeling physically sick. I struggled to eat my breakfast. I considered texting my friend to ask if she would collect LittleBear from school so I could avoid The Path Of Doom. I didn't offer to go to school this morning for reading-time with my LittleBear, just in case. I let BigBear go instead. I actually chose to miss doing something I love, with the child I adore, because I was shaking and sick with anxiety. This is me. This is who I am. This is who I hate being.
Then I turned my phone on.
And I found a message from a stranger. Someone who reads my blog, but whom I don't know.
She told me,
... or cycle on the right side of the road as a vehicle should.That was what she took away from my attempts to light-heartedly describe my day while revealing my own mental struggles. She decided to presume that I was guilty of a minor traffic infraction** and to reprimand me.
And I was left wondering whether some of my readers, this stranger included, think this is all some kind of joke? That I exaggerate my feelings for dramatic effect? Or maybe that this whole blog is a work of fiction? Some sort of anti-Yummy-Mummy page where I pretend to be a bit kooky to get page hits? I don't. I am real. I am not just words on a page. I am a living, breathing woman who makes mistakes, who gets things wrong, who fights to be a better person but sometimes fails. This is me.
I drove to work in tears because a stranger on the internet had criticised me. I spent the night lying awake, afraid of what a different stranger might say to me in person as a consequence of my own actions. I am considering not going to a friend's birthday party on Saturday because I have reached humanity-overload. I am not sure whether I can actually face interacting with other people, with putting a smile on my face and pretending that I can function in society. And all of this has come about because of my interactions with two strangers. People whose opinion should not matter one iota. People who have no duty of care towards me, beyond basic civility. People who have probably not given a second thought to the ongoing ripples from their transient encounters with me. People who are not to blame for my reactions.
This is why my life is exhausting. Every day is strewn with moments such as these. Moments of passing remarks, casual comments, glances, expressions, that create in me an agony of over-thinking and fear.
* Not a reference that will stand the test of time I suspect. For my future self - World Cup 2018; England v Colombia; penalty awarded by a US referee to English captain Harry Kane resulting in serious objections by the Colombian team.
** I have also spent a large amount of time mentally drawing maps and diagrams to explain the actual layout of the area in question, and the intersection of a cycle path and a road so that I can demonstrate that while my comments were rude, my cycling was entirely legal and responsible, and that my use of such terms as "pavement" and "path" were not precise and accurate descriptions of the actual thoroughfares in question. Because that's what anxiety does. It forces my mind into a hamster wheel of panic and self-defence.