The last few days have been a time of striking contrast. I have plumbed the cold, dark depths of sadness and soared high on bright waves of euphoria. Both Friday and Saturday nights were very low points – it was so difficult just to carry on. I don’t know how I’d have got through without the distraction of work – for those hours I could just do the job and not think about my problems. But outside of work I had nothing to occupy my mind – no persona to adopt, no mask to hide behind. And so I felt the full impact of my negative feelings.
There were a number of reasons for my unhappiness – being in situations I did not want to be in and feeling trapped, picking up strong negative feelings from somebody close to me and being unable to handle the empathic pain, shutting down in public and attracting unwanted attention when I just needed to be left in peace – it all combined into a destructive overload where I was fighting against myself to avoid a meltdown, to avoid lashing out. I was sleeping badly, not eating well and – although I didn’t realise it – becoming physically and mentally exhausted. Even watching my team (Wigan Warriors) win the Rugby League Challenge Cup on Saturday afternoon didn’t affect my mood to any great degree.
Sunday didn’t start well. However I had a busy shift that afternoon at the pub – the time flew by and I got a buzz from it. I also had some supportive feedback from the couple of “down” posts I’d published the previous nights which lifted me. So I was feeling somewhat better by the evening and, even better, relations with this person I’m very close to were considerably less frosty – this is somebody I love very much but we have communication issues from time to time when she gets very openly emotional and I overload and become uncommunicative. I know it doesn’t help the situation but it’s the only way I can handle the emotion I feel as a result.
But anyway, there were signs that things were getting back on track so that helped. And that evening I had organised an event in the pub – a darts and quiz night. It’s a measure of how comfortable I feel in that environment that I felt able to put myself forward for such an event – organising and hosting something lasting two and a half hours. I had ten teams of two competing and I was nervous as anything starting out even though I knew all the people taking part. I managed to round them all up, explain how it was going to work and get things started. After three rounds of questions I was feeling under pressure and took a short break. My legs were shaking and – I found out later – I was exhibiting a couple of tics that my wife could easily identify as signs of my nerves. I was wondering what the heck I had got myself into – why I had put myself in this situation. I felt it might be slipping out of my control. I hadn’t been able to plan the event in detail because I’d not known how many entrants there would be on the night – I was out of my comfort zone and – to a degree – making it up as I went along.
It was about ten minutes later that I got things going again with the next round. The break had calmed me enough and I felt I was getting on top of things – I felt that it was running more smoothly. Nobody had complained yet – in fact a couple had told me it was going well, and that gave me a bit more confidence. By the time we finished two people had made speeches thanking me and called for a round of applause as appreciation for an enjoyable night. Everybody there told me they had had a good time and that I had done a good job of running it. I felt pleased – but more than that I was utterly exhausted. I slept well – over ten hours – and it was Monday morning when I was feeling more refreshed that it sank in and the elation hit me. I found myself flapping my hands in the shower! I feel a real sense of achievement for carrying the evening off successfully, and I know that even a year ago I would never have been able to stand up and speak in front of a group like that – let alone direct the proceedings.
I’m not in any hurry to repeat the experience – it was nerve-wracking and exhausting – but I feel proud of myself for doing a difficult job competently and managing to handle my anxiety. Thanks are also due to the people who took part on that night and were so supportive towards me – I couldn’t have got through it without certain people telling me early on that I was doing well and giving me a well-needed confidence boost.