Paranoia is an instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me”)
This weekend I had my birthday. I’ve not looked forward to this yearly event in a long time, but this time round I wanted to approach it with a more positive mindset. Sadly in the last couple of years a lot of people I know have died very prematurely, one girlfriend younger than myself, and rather than once again bemoan my advancing years I wanted to acknowledge how lucky I am to have the luxury of getting older.
This felt like a healthy approach to what is essentially just another day despite the fact us humans decide to mark it in some way, usually with cake, each 365 days. But while my intentions were good and positive, I unfortunately don’t have control over what might occur on the run up to the day, nor what effect those events will have on my mood and anxiety levels.
During the week I had a meeting in London, and although fairly successful I of course when through my usual ritual of going over the conversation from start to finish in my head during the commute home. Inevitably if you access any interaction as thorough as this you’ll find moments where your response could have been timed better, said with more measure, or alternatively with more enthusiasm.
It’s also been rammed into me so often to stop putting myself down, particularly in business meetings, that in my attempts to sound confident I now worry I may come across as too forthright and lacking in humility. Or worse I wonder if my confident facade is unsuccessful at masking a girl crippled with insecurities. After my dissection of this hour meeting I decided it wasn’t a disaster but that there were a couple of sentences I would take back or rephrase if I was to leave the experienced unscathed in terms of my habitual paranoia.
I tried to distract myself from this overthinking by creating a Halloween video. I haven’t found the motivation or energy to make many videos other than simple blogs or sit down chatty ones for a long while, so felt excited to make something a bit more artistic again. I created a backdrop using a black furry blanket which I covered in fake cobwebs and spiders I got from Tiger, and set up my lights and tripod. I wanted to create a really quick and simple look for those, like me, who have very little money to spend on personal Halloween decoration, nor the time or energy to spend . In the end I opted for a Day of The Dead look, not only was it doable with my fairly underwhelming make up skills, I have grown up surrounded by Mexican culture as my parents lived there before I was born, so it was a look I wanted to emulate.
So I managed to film and edit the video in the day, and although the make up itself was a bit messy and basic, I felt a huge sense of achievement that I’d manage to upload that type of content again. For the first time in a while I felt kinda excited to hit publish. I’ve taken a bit of a battering lately on YouTube lately, I recently took down a couple of videos as I couldn’t deal with the negativity I was getting, and I didn’t have the mentel energy/strength to respond to the comments even though they would have proven them unfair or incorrect. I thought I might get my mojo back with this video, and perhaps even start to enjoy uploading again. Then a few minutes after posting, with a feeling of excitement in my belly I headed to the comments to find just one, one telling me that I was being insensitive to another culture, although said in quite a ferocious way. I felt the wind instantly taken out of me and I sobbed on my bed till Si came in and said, ‘What happened?’. My reaction seemed over the top and irrational, but I’d put a lot of hopes on that upload – a hope I’d enjoy being a YouTuber again, a hope I’d please my viewers and provide something entertaining to watch, a hope it would be a day where my energy was well spent, a hope I’d get a zest for creating again because of the positive reaction I hoped would happen as a result of the upload. In a second all that was dashed, and I felt like everyone seeing the comment would agree with them and think of me as some insensitive and thoughtless cretin who doesn’t have respect for other cultures. That’s what stung the most, feeling that others would be thinking how foolishly unaware I was, or that I was someone who didn’t care about offending others. I felt utter shame. Si and others told me to not let it get to me, but I felt truly awful about it. Even when a number of Mexican people contacted me to tell me that actually encourage videos and were the opposite of offended, I still felt gutted that I’d upset someone in that way. They’re not wrong for feeling that way, no one else can tell them they’re wrong – a feelings a feeling even if it’s not one that matches ours.
To make myself feel better for my unwise tutorial I embarked on making another Halloween video -an acknowledgment of my mistake, and a way of showing people I was trying to make amends. By this point there was no pleasure in making the video, I was exhausted from making the other one, this was self inflicted punishment in a way.
By the time came for me to press public on this video I had those horrible sickening nerves and heart palpitations you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night. I guess it’s a feeling of inevitable doom. I felt like I was awaiting the next phase of torture. I say torture as for me, everything negatives comes with being a YouTuber serves as fuel for my anxiety and depression, and unfortunately that fuel seem to be particularly potent and flowing at the moment. Being someone who works on the internet has become a living hell for me. At this point I had convinced myself I wasn’t going to get any positive response and that everyone was still thinking bad of me.
