I’m Running Away and I’m Terrified… But I’m Doing It Anyway!

(This post was written last year)

Some people run away to join the circus, I’m just taking off for a week to a writer / artist’s retreat. This might not be a big deal to most people, but for those of us with anxiety, there are a lot of potential triggers to be dealt with.

New Places
I have many allergies, many things that make me uneasy, and my tolerance for annoyances is a lot lower than most. I can handle anything for a day or so, but a full week might be a bit much. I assume I’ll be able to deal with it, but I need to pack well just in case – earplugs in case the person in the next room snores, antihistamines and all allergy and asthma meds, all possible defences.

New People
Let’s face it, a certain small percentage of the population are total jerks. I have to hope that people spending a week at an artist’s retreat aren’t the sort of people to douse themselves in body spray and stomp around yelling into their phones all day long. But you never know – human beings are random. There might be confrontations with strangers. There might be strange social boundaries that I do not understand, or personal space issues of mine that they don’t understand. It’s the unknown that makes me a bit twitchy.

This is totally illogical, and I am reasonably certain that these artists will either collaborate or keep to themselves, but they’re likely not pushy or annoying. Why would they be? This is a perfect example of imagination jumping to the worst. I don’t want to believe the worst of humanity is likely, so why do I even think of such things? Anxiety. It’s the dark cloud spread over the mind at all times if you let it be there.

Can I trust myself to Work?
I am there to be productive – to work on my new poetry collection, really learn my new camera, go on photo safaris, take a zillion notes on upcoming projects, brainstorm, write an ebook. What if I nap the whole time? What if I stare at the wall and cannot even get started? What if I let myself down? What if I place impossibly high expectations upon myself and fall short? How much work each day will be enough? Will I be proud of the work that I do? I feel that value for money must always be acknowledged – I am paying to stay here for a week, I need to churn out an amount of work that reflects that amount.

I am a busy person, and feel that I am never producing enough. However, I cannot expect to make up five years of “not enough” in one week. I also need to enjoy my time. I need to unclench, and acknowledge the atmosphere, the wonder, the “running away” part of it all. I will also need to allow myself to be spontaneous, no matter what I was supposed to accomplish that day. If there is a thunderstorm over the lake, I should be grabbing my camera and shooting the cloud formations. If there is a perfect sunset, I should drop everything and go admire it.

Will my day job be okay?
I am fully aware that I shouldn’t worry about this, but I cannot help it. Sometimes I have to finish jobs at record speeds, and I just don’t know if anyone else can work as fast as I can in emergency bursts. When under the wire, I am a machine. I don’t know any other designer who works that way. So if the hammer drops on several projects at once when I’m away, who will perform miracles, while they’re busy with their own workloads?

I know this is ridiculous, and I am entitled to vacation time. But I haven’t taken a full week off in years because of this. Which mean I really need it even more. Oh well – they will sink or swim without me, I cannot dwell on it. But it will be tricky to block this from my mind.

Planning Ahead
I am going to start every morning at this retreat with handwritten “morning pages”, and vent my dreams, my fears, whatever is sloshing around my weird little mind. Hopefully venting this will clear my brain for the day so that I can get straight to the Do List. Yes, I will have a Do List for each day, with expectations, timelines, and productivity goals. But if one day I really need to nap and stare at the wall, I’ll allow it. I cannot bully myself that much. I might need to meet a buddy for lunch and get lost in conversation for a few hours. I might need to suddenly photograph the sun setting over the water for a full hour. I am going to do everything in my power to leave my anxiety on the mainland and not bring it with me. A vacation from stress and anxiety. Perhaps it is possible.

What perfectly reasonable situation makes you anxious? Please share in the comments!

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