I’m stuck in a conundrum of not knowing if I’m doing too much in life right now or if I am not doing enough. I don’t know why I am making this a question. Everything and anything I am doing now should be more than enough. Aren’t I fine precisely as I am?
Minutes earlier, I canceled a commitment I had to volunteer my time after work tomorrow at a community-run garden. I’ve been to this specific garden only once before over the past winter and it was fine. I let myself down because I signed up for this slot days in advance and psyched myself up to going there and having a blast. However, as the deadline inched closer, I got more anxious thinking about going through the motions of having somewhere else to be after work that involved other people. It felt like the nervousness from that on top of looking ahead to my schedule on Monday (which will be a very early workday) was too much for me to sit with. So I fell back on the emergency STOP button I sometimes rely on when I think I can’t handle the train of my own churning thoughts and I canceled. Yep, I am a coward.
Taking a step back seems like a failure, even though this past week I did a lot of so-called “brave” things that I almost didn’t want to do. I usually have a quiet day on Tuesdays helping out in a teaching garden with garden maintenance, like intensive weeding. That day, I was feeling a bit off but went in to do the work anyway. I was inexplicably more withdrawn than usual. I can be quiet but do make an effort to be conversational in the teaching garden when I feel like it.
I thought maybe I was in a mood because I had nerves from a scheduled in-person work meeting later that day with my supervisor and with some other people whom I was seeing for the first time. The meeting was supposed to be last Tuesday but it was rescheduled to this Tuesday due to the monstrous heatwave.
We actually met up inside a lobby of a Target department store and went around introducing ourselves. I hate doing intros; they’re extremely uncomfortable for me but I did my part as briefly as I managed to. I could have said a lot more about myself, but honestly, I thought even if I did, most of the people would probably not even remember half of what I said. It was the same for me; besides the one or two people at the meeting who I already knew personally and can name facts about them off the top of my head, I don’t recall what every other person said about themselves during their introductions except their names.
Aside from the discomfort of public speaking in such a casual setting, the majority of the meeting was spent touring street areas as a group and talking amongst ourselves. I tried hard to speak to at least every person one-on-one for a little bit, except for a lady who showed up late. One of the people I met was another student from the same college and same undergraduate program as me. I heard his name so many times during various group emails (he remembered me from those emails, too) and it was nice meeting him for real. We’re both due to finish up our last few classes in the upcoming fall semester and graduate.
Overall it was a good experience. I wasn’t expecting some of the people to be so chatty and friendly toward me. I know it’s a stereotype that New Yorkers are a tough and unfriendly lot of people. In my case, I feel it was true for me in past years that I had my guard up, and I believe it’s because I got so used to growing up into a person who was often seen but not heard by others. Even during my internship on the urban farm last year, I was genuinely surprised and unsure how to not be suspicious of other people’s intentions when they were kind to me and actually seem to want to talk to me.
The next morning, I discovered my unexplained moodiness on Tuesday was due to Mother Nature’s monthly bleed. PMS at its finest. It was a good thing I had nothing to do that day as I was feeling a multitude of things. Not so much angry or emotional but fatigued (mild headache) with a dose of cravings (which is weird considering I was craving foods and also did not have much of an appetite with what I did eat).
On Thursday I went to work as usual. My supervisor showed up in the middle of it as he was making the rounds of updating the itineraries of the various worksites he is in charge of. This is the same supervisor I saw on Tuesday for the work meeting.
The nature of my social anxiety is strange. I’m constantly fighting against my “instinct” to want to shy away when someone looks at me intently when I’m speaking to them. I trust my supervisor so I feel slightly less nervous around him but that doesn’t make it any easier for me to hide/ignore how deeply affected I am by eye contact and how much it frightens me.
I’ve gotten good at pretending. Somehow I carried on a normal conversation with him. My work partner was also there so at times he was speaking to both of us and I would interject into the conversation if I had something to say and other times (like when my work partner excused herself to the restroom), it was just me and him talking to each other.
That day, I was also running on 3 hours of sleep due to insomnia. It’s probably why my body and mind worked so hard under stress and yet I felt none of the fatigue. It was only after I was out of that situation by the day’s end that I could barely keep my eyes open and fell asleep.
Originally on Friday, I had thought about going to the teaching garden again but seeing as I was exhausted from Thursday, I decided not to push it. I still could not avoid a potentially uncomfortable social interaction when my brother came by after doing a grocery haul at Costco with our dad. We had dinner altogether at a restaurant I suggested and it was one I had previously dined in at with my parents.
My brother and I have somewhat of a fractured relationship. It is a lot of things. Partially my fault but also it’s just we have never been the type to have deep conversations, particularly when we both grew up in a household with dysfunctional family dynamics where communication was not the best. As a result, I was never comfortable verbally confiding in anyone including him because even though we did grow up together, our experiences were too different and my struggles (eg. generalized anxiety, social anxiety, persistent depression, disordered eating) felt like they were uniquely my own and not stuff he struggled with.
I’m not sure if it would be much better if he knew the whole truth about the ugliness of my mental health. I’m very private about it and I truly believe him knowing would only serve to make me feel even more self-conscious around him. Some things are better left untouched.
And that brings me to Saturday. As part of my work, I sometimes post to my organization’s social media account. Adele, my coworker, also does posts too which are separate from mine because we both work for different programs in the same company. I had an idea to do joint posts promoting both programs as this is something no one has ever done before. We did one last week for another work site and it was a success.
I was a bit shy suggesting anything for Saturday’s post. Adele wanted to do a mention of the program I work for and I asked if she might need a picture for it. Since she was running late with adding the post, we decided to take a picture to use for next week’s post. It was totally impromptu; I posed under my worksite tent and she snapped some photos. Honestly, I never thought I’d be okay with having my face all over the social media, but I am willing if it helps bring attention to our work.
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