Sometimes, when you are an anxious person, you go through periods where it is difficult to leave the house because you are afraid of really weird and/or unlikely stuff. When you’re an anxious AND depressed person, it’s doubly fun, because sometimes you can’t leave the house because you’re afraid of really weird and/or unlikely stuff, and sometimes you can’t leave the house because you’re too sad and tired to get out of bed and have maybe forgotten how to shower. It’s good to have variety, I guess?
Today is one of those hard-to-leave-the-house-because-I’m-afraid-of-weird-and/or-unlikely-stuff days. Here is a short list of some of the things I am anxious about that may happen if I leave my apartment:
- I forget my keys and get locked out of my apartment. The locksmith is unavailable and I have to spend the rest of my life living with all the other homeless people in Golden Gate Park while my landlord jacks up the rent on my place to over three grand a month and lets it to a family of four who just feel lucky to afford anything in the city.
- I step in dog poop and have to throw away my good flats.
- There is a sudden tsunami and I drown and die.
- There is a huge earthquake and a building falls on me OR a fissure opens up in the earth and I fall in and I die.
- I get hit by a car and lose a limb(s) and/or die.
- I have to go to the bathroom but I am somewhere where there is no bathroom and I am uncomfortable because I really have to pee but can’t (this is a very real fear and happens a lot because I keep myself well-hydrated so I don’t die of dehydration in case I am ever trapped somewhere without water and also because it helps with digestion).
- There is a man outside my apartment laughing to himself while urinating on a tree and I have to walk past him while he catcalls me (this one is gross and happens about 1x per week because San Francisco).
- I go all the way to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription because Walgreens texted me and said it was ready. I get there, and it is not ready, and I have to wait at the pharmacy for twenty minutes during which time I run into someone I know and have to make small talk (this is scary and very possible due to unreliability of Walgreens).
- I run into one of my neighbors in the lobby and have to make small talk (this one is the most terrifying because it is the most likely due to living in apartment building with actual other humans).
Some of these fears, as you see, are more likely to come to pass and are more dire than others, but my mind manages to rotate through all of them at such a pace that they all seem equally plausible and horrifying. These fears live in a part of my brain ruled by The Blob. The Blob is grey and always vaguely anxious and looks, coincidentally, like one of the ghosts from Pac-man:
The Blob is very well-meaning: he (or it?) just wants me to be prepared for any and all contingencies. Unfortunately, when he’s in top form, his preferred form of preparation is for me to stay in the apartment and never leave. This is not feasible, and so, on days like today, I have to use all the tools in my arsenal to get him to chill out. Despite his constant yammering in my head since I woke up, I have managed to leave my apartment TWICE already and am planning to go out a third time – for a social engagement, no less, with, like, three other people! What’s more, I’m meeting them in a restaurant that I have NEVER BEEN TO BEFORE, which is sort of a huge deal because new restaurants usually have Ebola (I’m pretty sure that’s science).
So how do I do it? I’m not a superhero, and I have ZERO judgment for people who don’t manage to do it (there are days when I can’t, myself), but here are some coping strategies I have adopted throughout the years that help:
- Medication – this is less a coping strategy than a preventive measure. A lexapro & lamictal a day keep The Blob at bay!
- Breathing – I breathe really slowly and just think about my breathing and nothing else until I can get up from my bed, put on shoes and a bra (and clothes) and leave the apartment.
- Disaster-proofing my purse – people joke that I carry around a pharmacy in my purse…and I basically do. Other than the usual keys, wallet, phone, I have nearly all stomach and headache remedies in my bag in a plastic pouch at all times. The extra weight is worth the peace of mind.
- Planning – going to a new place to eat? I Google my route, menu options, and Uber ride prices as well as weather conditions (thanks, San Francisco micro-climates!).
- Focus on the likely good outcome – this one is the most important. Because of The Blob, I’ve often missed out on meeting people, going places, or experiencing things that could make my life a lot better/happier/more fun because I was too busy hiding in my apartment due to anxiety. If I think instead about what GOOD could come out of whatever I’m leaving the apartment to do, my anxiety becomes that much more manageable. For instance, tonight when I meet some friends from my old job for dinner, I can tell myself that not only will I most likely NOT get Ebola, I will also get to catch up with people who are awesome, hear all the juicy gossip since I left, and enjoy some delicious food at a place that has FOUR STARS on Yelp!
The best part of my coping strategies is that their effects are cumulative – the more often I manage to overcome The Blob and get out of the house, the (usually) more positive examples I have of good outcomes to look back on the next time I’m dealing with general or social anxiety! Don’t get me wrong: I’ll always be something of a homebody, but on days like today I’m proud of myself for taking the leap…and leaving my apartment. Anyone else have good coping strategies to share? I’m always looking for more!
Well, only two hours to go until I leave for dinner! Time to go pack my purse, get some work done, and research the temperature at 8 pm tonight in the Mission 🙂