I’ve always considered myself to be very flexible to change, I go with the flow and just get on with life as things around me change. But occasionally there are small things, that in reality have nothing to do with me, but I become so used to their presence that I actually experience anxiety when they aren’t there.
Some years ago when I was studying, I used to park in a multi level carpark, and 3 levels up was some kind of coupe under a protective cover parked in the same place, every day. One day, I’d miscounted how many levels I was on, and thought that the car wasn’t there. I felt a rush of panic coursing through me that this incongruity could destabilise my world and all that I knew. It only subsided as I rounded the next corner and saw it still parked there.
I have no idea who the owner of the car was, or the circumstances surrounding it being parked in a public carpark with a car cover on it. But the thought of it not being there had a terrifying effect. It had no bearing on my life at all, but I became used to things being just so, and it was a constant in my ever changing world.
There are lots of little things like this that make me panic and anxious, and yet I seem to cruise through massive upheavals with little trouble. It’s kind of odd isn’t it?
I’m really quite funny about my personal space and how much proximity and actual physical contact affects me. About 15 minutes ago I had one of my moments where I became immensely aware of how uncomfortable a situation, especially ones involving strangers, can be.
I’d just finished my appointment with my Psych and I was at the counter paying and making my next appointment. An older lady came up to the counter and stood right next to me because she wanted to speak to the receptionist. And to make matters worse another older lady came up on the other side of me to take up a free magazine they have on offer at the offices. But instead of picking it up and walking away, she stood there flicking through it.
So now I have these 2 complete strangers flanking me, practically standing at my shoulders. I could almost feel them breathing. I couldn’t shake the ominous feeling that came over me – even though logically I knew I could take down both of these old birds if for some insane reason they started to attack me. I am not kidding when I say it actually physically felt threatening to have strangers standing shoulder to shoulder with me like that. My baser instincts of fight or flight started winding me up, and I was starting to get angry with them for standing too close.
There was absolutely no reason why the lady wanting to talk to the receptionist couldn’t wait in line behind me – it was quite rude and impatient of her to stand there as if she was going to butt in. And as for the other lady: take the freaking magazine and read it elsewhere. Don’t stand there at my shoulder reading it. I know it sounds really odd, but things like that make me so uncomfortable, and a whole influx of crazy thoughts go through my head – from staging a “freak out”, to aggressively pushing them out the way, to planning what I will do when they start to attack. My mind goes into defensive overdrive when people stand too close to me like that, and it takes so much self control to not take it to the nth degree and go mental.