Five Hundred Words a Day: Nerves

I want to work on this project – I do, I do – but the nervousness is stopping me. I don’t want it to be poor, and I don’t want to let my collaborator down. That feeling of nerves is always unpleasant, and it’s the same kind of feeling one gets when suffering with anxiety. It’s not the same – it’s heightened. The sensation is sickness, or nausea, turned up to eleven, and triggered by activities you won’t guess until they’re happening to or with or around you. It’s a surprise – a whirling surprise when you recognise the thought of going to the supermarket churns your gut. It’s not the activity as it is; it’s the activity your brain has latched onto as stress-inducing, as the thing which it can project its anxiety onto. Because the anxiousness is somewhere else, somewhere hidden, manifesting itself like a boil from a dark and dungeon-like psychic hole. The anxiety is from your dying relationship, or the grief from your uncle’s death, or the breaking down of family ties, or simply your self-loathing, or some other little stone in your mind’s shoe. But to allow that anxiety to occur on that object, take a stand on that hill, is too much; then, you would have to face the pain and deal with that shit. So your brain spits out anxiousness onto a myriad of other activities because they are easier to control or manage or perhaps, just easier. This is my experience of anxiety. Possibly, this is not what’s really happening. Perhaps the trip to the supermarket I believe to be so simple if it wasn’t for my brain is, in reality, rife with stress. I must get there, which involves speaking to people and being outside. I must make decisions, hundreds of decisions, between different types of jam and which lettuce is the freshest and whether I can justify a two-for-one on biscuits. I must walk, sedately, wrangling a trolley or drooping with the weight of a basket, and not get in anyone’s way. I must not be the person who hovers, who loiters in that strange section lull between soup and pasta or cheese and washing powder, as they realise they must mentally shift a gear and hoist up a whole new set of decision-making criteria. I must collect together provisions to nurture and nourish me for the week, take them all out of the receptacle I’ve carefully slotted them into, and place them onto a moving belt designed to trap fingers, then put them back into another receptacle equally as carefully. Then I must pay. I must not run. I must be cheerful and not worry about being judged for the overall aesthetic of my grocery shop, even though the person behind me is constructing a narrative of my life from these aubergines and cookies and tampons and soft cheese. See, you just did it then. “What is she up to,” you wonder, “a woman buying those things?” No wonder I am nervous.

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