*If you'd like any preconceived notions you have of me to stay in place, then here's a fair warning: don't read this post. Go here instead, where things make more sense.*
Sometimes I wonder if it’s not other people; it’s me.
Starting a new job always makes me self-conscious – more so when it's in such a prim and proper place as the tux industry. I worry about whether I've said the right thing, especially in a job where certain words and phrases are banned. I'm not even allowed to say "Can I help you?" - a phrase that's been drilled into me for ten years. I'm always on my toes to behave so damn properly, and most who know me know I don't care what strangers think of me.
I am more than willing to help people and more than willing to do whatever I can for them, but I want to feel like myself when I do it, and this job strips me of personality. I feel like a shell at work and always find myself saying the wrong thing - customers don't notice, and they wouldn't care even if they did, but I notice, and that's enough. And then when I act like myself, I feel unprofessional, even though I know I'm not. Silly brain.
Maybe it really is me. Maybe I’m the villain in my story. Whatever the reason, I feel like I fail at things more than usual lately.
I worry about my past conduct on a regular basis, too. It's like I haunt myself with my own mistakes. I finished filling out a long, complicated application last night, and shortly after sending it, I thought of a part that I really, really should have taken out because yeah, maybe they're okay with that slightly racy, off-topic thing I mentioned; maybe they'll be more likely to consider me. But just as likely, they'll see it and toss my entire 23 pages because of one sentence and then I'll end up working in a tux shop forever and I'll never get my book published and I'll eventually go bankrupt and start living in a box because that's what I think about when I'm really freaking out. And I'll think about it all day and worry and my nervous brain tics will click and click until I learn I'm in the clear. (I hope I hope I hope.)
Even cases where I know I've done or said the right thing play through my mind, especially when someone ends up hurt because of it. I hate knowing I've upset someone - my automatic instinct is to right it, but that's not always the best thing to do, for me or for the other person. Those situations eat at me like acid.
Having these things thrown into focus makes me want to hide from everyone. I get afraid that anything I say could be the wrong thing - anything I say could be misconstrued without my even being aware of it. It makes me want to dig a hole, close it from the inside, and sit in the dark in a little ball, never talking to anyone else.
I may not always care about what others think, but I always want to do the right thing. So when I do something wrong, and I know I've messed up, it really weighs on me. It's like having that high-pitched whining noise you hear in summer follow you around all day, but it's all in your head and no one else knows what's bothering you so they can't do anything to help. Or if they do know they're incapable of operating on your brain to remove it. (And really, what good are strangers in your life if they aren't brain surgeons?)
I tell myself that the high-pitched whine is in the past and thinking about it now won't do any good, but I still replay the event in my mind and usually end up having some kind of breakdown. I get depressed and moody; I hide from people who try to make me feel better, because for me, being depressed is more comforting sometimes. It's kind of like physics: an object in depression stays in depression until acted upon by an outside force.
Then I get into what Allie of Hyperbole and a Half calls a Sneaky Hate Spiral: everything seems like it's out to get me and little things make me even more upset about what a dysfunctional human being I am. My heart turns into a time bomb made of nerves, winding tighter and tighter in my chest. When it gets really bad, I like to go for a run to help ease the tension, but my injured leg has just started to feel better and I've been too busy the last couple of days.
It's a feeling that sticks around for a few days. Something will usually jolt me out of it: being forced to hang out with friends, a long talk with Spousal Unit, or remembering that others have it far worse than I do often get me back to my regular routine. But in the interim, my thoughts are dark and my happiness plummets. Luckily, I haven't had a chance to sit still in the last couple of days or I'd have really freaked out. By tonight, I'll be mostly fine again - as close to normal as I can get, anyway.
I'm really tired of this happening. I had hoped I'd gotten over this years and years ago, but I guess it's more embedded in my personality than I thought. It doesn't happen as often as it used to, but it's still often enough.
I take comfort in knowing I can't be the only one who overreacts like this... probably. I hope.