Thank you, Kate.
I’ve still not quite been able to come up with an adequate phrase to describe having social anxiety. Sometimes the old clichés are the best, and so I go with the duck- calmly floating above the water, but paddling like mad beneath.
I can be so good at hiding the furious paddling that even my closest friends have doubts that it exists. But if I were to invite you inside under the water, you’d see constant, frantic movement. Physiological reactions going mad for no reason, reacting to the unforeseen horror of merely having a pleasant conversation with someone. Tidal waves of thoughts rush over and over in a jumble, telling you what other people are thinking (although they are probably not), How stupid you look (although you probably don’t), how boring you are (although you’re probably not). These are all intersected by a knife of rationality, but there are so many of them it is impossible to keep up, and eventually this knife just ends up cutting you up on top of the waves, making you feel even worse in the end.
Eventually, this state becomes your norm. It becomes background noise, and the peaks of it get even higher in moments where you feel threatened. Our duck is thrashing relentlessly under the water every second of everyday, and the tiniest of waves sends him into freefall. Of course, Kate, you probably know how this feels already to a degree: it is stage fright that kept you away from us for so long.
Moments of true calm are few and far between when you reach this point, and even when they do occur, you start worrying about them- such internal silence starts to feel alien, and constant anxiety seems to be your default position. The otherworldliness of calm feels dangerous somehow.
That’s how I was this time last year. Things have now improved somewhat- thanks to the CBT, thanks to those around me, and in no small part thanks to my own stubbornness. I’m now at a point where the peaks are still there, but they’re not quite as insurmountable. My default position is no longer fight or flight, and I’m more able to ignore the thought onslaught. True moments of stillness are, however, still relatively rare.
I’m never usually able to lose myself in a moment, as this stupid anxiety makes me constantly self-aware. The other night though, I experienced several blissful hours of basically forgetting that I existed. All thanks to you, Kate.
You’ve always been able to lift me out of terrible moods. One of the joys of living on my own is that I can get home, and crank up your music as loud as I like. I can sing, I can let go, and I can dance about with the cat without anyone laughing at me. I often find that you’re able to lift me out of an approaching mist. You've been the manufacturer of one of my most reliable coping mechanisms.
I saw Before The Dawn the other night. I was scared of going in alone, but within minutes I was chatting away with other people. We couldn't believe our luck. I've honestly never seen so many utterly excited people in one place before.
I know that everyone else has loved it. I've read the reviews, and I've seen the tweets. I expected it to be good, but what I didn't expect was to be completely enraptured- with you, with the story of a woman in the water, of a dawning day, with the detail. I had expected a couple of tears, perhaps a couple of whoops if I was feeling brave. What I hadn't expected was to realise that I was so taken in by it all that I was no longer self aware. I sort of came to, whilst dancing madly away to Cloudbusting, and realised that the waves had stopped for me for 3.5 hours. Here I was, on my own, in a situation that would usually scare me, completely and utterly swept up in the world of your making.
Thank you, Kate. Thank you for that gift.