The Misfits’ Table

My anxiety is about doubt. Doubt in myself, in my abilities, in my right to be here. I worry about whether I fit in. I worry about what others see when they look at me. I worry that they will see my anxiety and decide they don’t like me anymore. That I’m unreliable because you can never know when my anxiety will emerge.

And yet the strangest thing happened this weekend. All week long I had been anxious about work. I was stressed out because I have a lot of schoolwork right now, and I didn’t know how I’d be able to get it done if I had to work all weekend. I told my bosses this, and they told me it was not negotiable.

Saturday night I’m at work and we take a break for dinner. I sat with a girl and two guys, none of whom I knew other than their names and faces. The girl told us that she got promoted earlier that day. And during the midst of her promotion, up at the front of the room shaking the officer’s hand, she was having a panic attack. Luckily she was able to sit back down before it escalated. Her friends told her afterwards how happy she looked. None of them even knew.

Wait… I’m not the only one who has panic attacks in these types of situations? Being military, having anxiety can get you kicked out. If you have panic attacks you are unfit for military service. And up until now, I thought it was only me who was trying desperately to hide their anxiety in fear of what would happen if they knew.

I told the girl that she isn’t alone. I told her it’s more common than she might think. Then I turned my attention to the two guys who were sitting with us. One told us that he also gets anxious, and he finds that what is most helpful to him is tea. He also told me he had a big travel mug of tea with him at work tonight. I wonder if that means he gets anxious at work sometimes too.

The other guy also joined in. He told us that he has social anxiety disorder. He told us about how groups make him anxious. And that sometimes when he’s with a group of people, even people who he’s known for years and is very comfortable with, sometimes he just needs to get away. He told us about when he was at a barbeque at a friend’s house and even though he should have been comfortable, he had to leave and go to his truck to just sit and be alone for a bit. He just needed to breathe.

So there we were, four misfits who live in fear that someone will find out about their anxiety. Four misfits who bonded over the thing that makes them worry, that makes them afraid. Just four people, sitting and talking over dinner in a room of 100 of our coworkers. Four people with more in common than you would ever guess just looking at us. Four people learning that even with the stigma, the fear of losing our jobs, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not fitting in, we are not alone.

Sometimes you just need to know that the people around you truly understand. Not because they can empathize, or they can imagine what it must be like. And if you know someone with anxiety and you help them through it, then thank you for being there. But sometimes you need to talk to others who are going through the same thing you are to really believe that it’s going to be okay. Maybe not immediately, maybe not without a struggle, and maybe not without a few setbacks. But it is. It’s going to be okay.


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About janinerussell

The transition to adulthood; reflecting on the past to create a better future.

2 responses to “The Misfits’ Table”

  1. Michelle says :

    “Sometimes you just need to know that the people around you truly understand.”

    I couldn’t agree with this more. I’m currently sitting here looking at my todo list for the day, essentially paralyzed with anxiety over one of the items on that list. Later, I know a friend will get online and talk me through it, because he knows what it’s like. Until then I just sit and look at the list…

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