Anxiety, Medical school, Mental Health, Relationships, Sexual abuse

Am I Overreacting?

Suffering from anxiety, I often have to take a step back and assess whether I am overreacting to a situation or if my worries are justified. And taking that step back is difficult because I usually don’t know if I am simply ‘reacting’ to a situation or if it would be classified as potentially overreacting. It’s a thin line, and not an easy one to distinguish. What makes it all the more difficult is that the act of overreacting is very subjective. What’s normal for one person, may not be so normal for another person. For me, I hate to be perceived as having overreacted to something, so I usually have to check in with the people around me.

It was a lot easier when I had the opportunity to discuss issues on a regular basis with my counsellor. She usually put things into perspective for me from a more objective viewpoint and that made it easier for me to know if I was overreacting or not.

Since having finished my counselling sessions, things are a lot more difficult as there isn’t just the one person I can check in with. Now, I usually have to ask my family and friends about their opinions on the situation, and I usually gather a range of different viewpoints and make my assessment. If the majority says that I am justified to react in a certain way, then I usually go with the majority and vice versa.

However, my fear of overreacting has led to situations where I possibly haven’t reacted enough. These situations normally involve reacting to behaviour that makes me uncomfortable. As you can read on a previous post, I had trouble dealing with sexual abuse as a child and my fear of falsely raising an alarm overrode my instinct to seek help. Similarly now, I have come across a few individuals over my time at medical school who have made me feel uncomfortable but I wasn’t sure if it was significant enough to raise an alarm. The last thing I want to be is ‘the boy who cried wolf’.

One of these individuals was an older medical student who made me feel uncomfortable within minutes of meeting him by displaying quite controlling and intense behaviour towards me. I felt uncomfortable as he summoned me with a beckoning gesture, after which he expressed his desire to marry soon; a desperate bachelor. The closeness with which he was standing next to me also made me very anxious, almost as if I was trapped. In my head, alarm bells were ringing but when I mentioned this individual with a few friends, some told me that there was no reason for me to be scared of him, whilst others asked me, “Why didn’t you just slap him around the face?” It’s in situations like these when I still struggle.

Another similar situation which occurred more recently involved somebody from my year who I met on my medical placement at hospital. He showed an interest in me, and we started joking with each other within a few hours of knowing each other. He ended up asking for my Facebook details, and after we parted that day, he immediately started messaging me on Facebook. A few messages in, he asked for my Snapchat, which I gave, but I got the feeling that he was moving a little fast, considering I had only met him that day. The messages then continued on Snapchat all the way until a good night message. The next time I met him, he ended up divulging very private details about himself and his family, which I would personally only divulge to someone when I trusted them implicitly, e.g. a very close friend. He started to make jokes that made me uncomfortable like saying he’d steal my duvet from my room when he felt cold at night, and so on. The messages continued and I felt quite overwhelmed at this point. I received a phone call from a relative and he was still messaging me but I didn’t reply. After I finished the phone call, I saw that he’d already started apologising to me for unintentionally doing something wrong as I hadn’t been replying. I was a bit surprised, but still unsure whether this was all normal. I talked about this to a few friends. Some of my friends joked about it, saying he was clearly seeking more than friendship, but my best friend got worried and told me to be careful in case he was a stalker. This definitely made me anxious. I contacted another friend, telling him about the situation and that I was starting to feel creeped out, and when I told him who it was, my friend laughed it off and said I didn’t need to worry as he was pretty sure the boy was gay. I felt a bit stupid at that point for making such a big fuss, but I don’t feel as if it was completely unjustified for me to have felt overwhelmed and scared.

So what have I learnt from all of this? It is definitely worth taking a step back to assess if you’re overreacting but at the same time, there’s nothing more reliable than our instincts. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so the best thing to do is to react when your alarm bells are ringing. If you overreact, then you look stupid of course. But if you don’t overreact and things are as bad as they seem, the consequences may be even more grave unfortunately.

 

Anxiety, Mental Health, Reality, Relationships, Stress

Paranoia or Reality?

Most of these days, I am struggling to understand whether I am just feeling paranoid or if my suspicions are justified. It may be closely linked with my anxiety, and my constant fear of losing people around me but my question is, how do I know for sure if I’m right?

