It was Friday the 13th of October, and I was preparing for a night out with my boyfriend. I suppose to any other 21-year-old this wouldn’t be a big deal, but my anxiety has made me fear an evening out. I panic about where I’m going, who I’m going with, what they’ll expect from me, who we might bump into, what I’m drinking, how much I’m drinking, how it will affect me…. I could go on. Almost a year ago, my boyfriend and I had plans for dinner at a nice restaurant, I was looking forward to it all day and picked out an amazing outfit, only to experience a hellish panic attack five minutes before we were due to leave, so we didn’t go. I was heartbroken and disappointed in myself that my life would be dictated by my anxiety like this. I had to get my life back.
My boyfriend planned this just a week before. As usual with my anxiety, it seemed like a great idea at the time and I was very optimistic about going out on a Friday night. There was a blues band playing a gig at a local venue we’d been to before, he said, “Even if it’s shit, we’ll still go and have a good time.” I realised that this was my opportunity to reclaim everything my anxiety took from me, to go out and have fun. This was my first ‘night out’ of the year, and for once I was not going to spend a Friday night in bed at 9pm, scrolling social media and seeing everyone else my age going out and living a carefree life while I cradled a cup of tea and wondered if I was just old before my time.
I promised myself that this night would be the one, and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I finished work at 4pm and got home, I had to make sure I was prepared. Everything I did from this point onwards would affect the rest of my evening, so my anxiety says. I had a light meal: I don’t want to be so full that I’m sick (I hate the thought of being sick in public), but I don’t want to drink on an empty stomach and get too drunk, that would trigger my anxiety too. I had an outfit planned: my favourite thigh high boots with a black dress: It wasn’t bodycon so I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious and lock myself in the toilet in a state of near tears if I saw a prettier, skinnier girl that night, and I could sit down and move around in it comfortably so that it wouldn’t cut into me and make me feel sick (again with the fear of that). It was dressy enough to make me feel pretty, but not too flashy that I didn’t feel like me. I applied a dark red lipstick for the false confidence effect, and my boyfriend and I headed out.
I had to plan my first drink carefully, had to rehearse my order so I didn’t mess it up when I got to the bar, and I had to make sure to not mix drinks because mixing drinks would make me sick and feeling sick would make me anxious and feeling anxious would make me sick and – yeah, I would have just wanted to go home.
The pubs were busy, it was a Friday night after all, and I could feel the walls starting to close in around me, all the clinking glasses and music and chatter merging into one loud noise burrowing into my ears. Luckily, there was a table free in the beer garden, and on a cold October night, the air was cool and the atmosphere was peaceful. I was nervous about going to see the band though, because the venue could be quite stuffy and claustrophobic sometimes. I finished my first drink quickly, Scottish jokes aside, I think the nerves helped me neck it.
But do you know what? I had a bloody great time. I drank freely with no strict anxiety looming over me and casting worrying thoughts over everything I did or said that night. A barmaid complimented me on my outfit, she probably didn’t think much of it, but it gave me so much confidence. The band put on a great show, I even danced. Anxiety wouldn’t dream of letting me dance.
I don’t know how the hell I did it, but I did. And I’d do it all again.
Don’t let anxiety shut you down, take care of yourself, but break that cycle and prove your anxiety wrong. You’d be amazed at all the things you never thought you could do.