Writer and author Lizzie Steel explains the very real feelings of living with acute anxiety...
‘Today at 8:30, I started a new job. Today at 10:45, I left my new workplace. Today at 10:52, I arrived at my Mum’s house and cried for 1 hour, 34 minutes. Today at 12:26, I emailed my new employers and handed in my resignation.
Believe it or not, this is not the first time I have done this, not even the second. Three times I have walked out on my first day and quit a couple of hours later.
When I tell people, their reactions are always similar. A kind of wide-eyed mixture of shock, horror and confusion transforms their face and their voice normally becomes loud and high-pitched, as they ask me why I would do such a ridiculous thing.
My answer, however, is always the same… ‘It’s difficult to explain’.
What I mean by that is, it’s difficult to explain to people that are mentally balanced, rarely upset, and never shaken to the core of their being. It’s very difficult to explain how I feel when I don’t really understand myself. It’s also difficult to explain that I wish that the outcome had been different, even though it was me who caused it.
I first went to the doctor about it when I was at uni in my early twenties. Before the doctor suggested that I was suffering with acute anxiety, I had genuinely no idea that my reactions and what I was feeling had a name, and that I didn’t have to put up with it. I thought it was normal to go to bed and wake up an hour later in a breathless cold sweat with my heart pounding so hard it felt like it would break free at any moment. I had no idea that it wasn’t normal to weep like someone had died every time I set off on a holiday because despite wanting to go, it terrified me.
So there I was, a 22-year-old bundle of nerves sitting with a very kind GP as he explained that what I had perceived to be irrationality was actually a thing. Knowing what I felt had a name, knowing how I felt was not uncommon, and being given some strategies to handle it helped. It all helped but it didn’t take it away completely. For a long time the anxiety left me, life was less stressful, I learnt to notice triggers and to catch myself before I blew things up.
But that was then. Now I’m 30 and I just quit a new job after two and a quarter hours for the third time. Why? Because despite choosing to rise above the twisting feeling in the pit of my stomach that told me to stay at home this morning, I went in anyway – it’s normal to feel nervous on your first day. It’s not normal to feel like a strap of iron has been placed around your chest so tight you cannot breathe. It’s not normal to feel like the walls are closing in around you. It’s not normal to start crying at your new job and then be totally unable to stop.
It’s not normal to be physically unable to do a job that rationally, I know I can do well and with ease.
I tried to beat it, I tried to rise above it and I tried to reason with it, but today anxiety crippled me and I quit my job after two and a quarter hours.’
Read more from Lizzie Steel here