Running Late – Time for anxiety

Well, it’s Monday again. I am beyond frazzled this morning. Ever have one of those mornings when your alarm clock doesn’t go off and you wake up when you’re supposed to be walking out the door? Yep, that was my morning. Do you want to know what I hate more than a good many things in this world? Being late. I am never late. Not ever. “Late” for me, is arriving 15 minutes early. I’m compulsive when it comes to being on time.
I can tell I’ve made progress in my anxiety disorder though because I was not completely reduced to a panic attack. Usually if I even think there’s a possibility of being late my heart begins to race, my hands start to shake, my thoughts jump and race. The air feels like it’s constricting in my lungs and all the walls begin to feel like they’re pressing in, the ceiling a little too close. Nothing moves fast enough, everything is in my way, slowing me down. In the past I’d be losing my tempter, swearing up a storm, and trying to wipe the tears from my eyes as I applied my eyeliner. Can you say futile? Now at least, I can take a deep breath, and while I still have a few choice words for my unreliable alarm clock, I can get myself pulled together without dissolving into a puddle of tears and self-deprecation.
In part I think it helps that I have compulsive morning rituals. I do the same things, in the same order, every morning. I don’t have to think about what I need to do, it’s practically automatic. Get up, wash my face, brush my teeth, do my hair, do my make-up, get dressed, get my gym clothes, make my lunch, get out the door. Those are the things I must do, and I can do them without having to put any thought to it.
I managed to only be 15 minutes late, which coincidentally is the time it takes me to get ready in the morning. I missed the most important part of my morning ritual though and I still feel guilty for it. The first thing I do when I wake up is play with and brush my cat in the morning. He wakes up when I do, I can hear him purring when I skritch his ears real quick. When I pull myself out of bed and he goes to his spot, flops over and looks at me waiting for his brush, my heart breaks, and I’m overcome with guilt because this morning I just don’t have the time. I feel like such a bad person when I can’t give him the attention he needs. I’m sure people will think this is silly, but he’s my only family out here, the only one I know won’t leave me, and he deserves all the love I can give him.
Two hours later my heart is just now barely starting to slow down. Driving to work was frantically surreal. I’m out of sorts and still feel like I need to rush and push and get everything done as fast as humanly possible. It would almost be a wonderful efficiency motivator if I didn’t feel like my world was going to spin out control.
I really am much better than I used to be. Social situations barely produce panic for me if I think I’m going to be a few minutes late. My eyes rivet to the clock and I monitor every minute still, but now I know that the world will not end and my earth doesn’t quake with anxiety. Those official things though, getting to work, making appointments, being at meetings; these things I still need to be on time for. My anxiety spikes but I can control how it shows. In fact, I usually manage to stop it from showing at all except in an initial rush of sweeping in through the door. No tears, no swearing, even the dizzying anxiety is a little lessened enough to hide that it’s there at all.
Being late has always made me feel like I’m holding up other peoples lives, like I’m forcing them to stop what is important just for me. Guilt. I’ve interrupted their plans, slowed them down, delayed their needs, just because I couldn’t move a little faster. I’ll have let them down. It’s selfish to make people wait on me.
I’m sure this goes back to when I was little. My family was always late for gatherings. Have you ever tried to wrangle 3 young children, get them dressed and ready and out the door? I haven’t, but I’ve seen other people try, it takes forever. “We’re going to be late! Are you ready! Come on, we have to go! They’re waiting on us! We’ll leave without you. You should have done that sooner.” Ghosts of words I remember hearing so often they’re permanently imprinted on the inside of my mind.
It took a long time for me to get this under control. Day by day, allowing myself to close the gap between arriving early and simply on time. Miraculously, the world didn’t end! In fact, no one even noticed. Hah! It didn’t seem to be such a big deal to anyone else, and over time I’ve allowed myself to relax a little. It’s still sort of a big deal to me, it’s important to be punctual, but it’s not the end of the world if I’m not. Yay progress.

2 comments on “Running Late – Time for anxiety

  1. I'm so with you on this one. 15 mins early is LATE but very few people understand that. Everything must be done NOW! which is not how most people work and is something I have a tremendously hard time dealing with. Just being "on time" causes me to have panic attacks still. I'm not really sure what this stems from. I think for me it's more if I'm late all of the attention will be focused on me and I just want to be invisible. It gives me a sense of control if I'm early and can get a sense of my surroundings before others are there.

  2. I totally agree. I hate having all those eyes drawn to me which is inevitably what happens when you walk in the door after everyone else is already sitting down. DEFINITELY feel that sense of control when I am early. It means my day has been structured, things have been planned out, I'm moving and shaping things the way I need them to go = Control. When I was at University I used to get to class half an hour early. The quiet time to settle down, organize my stuff and my day, it was actually peaceful and let me really settle down.

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