The Life Of An Anxious Extrovert

My personality is full of contradictions.

I am:

an extrovert

but, I am also

anxiety.

By definition I am an outgoing, expressive person. I am a socialiser. I am the ‘life of a party’. To be honest – yes, I love to socialise. I don’t enjoy my own space and I love to talk. I like talking more than I like eating. Talking is as essential to me as breathing. I also love to express myself (in a non-obnoxious way) and I do love to be the life of a party. So, how can someone who is completely in love with being the ‘hey, look it’s me, I’m fun’ person but also be racked with anxiety on the inside. Well, I think it stems from the fact that I grew into my extrovert shoes and I didn’t grow out of my anxious ones…

As a child, I remember being crippled with anxiety a lot. I remember the mental torture of feeling sick with worry about borrowing a bird book from school without permission. It’s safe to say it was the most rebellious thing that I have ever done (still to this day). I practically thought that I should be imprisoned or expelled at the very least. The next day the book went back on the shelf and no one even noticed. Plus, I’m pretty sure kids were allowed to take the books home and bring them back anyway. Growing up, I was a goodie two shoes. I was an excellent student, I loved getting praise from the teacher and I always had glowing reports. I would also like to think that my parents would say that I was a good child to raise. I never intentionally did anything wrong and liked to be the golden child.

Alas, hormones kicked in and I cared a bit less about what people thought of me. The anxiety was still there – alive and kicking. However, I was growing up to be more outspoken and was becoming me. As we grow older, our personality forms and shapes along with our newly developed bits and bobs. The part of me that grew with force was my extrovert streak. I wasn’t ever a shy kid. But, I wasn’t the rowdy class clown either. In subjects like Mathematics, my teacher thought I was a mouse. Little did she know that I never spoke up because if I did it would be something along the lines of  ‘What is this shit?‘. But, to most teachers, I was a pro-active speaker and exuded confidence. I never lacked in confidence on the outside. But on the inside, I was full of self-doubt and worry.

Was I good enough? 

Should I have said that? 

What if something bad happens at Hannah’s party tonight? – Maybe I should cancel.. 

The extrovert part of my brain is constantly wanting social interaction. When I get invited out or asked to come along to a gathering my extrovert screams ‘YES!’ but then my anxiety can creep up. I can sometimes back out of a plan because I over-think everything. I try not to let my anxiety from getting in the way of social situations especially. I know that ultimately – I will love it when I am there. But, my anxiety will always want me to have an escape route. Of course, there are genuine reasons these days why I can’t attend something (friends, don’t think I don’t love you – I do).

On good days – I am the extrovert. These kinds of days are my favourite days. I love nothing more than to be able to socialise with ease. I love being able to chat away and not worry about what I just said, how did that made me look or did I make a bad impression?. I can just simply be me. I am a confident person. I know what I want and I am quite outspoken. This is why it shocks people when I sometimes reveal (for whatever reason) that I have really bad anxiety. I am a chatterbox, I speak what’s on my mind and I am renowned for being blunt and to the point. Therefore – how can I have anxiety?!

The answer is – I don’t know.

The two qualities that build me up to be who I am are two clashing forces. The extrovert vs anxiety. It also feels like they feud with each other and the one resents the other’s presence. Extrovert is my positive force. It’s the one that people like. People are drawn towards ‘extrovert’. They like her energy, her confidence, her humour and her apparent ease through life. People think that ‘extrovert’ has it easy. What could possibly be wrong in ‘extrovert’s’ life when she’s so sociable and people-loving? Little do they know that extrovert is having the battle of Hastings with ‘anxiety’ on the quiet. I think there is a lot to be said for never making assumptions about people. Life is an act. Humans pretend that they are swimming along happily and that their life is perfect. YouTuber’s and some bloggers are the perfect example of this. We love YouTuber’s because we see an example of a happy, perfect life and we hold onto the hope that one day, our lives can be just as fairytale. Behind the scenes they are cussing at their camera, boyfriends and their perfect house has chipped paint on the walls when you zoom in. It’s important not to forget that we only see the good bits.

Similarly, on a first impression, more often than not – we only see the good bits of someone. Of course, we get some devils out there who show their true colours like Cruella De Ville flashes her Dalmatian skins  – but generally, most people show their sunbeams not their grey clouds. When people hang out with me, they see my sunbeams. If I am close with them, I will also share my grey clouds. I think it’s important to be relatively outspoken about what’s going on. Of course, the moment that I do share with anyone – I have immediate anxiety:

‘I shouldn’t have said that!’

‘They won’t understand.’

‘What if they think I’m lying?’

‘What if they think I’m weird now?’

Anxiety is a powerful bitch. She can tangle your brain and get your body in her grasp and have momentary control. I suffer from the occasional panic attack (perhaps for another blog post) and I get spells where my anxiety is worse than other times. My breathing gets effected, my heart can start to race and my brain is going a million miles an hour trying to work out what’s going on. My body can be pulsing with anxiety while my brain can be at full power trying to make it calm down. It’s a definite duel between the two.

But – you just gotta bite the bullet. I do feel like tips and tricks for coping with anxiety would make a whole other blog post – so watch this space. The more that I tell people bits and bobs about my anxiety, the more I feel the weight of it lifts off my shoulders. I won’t go into a monologue about how I feel and what a terrible burden it is on my life to said person because nobody needs to hear that spiel. But, I tend to make a joke out of it. Of course, it’s no joke but that’s the way that I handle it. I make light of the situation and I find that it helps me. My anxieties are often trivial and the more I tell myself that – the more it helps me put it into perspective. I luckily don’t have anything terrible to worry about or anticipate. So, I bear this in mind when anxiety is pecking away in my brain. I visualise it as a pesky woodpecker and my brain is the wooden house. Pecking away, trying to get in. But, I bat that woodpecker away (I do not condone woodpecker violence, this is an imaginary situ). I want to let the ‘extrovert’ live her best life.

Notes to myself (an anxious extrovert);

Number one – It’s shit. 

Number two – ^ But it’s marginally in your control. Don’t let it run your life. You have control. 

Number three – Vocalise! Tell your bud what’s going on up there.

Number four – Acceptance. Don’t worry about being two polar opposites. Try your best to work through the crap spells and let ‘extrovert’ slaughter anxiety with her wand made from razor blades.

Number five – Be mindful. You know yourself – if you are feeling anxious, be wary of what your daily plans are. I find that if I am in a particularly anxious phase, I will avoid doing anything too ‘full on’. I avoid medical appointments (apart from the absolute necessary) because I personally know that those make me worse even on a good day.

Number six – You ultimately love human interaction and you will be ok. Yes I sometime clam up internally when I have a meeting or a social interaction but let that extrovert shine through! 

Number seven – Make plans and follow-through! Don’t be the flake. 

 

Your brain is a complex thing. It can be hit and miss whether or not you’ll wake up feeling like Kim Kardashian or Shrek. On those Kim K days nothing can stop you. But when you’re in your swamp, you need to find Donkey to make you feel great. Surrounding yourself with good people and those who understand makes the world of difference. Today, I feel like the off-spring of Kim K and Shrek – I’m a mixture of feeling collected and jittery. The woodpecker is trying to get in but I’ve got my bat at the ready.

RIP Woodie. x

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