I’ve always struggled with social anxiety. From the first job I had at a museum gift shop when I was a preteen, to my first foray into cubical corporate realness several years ago, few things in life were more anxiety-provoking than Sunday nights.
As is often true in the case of anxiety, the obsessive fretting was far worse than whatever event I was worried about. Monday morning came, I went to work, and I was usually fine. Of course, there were weeks when I was not; when every night felt like a Sunday night and my anxiety about getting up — about showing up — kept me awake all night. Staring at the clock for hours only increased the feeling. It was a vicious cycle: stay up all night worrying that my alarm won’t wake me up on time, alarm goes off on time — but I haven’t slept. Oops.
There was always the constant barrage of ringing phones, clacking keyboards and the office jungle, all of which made my stomach perpetually knot and my blood pressure skyrocket. It wasn’t a healthy environment to be in, but what choice did I have? “Isn’t this what it means to be gainfully employed, isn’t this adulthood?” I would say to myself as I hyperventilated in the bathroom for the second time in a single afternoon.
As I became more competent at the job, the anxiety didn’t lessen. Rather, it intensified proportional to the amount of responsibility I was given, to the heightened expectations. I was more of a wreck after my big promotion than I’d been when I was a newbie.
You’d suppose then that now, a few years later at the start of my first year writing full time from home, that I’d feel much better. That the Sunday night anxiety would evaporate, I wouldn’t have a constant stomachache from the corsetted strangle of beige pantyhose and that my heart wouldn’t jump up into my throat every time the phone rang.
My theory is that people with anxiety will always be anxious, even when things are going well. I admit that, comparatively, my anxiety is less because I work at home. But I’m still anxious. I’ve just got new things to be worried about.
Am I going to gain weight from sitting so much? Will my cardiovascular health be forever compromised? If I work from home, why is my house such a mess? How long has that coffee mug been on my desk? Do I have to wash it, can I just toss it in the bin and pretend it never happened? When was the last time I went to the grocery — is it okay to eat dry cereal for lunch? Is that a thing? How much coffee have I had — am I okay? Is this okay? I haven’t talked to a real person in a few days, maybe I should go out. No, I can’t, I have deadlines to meet and — well, I don’t want to leave the house.
I’m happy with the work I’m doing, I’m passionate and fulfilled with the work, but I’m disappointed that I’m still anxious about my life. I got what I wanted: no more cube, no more runs in my stockings, no more meetings or calls placed to the IT department, no more reports to run or commuting or cold coffee. No more office politics. No more potlucks.
Yet here I am, 9 o’clock on a Monday morning in the same shirt I’ve been wearing since Friday night, nothing in my belly but coffee and a deep, hollow, resounding sadness — the source of which is a mystery to me. My dog is at my feet and is bored, I’m sure of it. My deadlines are stacking up. I’m listening to that same, damn Sia song on repeat because I can’t find the tab it’s playing from — damn you, Google Chrome. I’m sitting at my desk, which I’ve moved around in my apartment so that I can swivel around in my leather office chair to let off steam. I sit curled up in it, knees to my chest, and I look at the slovenly state of my apartment. I vowed that this would be the year I hire a housekeeper. Pathetic, I know, but when you need to write 12+ hours a day to pay for your living space you find that cleaning and organizing it no longer has a point. My eyes lazily pan across the room to the bay window. It’s snowing. I’m glad I don’t have to get dressed and go shovel in my three inch heels, bound by a pencil skirt and my Roth IRA.
Still, as I hear cars humming by outside, I find myself nostalgic for the feeling of going somewhere, of my body moving forward in time.
Reprinted with permission from Human Parts. Want more? Check out these related stories: