The Weight of Many Niggles

There’s always something slightly wrong, isn’t there?

Today I’m concerned about a tooth. For context, I have an extremely tough time at the dentist, but successfully completed 3 fillings and a root canal earlier this year and left with a clean slate after the last check-up in June. But I felt something weird earlier whilst eating crisps and noticed what looks like a possible cavity when looking in the mirror.

Small thing, right? May not even BE a thing if I give it a day or too. I hope.

If this was the first thing to crop up in a while, I’d probably be dealing with it a bit better. (Probably not dealing with it well anyway, given the stress and cost of a potential dentist visit). It isn’t though.

Last week I was at my GP to rule out vascular issues because I have something wrong in my ear that causes pulsatile noise. I’m in progress with a referral to physio and a referral to CBT (again). I also had a panic attack in the middle of the night and I’m incredibly constipated today. Sure that info isn’t all nice, but…it conveys my point.

These things weigh on a person.

Nobody wants to spend their time attempting to convince themselves not to worry about a concern that may or may not turn out to need attention. Nobody wants to spend their time being worried about the prospect of pain or other problems developing through inaction…or wasted time through unnecessary action. Nobody wants to spend their time on decision-paralysis over little niggles.

Interview and Anxiety

Tomorrow I have a job interview.

I’ve spent hours over the last two weeks putting together the written assignment that was set out in the interview invitation. I’ve thought about things I’d do if I worked in the job. I’ve dug out my smart clothes. I even made a plan to wait around in the city for 2 hours afterwards so that I could go and have dinner with my girlfriend who works at the same university.

Today I cried. I don’t want to go. I am anxious about a new situation and I feel under-prepared. I’m tired. I resent having to drive to the city and back twice this week. I resent that attending the interview is going to take my whole day. I resent that I have to put in all this effort an not have a guaranteed outcome. I resent that if it goes successfully, the prize is job where my anxiety would likely result in me sitting and crying every week when it’s time to go and do the teaching sessions.

People have advised me that that won’t happen, because it’s not the same as my PhD / associated teaching work. But that’s not the problem. I am problematic. In school, in university, in my PhD, in my teaching, in my casual job…I have pre-session-cried far too often simply because I am overwhelmingly anxious about having to attend a specific place at an externally-defined time.

I don’t know how to fix that.

Avoidance has been the typical strategy. I know that it is bad to always avoid things when I have the urge to avoid everything. I know that I need to engage with the world more, even if that’s just to ensure that I continue to get opportunities to engage with the world.

But it is not getting any easier. Take orchestra for an example – even after over 2 months of attending (with no bad outcomes) every week, I was still crying in the car park.

Motivation is important, but anxious doubts can easily creep into that. I want that job. It’s an ideal location (I could fit back into my burgeoning social and love life), it’s “only” 3 days per week but good salary (financial stability for the first time in 2 years AND I could still have time to do a lot of stuff I’m worried I’d miss), it will add a better institution and more ‘respectable’ teaching experience to my CV (and stop the ever-expanding “gap” between “real” jobs), give me real-life interactions with students, give me colleagues to talk to, a decent pension scheme, access to an academic library, and nobody (including me) can think I’m lazy anymore.

But. I’m scared I’ll hate it. I’m struggling to define what I like to do and what I want to achieve. I don’t want to have to move house again already. I’m not ready for another supervisor relationship. And I can’t promise that I can handle showing up at the same time every week without having a fucking breakdown.

Addictive Solitude

Tomorrow is the last guaranteed alone day I’ll have for some months because this weekend, my brother is moving in with me.

Now, I like my brother. He’s a pain in the arse at times but we’re on good terms, we look out for each other, and as much as he likes to pretend otherwise, he’s just as shy and socially-awkward as I am. We all are. It’s genetic, I’m sure. I can’t pretend that this change isn’t going to be incredibly weird for me, having spent most of the last five years living alone with only short stretches of staying in the same house as other people.

I’m an introvert by nature, and I absolutely detested living with (loud) strangers as an undergraduate. Naturally then, given a stipend and a new city to locate myself in, I chose to have a space that was entirely my own. Then I moved and did it again, with a bigger space. Then one more time: entire house that isn’t mine but I have to myself unless/until any siblings show up.

A battle I often have with myself is whether I choose to have an extensive amount of alone time because I enjoy it in some way…or whether I have an extensive amount of alone time because I get too anxious to sustain regular outside-the-house/social activities. I’m surprised I’ve sustained a relationship for a year – but then my girlfriend is of similar temperament and our ‘together time’ is often almost as relaxed as ‘alone time’ and we don’t put pressure on each other to go out and/or be energetic all the time.

Either way though, my brain seems to experience reward in response to solitude – whether directly, or through the abatement of anxiety, who knows. So it’s difficult to break the pattern. Yes, I do sometimes wish for something different to happen…but I don’t want to lose my rewarding solitary time. As horrible as it sounds, especially now that I ‘lose’ such time every week to spend with my partner. (What a horrible thing to even think, I chastise myself, especially having ‘wasted’ many, many hours even just today not enjoying the alone time I’ve had).

Somehow additional tasks sometimes weigh heavily on the alone time that I have…for example, an overnight trip (lasting less than 24 hours) is in my head for over a week before it happens. I sometimes resent teaching, the source of income that allows me flexible time, for chipping into an otherwise ‘free’ day.

I look forward to my next ‘free’ alone time…but am rarely satisfied. How long is long enough? And how come I still feel sad when it ends?

Anxious, not Passive-Aggressive

Recently I was witness to a conversation between people of the opinion that train passengers who occupy the aisle seat of a pair rather than move over to the window seat are making a passive aggressive attempt to hog both seats.

I have to disagree.

That immediately marks me as one of the aisle-seat hoggers. Yes, I’d do it if I ever rode a train. I do it in meetings and lectures. I do it in the cinema. I’m even the first chair violinist in my orchestra for the same reason.

That reason: Anxiety.

Trap me in and I panic. I would wholeheartedly prefer occasionally having to get up to let an inner-seat-sitter in or out over an alternative of sweating, feeling dizzy/ill/uncomfortable, hot, and entirely unable to concentrate on my reading/listening/looking at the scenery. If you’re mad because you want the aisle for some similar reason, I can empathise…but if you’re mad because you presume that aisle-sitters are row-hoggers, that’s not ok. As an aisle-sitter, it doesn’t matter to me much whether the seat next to me is occupied or not. All I want is to maximise my own chance of ‘surviving’ the journey/event/movie and having a relatively normal and comfortable time.

I Met My Borrowed-Dog Today!

Last week I received a message on ‘BorrowMyDoggy’ and I decided to activate my account so that I could respond and meet up with the dog (and his human).

Today I met up with them and the dog is awesome and the human is a lot more chilled than most of the people I meet in life! She essentially said that I can take the dog out for walks whenever I feel like it as long as I let her know before I take him. This is a pretty perfect arrangement for me because I don’t have to worry about schedule changes with things like my tutoring work and traveling to other cities causing a clash, and I don’t have to worry about feeling under pressure or otherwise anxious.

I think that being able to take a dog out will motivate me to go for more walks, which is definitely a good thing because I’m currently very unfit and the exercise I do is basically walking from my bed to my desk…and occasionally outside to the shop or the takeaway… I’m also hoping for some sunny days so that I can go further, possibly cross paths with other people who I used to know from dog walking, get lots of fresh air, and have some out-of-the-house and off-screen time!