Recently I had someone cancel on me. It led to a meltdown.
This cancellation caused so much anxiety that I went into a state of depression to cope with it. Sadly, this isn’t the first time, and I doubt it will be the last.
Allow me to share this story, and perhaps I can make sense of it.
My coworker, let’s just call her Susan, and I had made plans to go to lunch. We had been talking about it for a couple weeks, because it had been such a long time since we’d got together.
Side note, we work in different departments, on different floors, and we are rarely ever in the office on the same days.
Anyway, Susan and I had set the day. Next Thursday, we’re going out for lunch. It was a full ten days away, but I was super excited.
I get to see my friend. I get to go to this restaurant across the street that makes delicious Greek salads. What’s not to look forward to?
We continued to talk about it several more times throughout the course of those ten days. The more we talked, the more I started to visualize the day.
Come Thursday morning, while I was getting the kids ready for school, preparing lunches, I did not make a lunch for myself because I had plans.
When I get to work, I start up my laptop, still confident about my lunch date. I’m happy.
I know exactly where I’m going, who I’m going with, and what I will order. I’ve visualized this so much, I can almost taste my salad and it’s not even 9am.
After about thirty minutes, I can’t hold back my excitement anymore, so I message Susan, with something lame like, “Good morning, aren’t you excited for lunch?”
She replies, “Sorry, I can’t make it today. Something came up.”
My world crashes.
In that moment I felt so many different things, that it nearly caused a blackout.
I had to sit with my thoughts and focus on them, and if anyone interrupted, well I probably shouted, “Leave me alone,” or “Go away,” but I was so in my head, I can’t remember clearly.
Can you imagine yelling, “Go away” at your coworkers? It’s not professional and I can only hope that it didn’t happen that way, but I can’t be certain.
My saving grace is that I had a headset on, so it looked like I was on the phone, and anyone would assume I was in a meeting.
Since no one has said anything to me since, I imagine whatever happened during my ‘blackout’ has been long forgotten.
Except I can’t forget.
Anxiety Cancels Out Normal Thoughts
First, I felt embarrassment, and as you know, I don’t handle embarrassment well.
I was embarrassed because I was so excited, I forgot to ask, “Are we still on?” and I just assumed that we were.
It made me feel foolish that I had been so happy about something, that I hadn’t even thought about the potential that it wouldn’t come to fruition.
Then, I was disappointed. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t see my friend.
I understood that something had come up, but I was genuinely sad that I’d have to push off the lunch, because I really wanted to see her.
But I hadn’t stopped feeling embarrassed yet, so now I was both embarrassed and disappointed, and those two feelings were clashing.D
I then had to process my next steps. I didn’t bring a lunch to work; what was I going to eat?
I can’t go to a restaurant by myself. It’s too late to make plans with anyone else, and I had already visualized that salad.
This is where my mind begins to collapse. The anxiety had become so overwhelming, that I simply didn’t know what to do.
It should be simple, either go get a salad, or go somewhere else. It can’t be that hard.
Except it was.
I started picturing myself at the restaurant alone, and everyone making fun of me. Logically I know that this wouldn’t happen, but in my head, I couldn’t see past it.
I’m so pathetic. I have no friends. Who goes to a restaurant alone? No one.
I know this isn’t true. I know people do this all the time. These thoughts come from my social anxiety, and while I’m in the middle of a panic attack, there’s no reasoning.
How Anxiety Leads to Depression
Ok, well I don’t need to go to the restaurant to eat. I could order my food over the phone, pick it up, and eat it at my desk.
- What time do I call to place my order?
- Is now too early?
- What time do I walk over to get it?
Walk? I can’t walk all the way over there alone. Yes, the building is literally right next door, but I can’t just walk across the parking lot. Twice.
Everyone will be watching. Everyone in my office will be standing at the windows, pointing and laughing at pathetic little me. Everyone at the restaurant will be doing the same.
How am I supposed to get there and back when everyone in both buildings knows that I’m alone and pathetic?
I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.
I need to go home. Pack up and leave. Work from home today. It will be fine.
Except it’s not fine, because everyone saw me come in. If they see me leave only an hour later, it will just highlight how pathetic I am.
Stay put. Don’t move. Go home at lunch.
Embarrassed, disappointed, and now in full blown panic mode, I shut down. I moved right on into the depression phase.
In this phase, I just moved through the rest of my day in the complete dark. I didn’t really engage with anyone.
I accomplished my work, and remained focused on the tasks at hand, but couldn’t think about the future, or even the next thing on the list until I got through whatever it was that I was focused on.
On Taking Time to Understand How Anxiety and Depression Works
Here’s the thing: at this time, I couldn’t even explain what I was going through to anyone. I didn’t have words.
And I knew in my heart that no one would understand because let’s face it: someone cancelled lunch plans; it’s not the end of the world.
While there are many of us who suffer from these disorders/diseases/afflictions, whatever you want to call it, we know that we are not alone – and yet in that moment, we are.
I was not in the right frame of mind to even begin to explain what I was feeling. I was too busy feeling it.
I couldn’t even ask Susan what came up, why she had to cancel, or if she was ok. I couldn’t begin to look at alternative dates to make up for the one being cancelled.
Focusing on putting on that fake face, pretending to be normal was taking every ounce of my energy.
The thing is, I was completely fine the next day. I got through it. I got through it alone, but I managed.
The next day, I could talk about it. I could ask Susan what happened, make other plans, and actually talk about my collapse the day before.
I needed that time to get through all that pain that anxiety and depression causes.
All this because someone cancelled lunch. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but that’s my life.
We know these things can’t be helped. People will cancel. We will get over it and move on and make new plans, and everything will be ok.
It just takes me so much longer to process this cancellation. All I’m asking for is your understanding and your patience, while I work through all these feelings.
Because this is what it’s like for someone with anxiety.
We suffer through a stupid amount of thoughts and feelings, and we just need a little bit of time to make sense of them all.