My anxiety was challenged quite profoundly this morning. Last Thursday I received a phone call from a painter that had been commissioned by my real estate agent to re-paint the ceilings of my unit. For the three years that I’ve been living here they’ve been mottled, peeling and flaking quite spectacularly due to there being no exhaust fan in the bathroom, so the hot water from the shower has been creating condensation that has slowly destroyed the paintwork on the ceilings. So they really needed to be done. The phone call I received was to inform me he’d be coming today; bright and early at 7:30am.
Normally I wake up around 9am. I don’t feel bad about this. I have depression, so I like being in bed, and I’ve suffered from insomnia in the past, so I like being able to sleep for a decent time again. But this morning my sleep pattern was interrupted by a shrill alarm at 7am, so I could get myself up in time for the painter. Three snoozes later and I finally hauled my lazy ass from bed minutes before he knocked loudly on my unit’s door. But waking up earlier than usual is not what challenged my anxiety.
What challenged my anxiety was this; I don’t do small talk. I’ve never liked small talk. For as long as I can remember I’ve considered it a major and profound form of torture. I like speaking when I have something to say. I like speaking when it’s important. When it’s life altering. When it’s necessary. I don’t like speaking in order to fill time. When you feel you should say something because it would be impolite to not say anything. And having a painter in the house, I found myself in the precarious position of making small talk.
Initially, it wasn’t too bad. We just didn’t say anything to each other. I fiddled with my computer, he set about doing the job he was paid to do. But after half an hour or so my anxiety was raging; it wanted me to talk, to fill the silence, to end the awkward silence in the room. I didn’t want to. I wanted to run away. I wanted to kick him out my house and paint the damn ceilings myself. Anything to get out of small talk. Anything to allow my day to return to the usual, boring, safety net of monotonous routine. But I couldn’t do any of that, because it would be impolite to do so, and I am anything but impolite. So I started the conversation with the only thing I could reasonable think to say: “so, it’s pretty cold today?”
This precipitated a dribble of conversation. Yes, it was cold. No, I didn’t mind. Yes, at least it’s not raining. My anxiety raged every time my mouth opened. Hating every syllable of the smallest of small talk we were mustering. Eventually we started commenting on the radio that was playing in the background. Eventually we started talking about things that weren’t meteorological in nature. But at no point did my anxiety wane. My pulse was racing. My palms were sweaty. I was smoking something rotten to calm the nerves. But the conversation continued in dribs and drabs all the same. It had to; it would be impolite not to talk to someone who was kindly donating their time to paint my ceilings.
All up it took nearly six hours for him to finish. My unit isn’t that big. But painting the ceilings of three different rooms with two coats of enamel paint takes time. When he finally left, with a quick thank you and goodbye, I collapsed onto the floor of my unit and breathed a sigh of relief. I had survived the torture that is small talk. I had survived the invasion of my privacy. And I had the pungent aroma of drying paint to soothe my troubled soul.
Other than this, my day has been somewhat uneventful and dare I say, boring. In order to ‘come down’ from my overly anxious morning I allowed the safety net of my routine to take over. I strolled down the road, visited the library, rented some DVDs and acquired my dinner from the local supermarket. Upon returning home I watched a movie double bill (Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings and Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines; because of the OCD like need that grips me until I have watched every film in a franchise, no matter how crap they may be!) before turning my attention to the internet, and replying to the comments that had been left on my blog. This too, caused my anxiety to ripple. I’ve never been good at commenting. Not on other people’s blogs. Not on my blog. But I have been pushing myself hard lately to comment more. I’ve been pushing myself to respond to every comment that is left. And I’ve been pushing myself hard to comment on other people’s hard worked-on blog posts. In a way, it was another minor victory in a day that had already seen one minor victory!
For those of you who wish to know (and who wouldn’t?) the war between Meadhbh and Vanessa hasn’t abated one iota since it kicked off last week. They are still at it. Still hurling taunts and abuse at each other. Still driving me insane with their incessant bickering and endless bogus capitulations. I’ve tried to explain to Meadhbh as clearly and concisely as possible how pointless it is to challenge Vanessa. How antagonizing her is just adding fuel to her fire. But she won’t listen. She won’t back down. She’s obsessed with getting Vanessa to stop her continual abuse of me and I don’t think anything I say is going to change that. Sure, their ongoing battles may see the end of what little sanity I have left, but at least I would be losing my sanity knowing that Meadhbh has my best interests at heart.
With all of this raging, my other voices, Shay and Audrey, have had little time to voice their own opinions of late. Shay piped up today at the sight of two women out exercising (he’s as misogynistic and annoying as always) whilst Audrey has remained relatively silent. I think she’s stepping back whilst Meadhbh and Vanessa go at it; determined not to interfere or take sides. It’s a little annoying. I miss Audrey. I miss her unique outlook on life and the various conversations we have on literature, culture and arts, her favourite topics. It got me thinking that I should organise a play-date with her; some time where it is just her and I, doing something she enjoys. We’ve done it several times in the past, and I’ve found it a useful tool to keep her on-side, to keep our relationship productive and civil rather than abusive and combative.
I know that my talking about voice-hearing may put some of you off my blog. It’s a hard subject to get your head around. And I’ve thought long and hard about not talking about my people or their actions, but whenever I do, I realise how important it is for me to talk about them. It helps destigmatise the voice hearing experience. It allows people to realise how commonplace this experience is. And that it is not something to fear or look down on. It is a perfectly acceptable experience. That’s why I talk about my voice hearing; that’s why I allow my voices access to my blog; that’s why I share my day-to-day interactions with you all. The more people who talk about it, the better. And from my own personal experience, there really aren’t that many bloggers talking about voice hearing. In fact, I know of only a handful of blogs that talk about voice-hearing, so any you’ve come across would be wonderful to hear about.
I’m feeling a lot less anxious after typing this post. The anxiety followed me today, after the gruesome forced small talk of this morning, bleeding into every action and activity I undertook. It’s nice to feel less anxious. To know that writing has the power to relax me again. Or maybe it’s the paint fumes that have relaxed me! ;) Either way I’m glad I won’t be entering this evening with heightened anxiety. I’ve had enough of it today. But it taught me a valuable lesson: however anxious you are, however debilitating you think something is going to be, it won’t last forever. You will survive. And live to fight another day.