I have already confessed my anxiety to this blog. I suffer from what has recently been described as high-performing or high-functioning anxiety. The more I feel I am losing control of the world around me, the more anxious I am, the more desperately I struggle to regain control. Often I can’t and so it can quickly become a spiral of helplessness dragging me down into a pit of despair. I used to spend days in this pit of despair. Often in bed unable to face the world. I wonder writing this how many meetings I have cancelled by email too petrified to lift the phone. I wonder how many people suspected the real reason behind my last minute change of plans. My business mind starts to calculate the money lost. The productivity hours wasted while I lay in bed mentally paralysed.
I am managing it far better now. Five years of hard work on every aspect of my personal development. Physical. Mental. Emotional. I can’t neglect any part of my whole else I will end up back in the pit. It’s been nearly six months since I last spent the day in bed. I am immensely proud of that. But as I look down right now at my ragged cuticles, I know I am never far away. I can never rest complacent.
But my anxiety is not a curse. It is a gift. Because when you have it, you see it in others. My management style at work is criticised by the other Directors. I make unusual recruitment choices. Often I hire people who also struggle with crippling anxiety. I build them up. I give them fancy job titles. I praise them. About 6-12 months in, they start to grow a little arrogant. I take people on with close to rock bottom self-confidence and after less than a year I have built them up so far they think the company couldn’t function without them. Which of course it could. So then it’s time to reign the ego in. Gently. Slowly. Pulling them back to realise the place best to reside is a balance between their crippling anxiety and their new found inflated sense of self-importance.
“You don’t make people prove themselves,” my Co-Founder told me recently, “you give it to them on a plate.” What he says is true but I want to make him understand that if these people had to fight for what I offer them then they would give up. Not because they don’t deserve it but because their anxiety would overpower their aspiration. I know because I have been there. I have been too crippled by fear to pick up the phone in a hotel and order room service. I have lost count of the amount of times I have gone hungry because my temporary state of paralysis prevented me from making any decision, let alone acting upon it.
And that is the tell-tale sign. Am I struggling to make a simple decision? It might be what time to meet. Whether to drive or get a taxi. Where to go. What to eat. Please make it for me. My ex husband would grow more and more frustrated at my inability to be decisive over these easy choices but all I wanted is for him to make the selection when I couldn’t. I am not being lazy. My mind is busy processing my anxiety. My mind is tired because it is constantly reassuring myself everything will be ok. Chances are I am making important decisions elsewhere and I am feeling overwhelmed by my lack of control. Be kind. Pick the restaurant. Choose the time. Squeeze my hand and tell me everything will be ok. I can do the rest …