It is not always those extraordinary experiences in life that kindle my habitual sense of dread. I do not have to abseil off a tower or face solitariness in some far-flung land to feel my heart beat against my chest and my hands quiver like autumn leaves in the wind. In truth, it is often life’s monotonous proceedings that are the most memorable – if for the wrong reasons. The idiom ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’ is a well known one. For someone with social anxiety and depression, it is especially fitting. Social situations that seemed so terrifyingly important have, in hindsight, been diminished to mild tribulations at the very most.
In some ways it’s similar to your first day at a new job. Everything and everyone is unfamiliar, and even the most confident of people are subject to feelings of anxiety because of it. Gradually this subsides of course. However, what if this feeling never completely goes away? What if, despite your best efforts, you were continually subjected to that same flurry of thoughts and emotions? Again and again and again, until each day begins to feel like you’re on the most wretched carousel ride you’ve ever been forced to endure – and each time you pass the carousel operator, a callous grin extends over their carbuncle ridden face, before they gleefully yank the lever once more…
I recently felt like an unwilling passenger on this objectionable venture. I remember finding it immensely difficult to my curb my anxiety beneath my otherwise composed visage – which was particularly inopportune considering that I was minutes away from taking part in a job interview. With as much determination I could muster, I remember ambling towards the receptionist’s desk, hoping to at least overcome this hurdle. To my own surprise, I spoke my intent quite clearly and perhaps even eloquently. Dare I say it; I began to believe that things might go okay.
Unfortunately, this victory was exceptionally short lived, as a middle aged, stony-faced woman reluctantly tore herself away from her work and stared vacantly at me – not dissimilar as to how a grazing mammal might acknowledge a fly intruding upon its snout. After uttering a few half-hearted words of the courtesy, she abruptly inclined her head towards a row of chairs perpendicular to where I was standing. I took this as an indication that I should take a seat.
Having done this, I began to take note of my surroundings – they were just as lifeless as the receptionist incarcerated within it. White, brick-built walls accosted my peripheral vision. I was just close enough to make out its lumpy surface, where it seemed that the paint had been so lackadaisically applied that to gaze at it caused me to feel a considerable amount of discomfort. The bareness of the room enforced this notion. It harboured so little, that there was not even a clock to be seen, as though to signify that time was an irrelevant notion in this place. All of this made me very uneasy. In fact, I can confidently say that a small wooden table was the only remotely stimulating thing in there. So I chose to focus my attention onto this piece of furniture, believing that its dust laden, disc-shaped surface was more worthy of acknowledgement than the cascade of panic stricken thoughts swirling around in the depths of my consciousness.
I was to be proved wrong, as almost prophetically the undulated circumference of the table merged into the similar disposition of that carousel – its image became hopelessly imprinted onto my mind. In a moment of instability, I began to believe that I was never meant to overcome my depression. I was convinced that I would always be an outsider; regardless of how hard I tried to think of myself otherwise. As such, I could not help but envisage myself forever being the sole passenger on that carousel’s aimless voyage. I was to be a voiceless puppet, suspended at a single moment in time, to be jeered at by all and assisted by none. All while the operator caressed that control panel, anticipating the moment that they’d get to send my life into a furious spiral once more…
Then, as quickly as this torment had begun, it had ended. The whole experience probably lasted no more than ten seconds – even if it did feel like a lifetime. I cannot pinpoint exactly what made me come to my senses. Perhaps it was the receptionist’s well timed, raucous croak. Or perhaps a happy memory fleetingly crossed my mind. I honestly do not know. However, it made me realise one important thing – there is no worse feeling than to not be in control of your own life.
That evening, I went out of my way to ensure that I was. I watched my favourite TV shows. I indulged in a great deal of chocolate. I spent time with my family. In short, I did what gave me self-gratification, and the end result made me realise that, sometimes, my depression is rooted in my passivity. I allow myself to accumulate so much negativity from what I observe around me until it becomes unbearable. Perhaps the answer then, is to be an active participant rather than a passive observant of whatever challenge life throws at me. In this way, I can at the very least ensure that I am not intentionally succumbing to the diminishing effects of this illness, and at the most, live a more fulfilled existence.
Emotional support helplines:
Samaritans :116 123
Rethink Mental Illness advice line 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 09:30-16:00; local rate)
Sane Line:0845 767 8000
Mind also has a useful guide of support and services, which can be found by clicking the link right here