My paranoia has affected my friendships before, and on reflection, I feel I misinterpreted their preoccupation with their work for indifference towards me and I ended up confronting them accusingly which brought about a great deal of friction between us. When I discussed situations like these with my counsellor last year, she had advised me that if I feel suspicious, the best thing to do is to ask openly without letting the suspicion brew in my mind. So, for example, if my friend hasn’t answered my text in a while and I feel she is ignoring me, it might be worthwhile dropping her a message to say, “Hey, I haven’t heard back from you in a while, is everything ok?” Or even if that doesn’t solve it then something as direct as, “Hey, I’ve kind of got the feeling that you’ve been ignoring me – have I upset you somehow?” And in fact, doing this has helped to sort out my suspicions and worries. What’s helped more is being open with my friends about my paranoia and letting them know that I might have to ask them directly if we’re still ok, and they’ve all been extremely understanding about it.

However, my more recent difficulties have been with my parents. Sometimes I feel as if they are upset or angry with me and when I ask them directly, they pass it off as being busy or tired. Having always been especially close to my Mum, I often feel that she becomes a little cold with me. It could obviously be because she is stressed out, but I really just don’t know. I then feel as if she’s lying to me when I ask her directly about it, just to avoid confrontation.

Another constant suspicion I have is that my parents are talking about me behind my back. I’ve tried eavesdropping but I’ve never heard anything of that sort, but whenever I see them talking quietly to each other, I feel as if they’re saying things about me. It could be completely unfounded of course, but I can’t help but feel paranoid.

When I think about where these paranoias stem from psychologically, I feel as if they are strongly related to my low self-esteem and my desire to always please people around me, which makes it difficult for me to face criticism. Maybe, if I can work on these aspects a little more, the paranoia may weaken because it would simply not matter to me what people are thinking or saying about me. I’m not sure at this moment as to how I’m going to go about doing that, but it’s worth thinking about.

Anxiety, Mental Health, Reality

To trust or not to trust? 

For the past few years of my life, I have struggled greatly when determining who I can trust and who I cannot. From a young age I was taught the basic, “don’t trust strangers”, and yet I’ve found myself to be most able to communicate with my counsellor, who is essentially a stranger to me. I still don’t know a single thing about her, but she knows my deepest darkest secrets. I value her advice more than the advice of pretty much anyone else. And I definitely trust her. 

Earlier today, a middle aged woman approached me outside Subway and begged me to buy her a sandwich saying she was starving. I had no change on me and I really felt sorry for her so I agreed. I told her to select her subway sandwich whilst I waited away from the queue. She chose her sandwich fillings and once it was time to pay, she turned around and asked me to make the payment, and I did, whilst she thanked me and hurried away with her food. I wonder now – what if I’d walked away just before the payment? How did she trust me to keep my word? How did I know whether she was lying about not having any money for food? We were complete strangers to each other. But there was definitely an ounce of trust between us. 

A similar situation occurred with me a couple of days ago. I left for the gym with my car and parked inside a shopping mall car park. I thought I had my purse with me, but when I felt in my pocket for my purse, it was empty. I started to panic because without any money, I wouldn’t be able to pay for my parking ticket and I wouldn’t be able to leave the shopping mall. I called home and nobody could find my purse. I thought I’d lost it somehow and I was distraught. I was at the payment meter and there was an elderly couple who were paying for their parking ticket. I turned to them and told them how I had lost my purse and couldn’t pay for my parking. They nodded their heads and took one look at me then asked how much money it was that I’d needed. They gave me the £1.50 I asked for and left. I was incredibly grateful at the time, but I do wonder now how they knew they could believe me. It really fascinates me.

On the other hand, I’ve had some very negative experiences with trusting friends and family. In the past, I made the mistake of trusting a couple of friends with some personal information that I did not wish to be divulged. I thought they could be trusted because they had also supposedly told me some of their secrets. However, the moment that our friendship had turned sour as a result of a disagreement, it didn’t take them a second to divulge my secrets to other people, which I had told them in confidence. Similarly, I’ve experienced a betrayal of trust when a close family member of mine made a fool of me by making me think they were telling me the truth, when in actual fact they had been lying to me for a few years. So is it always true that we can’t trust strangers? Sometimes the most deceptive people are those closest to us – similar to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. 

I spoke to my counsellor recently with regards to my challenge in knowing if I can trust my friends. A useful piece of advice she gave me was that it’s a good idea to test a friendship by telling them a very non-serious/false secret and over time observing whether they end up breaking their word to you. If they don’t, it’s a good indication that they can be trusted. 

Remember however, everybody lies. As cynical as it may seem, there is probably no one you can completely trust, but we must bear that risk of betrayal in all our relationships whilst trying to minimise the possibility. It’s easy to break someone’s trust, but it’s a hell of a difficult job to rebuild it.