I am my own worst enemy. I set myself impossibly high standards and get depressed when I fail to reach them. If I get close to achieving a goal, I automatically raise the bar higher. That means that I have never once reached a personal goal and felt good about it. Take, for example, driving to work. I started a new job at the beginning of September, and the only way I could get there was to drive by myself. A few months ago, this would have been impossible; I wouldn’t have made it to the end of my road. Nevertheless, I have made it every day so far. In theory, I should be incredibly proud of the fact that I can control the fear enough to let myself work. In reality, the irrational voice at the back of my head kicks in:
This is a completely pointless and destructive way of thinking, because it leads straight back to more panic attacks. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to shake. It’s like I’m in a permanent tug of war for space in my brain; the little voice will get louder and louder if I’m not continuously forcing it back into its box.
I wrote the first draft of my personal statement a few days ago, and got it typed up. I also emailed Royal Holloway about potentially applying, booked a riding lesson, tidied my room and went shopping by myself. In return, the voice shut up for a day, which means that I’ve won a round and I earned the prize of relaxing for a few hours.
I’m not crazy (I am aware that I sound a little bit crazy). I’m not schizophrenic; the voice is not telling me to do things, I don’t have the Queen of England sitting on my shoulder telling me I’m not worthy. The voice is entirely my own. There is a theory that people with anxiety and panic disorder are reacting to stimuli that aren’t there; their fight-or-flight response is hypersensitive. I’m pretty sure that the little voice of panic I hear is a primitive part of me that controls the fight-or-flight response. It’s something most people learn to control or squash in their day to day lives. But for whatever reason, mine has broken out of its little box and is trying to take over my head. Maybe it’s through some misguided ‘protective’ instinct. I don’t know. All I know is, it’s amazing how terrified you can get of your own imagination.