I keep forgetting to document things on this blog so I’m going to start this as day 1 even though technically it’s been weeks since I posted that intro post. Oh well!
So, for a good while now I’ve been doing volunteer work at this place and even though I’ve been here four times now and I know what kind of work I’ll be doing I still get that nervous and anxious feeling. That feeling where my stomach starts doing flips, my heart starts pounding, and my mind keeps wishing I’ll get an email or call saying how today isn’t a good day to come in and it gets canceled.
This has been an issue with me ever since I was a little kid. Every morning when eating breakfast, I remember always telling my dad how I “didn’t want to go to school”. It wasn’t because I hated it or wanted to avoid something…well, sometimes it was for that reason, but for the most part it was because my anxiety was telling me not to go. It was telling me all the “what if” scenarios and how they could happen in oppose to COULD NOT happen. Even well into the middle of the school year where I not only still got to see old friends, but made new ones along the way, I would STILL get that feeling. Of course, once I was there I realized it wasn’t all that bad and soon forget that I was even feeling that way, but it gets really tiring and it makes me appear like a flake. Not only does this occur for things like school or volunteer work, but it happens when I make plans with friends. One moment I’m saying “SURE! Going to the mall with you sounds fun!” But the moment the day arrives or as it’s nearing, I freak out and just want to cancel at the last minute. Sometimes I do and give some excuse that sounds reasonable or I just outright tell them I’m having an anxiety attack and don’t feel like seeing them. But I also sometimes just meet up with them and realize it is all that bad; it really makes me wonder why I was nervous in the first place.
I understand “fear of the unknown” is a thing, but how does someone with extreme anxiety use that fear and turn it into something fun instead of something to run away from? I guess the main goal is to just get myself out the door to accomplish these things instead of allowing for my anxiety to win. Because even though it’s annoying to constantly feel this way over something like going to work or volunteering and it’s not necessarily a fear of the unknown issue anymore, it all comes down to actually doing the act instead of finding any reason to run away from it and actually running away from it.
I don’t know how to overcome this. I’ve tried getting myself excited where I tell myself “I get to help people” or “It’s good experience” in regards to my volunteer work, but I remember even in school when I was excited about a class because I got to see people, it always got competed by with anxiety where it was a mix of anxiety and excitement (super confusing to feel both, by the way!)
If there was something I learned that helped me with this when in therapy, it was that we need to reroute our brain, if you will, to make it want to do things without that feeling of anxiety. In other words, pretend we’re a car on a highway and we have a choice of two highways. One is leading towards volunteering and the other is leading towards staying home. Right now, my route is automatically set to “staying home” because it’s the default and it’s what makes me feel comfortable. What I want to do is change that to where the default slowly becomes “attending volunteer”. Sure, it may take a lot of work and effort, but I think it can happen. And sure, maybe I’ll never stop feeling anxious and wanting to “flake out” of things, but for me, I think the main goal is to at least get myself out the door to attend these things and as long as I can do that then everything will be okay!