Then comes my actual birthday. I’m used to waking up to a lot of well wishes on my Facebook and on my phone, and although there were plenty, it was notably less than last year. Many people I think of as good mates, or who I expected to message in some form or another didn’t, and once again I started to be overwhelmed by paranoia. Are they fed up of my miserable and self pitying tweets and blog posts? Do they think I’m a nasty person? Am I completely forgettable? Or is this sort of reaction why they didn’t send their wishes, because I manage to make every small thing about my personal failings?
My rational side, which by this point was like a puny stick insect fighting against a Silverback gorilla ,was reminding myself that I often forget to wish people happy birthday, particularly since largely abandoning Facebook this year. I know from my perspective it doesn’t come from a place or hate or not caring, it comes from being oblivious to what day it is and whose birthday has fallen on it. I also tried to listen to Si’s assurances that it was only because my birthday had fallen on a Saturday and people were busing getting ready for Halloween or enjoying weekend activities away from their computers etc. There were glimmers of time where I’d think ‘Yea, you’re right? That must be what it is’, but it wasn’t long before I was back, thinking the worst, and thinking the world would be better off without me in it. Sounds extreme I know, but that’s the fragility of my mind right now after what has been a brutal year, without medication, and without any standout highs to carry me to the next one.
I should have taken a break from my phone, realising that I had people in my company who loved me and who were wanting to make me feel treasured on my birthday, but alas I had a sponsored Instagram deadline that required me to still beaver away on it for a bit throughout the day. It wasn’t long before I noticed more things that triggered the paranoia further. People I thought hadn’t messaged because they were busy, or away, were tweeting and posting, even watching my Insta stories. I saw a few vague passive aggressive Instagrams posts and tweets which I convinced myself were about me, because you know, I’m such an evil and rubbish person. Even as I write this I’m occupied with the worry that I’ve upset those people, or done something to make them think bad of me.
Si had organised that we have my fave doggy Rosie for the day as a birthday surprise, knowing her unconditional loves and endless nestles into my chest always make me feel better. It worked well for a bit, but even when I was squeezing her Si saw my eyes glaze and knew that I’d gone back to the realms of overthinking and paranoia again.
I’ve always had this tendency, but it’s definitely gone up a few notches this year, I guess because once again I’ve not managed to achieve all I hoped, and I feel like a failure. I figure lot of people who suffer with bad self esteem and low confidence find it all too easy to believe that others will have similar low impressions. Why would I think anyone likes me, if I can’t find anything to like about myself? One of my worst habits is beating myself up for something I did ages ago, something that wasn’t even that bad. For instance I said something at Reading Festival that I felt someone listening interpreted as bitchy, when I was actually making comment on an industry rather than a specific person. I still play the moment over, and wonder if I let myself down, and whether that person looks at me in a different way now. Realistically that person probably wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about if I brought it up, they probably weren’t even listening, but in my brain that is another moment that’s tainted my year and my feeling towards the person I am.
I now feel stuck in this inconvenient and utterly draining limbo with everything and its completely overwhelming. I know that if I socialised there’s a chance I’d realise that I do have lots of friends that care about me and don’t think I’m 100% awful, but I’m paranoid I’m going to do or say something that might make them think I’m at least 50% rubbish, or worse that I’ll find out those vague passive aggressive tweets/Instagrams were about me and I was right to feel crap about myself. I’m scared to schedule anymore work type situations like interviews/meetings because I’m worried that instead of furthering my career, or creating great new relationships, I will say something to put them off me for life, or set my back further than I am already. Or that if I upload the work I got due to the connection I will inevitably get some unpleasant feedback via the comments that will encourage that grey mist again. I’m scared that people will get fed up of me reacting so powerfully to things that seem like very small and insignificant events in their eyes.
This leads to my final point about all this. We are encouraged to talk about our feelings in regards to our mental health now. My mental un-health is such a prominent and controlling part of my day at the moment, that if I am to speak honestly on my various platforms there’s going to be A LOT of fairly dark outpourings. I’m starting to feel paranoid that the regularity of the sharing of these thoughts is becoming tiresome, and even annoying. I’m worrying that it’s making me seem like a nightmare, someone that no one should or would want to work with? I’m worried that people feel like they can’t relax around me in case they say something that’s going to upset me. I’m concerned that people think I’m a self obsessed self pitying maniac that needs to get over themselves.
As Shirley said ‘ I think I’m paranoid….and complicated.’ That’s all well and not good, but what do I do about it?