I was recently in a situation where I was uncomfortable and anxious but knew a way to deal with it. Two, actually — neither of which I was willing to try because I was worried about what people would think.
Now, this might make more sense if these were big crazy solutions to big crazy problems, but they weren’t. Essentially, I was feeling anxious while on a trip with a group of others, and that anxiety was feeding into my claustrophobia about the small rooms we were sleeping in. I took some meds for the anxiety and claustrophobia, but I knew I didn’t have enough for the whole trip. And anyway, popping pills for my problems never quite feels right.
In my mind, there were two obvious solutions: I could ask others if they had any kind of sleep aids, and I could find some other place to sleep. Each of these would be quite simple to implement. But each of them would announce to people that I was feeling anxious and claustrophobic. And in my mind, this ruled out both of them because both would expose me as weak and neurotic.
Or so my mind told me. And even after all these years, I tend to believe what my mind tells me. But in this case the situation got bad enough — I not only couldn’t sleep but couldn’t even stay in the sleeping room — that I finally snapped and asked for help. First I asked somebody if they had sleeping aids, and after a couple nights of that I decided to ask the people where we were staying if I could sleep someplace else.
Of course, nobody cared nearly as much as I thought they would — or as I did. And so I was able to get some help. In fact, the latter solution, sleeping in a community area of the place where we were staying, put me in touch with some new people and interesting experiences. And I didn’t have to take any more pills.
It was funny how simple it was — once I did it. These things can look like cliffs before you go over them and then curbs after you’ve done it. So I’ve tried to keep this in mind.
And I have plenty of opportunities to work on it, because my thinking and worrying about what others will think puts me in this type of bind all the time. doesn’t matter how small a matter it is — asking somebody to let me out of my seat to use the bathroom, or bring me the bill, or even pass the damned salt — I will literally sit in discomfort and disappointment rather than run even the slightest risk that somebody might somehow think my request is inappropriate or my condition below acceptable. Anything but show weakness or a need for help!
It’s crazy, and also funny if you stop and think about it. We literally have a choice: speak our truth or stay uncomfortable, even treated badly. How often do we stuff our truth and choose the latter?