Periodically, and for no justifiable reason, my brain tries to make me crazy. Not my normal brand of crazy, made up of social anxiety and occasional depression, but insane-crazy. It makes me almost non-functional for days at a time, but it hasn’t defeated me yet, and I don’t plan on allowing it to do so. When these giant, existentially-challenging, brain wars don’t work, my gray matter will sometimes try a different tactic– seizing on one thing like a dog with a friggin’ bone and effectively creating an intense tunnel vision that prevents me from seeing anything else, making the one thing seem much more colossal than it actually is. That is what my brain was doing the past few days. I may as well do something constructive with it.
Two weeks ago, I had the first of what would be five interviews for a highly desirable job that could well turn into an actual career for me. At the time, I told myself there was no way I would get it and that it was a crappy job anyway. I do this any time I actually want something because disappointment is extremely detrimental to me. Most people respond to disappointment with a sigh and a shrug– or if it’s significant, a bunch of shots– but they tend to get over it in a fairly reasonable amount of time. When I allow myself to really want and hope for something and then end up not having it, I sink into a sad hole of discouragement so intense that I refuse to even try to accomplish basic life functions. So my way of protecting myself from the rabid despair monster is to not get my hopes up. Ever. About anything. Until I have incontrovertible proof that it’s mine. I call it being realistic, but in reality it’s pure pessimism. That way, when I don’t get something I want, I don’t get super upset– and when I do get it, I get to feel excessively happy about it.
So I walked into this interview planning to give it my best shot but fully believing nothing would come of it. Imagine my surprise when, two minutes into my meeting with the GM, he looked me straight in the face and told me that I was perfect for the position and that he felt honored to have the privilege of meeting me. He also said that my timing was perfect, as well as my knowledge and experience, and that he wanted to move me forward in the process and have all of the other managers interview me. Essentially he said he wanted to hire me and then spent another half hour asking me questions while four other people waited in the foyer to be interviewed. And if you know anything about a restaurant manager’s schedule, then you know that getting an uninterrupted, half-hour interview with a GM is about as rare as a narwhal sighting in Iowa. So I walked out of the interview feeling better than I ever have walking out of any interview in my life (Honored to meet me? Oh, he’s good). And I proceeded to have three more interviews with three other managers, all of which went quite well, including the ninety-minute interview with the senior manager (the GM’s co-pilot), during which he basically turned my brain inside out and inspected it with a magnifying glass.
Thursday I had my final meeting with the GM, my fifth interview. He said that the senior manager had written “HIRE THIS GIRL” in all caps across the top of my interview papers. He said that was an unprecedented indicator of approval from a man who has been in the industry for three decades. We settled my wage, discussed my schedule, and spoke more in depth about my experience. He told me that he was hiring me and that I could come in for my first day of work after he spoke with three references. I gave him three phone numbers of people whom I trust to deliver a glowing review of my professional and personal behaviors and accomplishments. He assured me that I should not worry if he took a couple of days to call me because he was shorthanded over the weekend and would be very busy. He even– no exaggeration– teared up as he once again told me how honored he was to hire me and how perfect he felt I was for the restaurant and the team. All of these things would tell a rational person that they have securely landed a job with a kind and intelligent individual. Correct? Any normal human being would walk away from this encounter with every certainty that they will start their new job in a few days. Add to all of this the fact that, when I sent an email thanking him for the interview, he responded that he would be seeing me very soon.
Explain to me then why I have been in a fit of restless, pensive anxiety for the past three days. My brain has seized on the lack of a phone call– a perfectly reasonable situation that has no negative connotation whatsoever– and turned it into doom. My brain says, “What if one of your references said something bad?” or “What if he changed his mind because you said something weird before you left?” or “What if none of my references call him back, and he thinks it’s because they all hate me?” Keep in mind that the references I gave him were two former bosses (one was my mentor, and the other offered when I left to be an excellent reference for me whenever I may need him) and a dear friend who used to work with me and whom I just saw a couple of days ago. And I let all three of these people know that my new boss would be contacting them. How in the HELL is my brain turning all of this logical and positive and explainable stuff into a hell-bound doom-rocket??! I have a new job! An excellent job! I know this undeniably in the area of my brain that can process logic and facts. That part of my brain is often incapable of defeating the other part, which I liken to a dark, damp, cold cave in the middle of a forest from which all irrational fears and doubts emanate. Hence my utterly unfounded, anxiety-ridden, midnight rant.
I mentioned in my last post that I have been doing research into the psyche– more specifically the long-term effects of abuse and trauma. Some people, when faced with a terrible and daunting problem, will stick their heads in a hole in the ground and pretend that it doesn’t exist. And because of that, it gets worse, and it envelopes them, and they don’t even stand a chance. I cope far better with health and mental issues if I gather as much information as I possibly can. I want to know why and how and what to expect and what can be done to make it less disruptive to daily life. Some people find the rush of potentially negative information very discouraging; I find it soothing. The better I understand something, the less power it has over me. I have learned that many of my quirks– thoughts and behaviors and feelings that I thought were unique to me and my particular brand of fucked up-ness– are actually symptoms that are quite common among survivors of abuse and trauma. Which gave me a great deal of comfort. And validation.
I wasted two days with my anxiety monster raging under my skin and preventing me from relaxing or spending quality time with my husband. (It honestly feels like an alien inside of me, permeating my muscles and making them twitch, making my heart palpitate and my blood pressure increase. It’s so intense sometimes that I can feel it physically, like a burning rock sitting on my sternum and a bunch of smaller rocks gurgling and grinding in my stomach.) I tried to stay constantly busy, waiting for my new boss to call and tell me when my first day of work will be and checking my phone every thirty seconds. I didn’t sleep well two nights in a row, holding my phone on my chest. This is the weird and irrational compulsiveness of anxiety sometimes. Today I woke up, and though nothing had actually changed externally, the monster was quieter for some reason.
I never know how long it will hibernate, but I always try to take advantage of its absence. I made breakfast and ate without feeling nauseous. I did housework and enjoyed the fact that I didn’t panic when the hubby went to the gym and left me alone for an hour and a half. I watched Workaholics all day and genuinely laughed and cut my husband’s hair for him and listened while he played his guitar. And nothing interrupted my day aside from the occasional intrusive thought. Today I felt close to “normal,” and I liked it. I want to have more days like today. One of my friends, who is more like I am than most, sent me a long and rambling text reminding me that I am not alone in being weird and a little crazy. It made me feel grateful.
I don’t like my monster. I don’t like that it tries to ruin days that should be happy. I don’t like that it turns good things into doubts and fears. I don’t like that it forces its way in uninvited and stays as long as it wants, putting its feet on the furniture and tracking mud everywhere and eating everything in the fridge and clogging the drain in the shower. It’s an asshole for sure. But it also forces me to be strong. And self-aware. And compassionate toward other people who have monsters of their own. So I take those things and reject the rest. My monster has made me a fighter, a warrior. So far, I have won every battle, proven by the fact that I’m still here. While the monster tells me to be scared that this amazing job– that I earned– isn’t real or that I don’t deserve it, I will shield myself from its lies with my truths. I am smart. I worked hard to get where I am. I deserve good things. I am a good person. I can be happy. I am as strong as a deep-rooted oak tree and as adaptable as rushing river, carving its path across the landscape. I cannot be broken. These are my truths, and I live them. Find your truths, people. Find your truths and live them every day. Because the light of those inarguable truths weakens the monsters. And that’s how you win.