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When Anxiety Makes Me Cancel Plans

Sarah McClure

I’m sorry I cancelled last minute. When I accepted the invite earlier this week I was feeling great. I was so excited. I was comfortable, and my anxiety was well contained. When I woke up this morning, I panicked. I have nothing to wear. Will they be able to tell I’ve gained weight? What if I slip up and say something weird and make a total fool of myself?

I just can’t handle “uncomfortable” today. I need certainty. I need to stay safe today. I need my pyjamas, tea and Netflix — my door locked to keep me safe from all the people. The warm pressure rising from my gut all the way up my neck is making it hard to breathe. Just thinking about being in a crowd of people tonight makes me cringe. My fear is on high alert. Except, what do I have to fear? I have no idea. But it’s true fear.

I have to cancel, but if I tell you the real reason, you’ll scoff at me. So what can I say? That I’m sick? No. Tired? Maybe. Plans got miscommunicated with my husband and he already had plans? Yes, that’s perfect!

Some might say I’m a pathological liar. I claim self-preservation techniques. Please don’t be disappointed. Next time, I promise. Because next time seems so far away and manageable.

I’m sorry I never answered your phone call. I tried to answer for the entire 20 seconds it rang. Instead, I just stared at your name flashing on the screen — a million thoughts rushing through my mind. What could you possibly want from me? If you’re trying to make plans, I’m going to say yes. But I can’t promise I’ll actually show up. If you need something from me, I’ll be terrified to tell you “no,” even though I can barely take care of myself at the moment.

Do you just want to have a conversation? Can I formulate sentences that even make sense right now? What if you ask me how I’m doing? I’ll be forced to lie and say, “Great!” Even though I’m still trying to calm myself down from hearing my phone ring. I don’t like the lies.

Even my lies make me uncomfortable. So I’ll just ignore you instead. If you need something important, you’ll text me. I can take time to organize my thoughts if we text.

I’m sorry I had to leave your party early. I was so excited to see you and everyone else when I show up. Congratulations on your engagement, by the way. I’m so happy for you. It’s just that, well — I wasn’t prepared for quite so many people. I had mentally prepared myself for your family, but I had forgotten his family and friends would be there, too. Making small talk is so hard for me — especially with strangers. There were so many people.

As the crowd began to thicken, I could feel that familiar warm pressure beginning to rise from my gut to my neck — mouth dry, sweaty hands — I was having a hard time catching my breath. The more conversations I had to participate in, the more my thoughts raced. Trying to hear people over my own thoughts grew more challenging by the minute. I had to get out. I’m sorry I missed such a momentous occasion in your life. But, congratulations.

I look around the room and I’m so content with being alone. I can feel my shoulders loosening the longer I sit. I sip my warm tea, curl my legs up and find a good series on Netflix.

I can shut my mind off now. I can let my anxiety cool off to a low simmer. No questions for me. No smiling for me. No demands of me.

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