In which I carefully packed my anxiety in my luggage and took it for a trip over the ocean.

2015-06-26 16.41.13It feels good to have time and head space to kick back and write some non-scientific words. It’s been pretty non-stop since I left England and it is, in a way, nice to be home. I’ll try to actually edit this post before I publish because there is an astounding probability of utterly contemptible drivel.

Preamble

A few days before we flew my boss came out with a comment over coffee that I was CRAP! and it was my fault that a project wasn’t working (in response to a shameless attempting at fishing for compliments)- apparently I have been deemed tough and resilient enough not to take this to heart as it was meant to be sarcasm, and it mostly washed off my back, and Iw as going to write a blog post about how this meant she fully accepted me and it was a good thing etc,  but there is a lingering fear that maybe I AM crap? (though i’m reasonably sure I’m not). What I have learned this week is that Principal Investigators aught to come with a warning captions like “has a potty mouth” “is likely to be tactile” or “is never wrong” and my boss would have “does not give gratuitous praise”.

Before we even got on the plane, my boss had told me that I wasn’t pretty or leggy enough.

I may, or may not have presented this information out of context.

OK the context was that my male colleague’s girlfriend got £50 tips when serving in a bar and I never did….and admittedly his girlfriend is incredibly pretty and bubbly and all-round adorable, so I can’t say I’m surprised she got such tips, but I don’t really need people spelling out to me whats wrong with me :(. In fact, those words have kind of haunted me all week, to the point that when he and my boss were discussing how attractive another (very hot) female delegate was, I felt really quite ugly and frumpy, when I usually wouldn’t indulge in comparing myself.

Bearing this in mind, my colleagues were, blessed with the dubious opportunity to see me in some very short shorts (sorry guys, it (not I) was hot!). You, however, will not have to see that because there were no photos – Ha!

The conference

The social situation was already scary, plus dragging around these self-doubts and lack of confidence Mr anxiety thought he’d like to pop up his ugly head for an impressive metamorphosis into a sweaty, bug-eyed, palpitationous blob on the floor. As I have described before I am a very nervous speaker, and conversing with  unknown people is terrifying, especially when they are super smart and esteemed scientists – but talking to them is necessary part of the conference process. Sitting down with some unknowns for breakfast, lunch and dinners was actually kind of fun and I tried my damnedest to get out some words and introductions (though mostly in the other order). Presenting data to people who looked at my poster incurred some sweatiness and shaking to the extent that it was embarrassing! I figured if I had a drink it would be easier, so I paid up my dollars for a week’s worth of booze for the post-lecture socializing (fully expecting to have at least one beer a night). What actually happened was tragic stress headaches for two days (so no booze) followed by getting a cider, sipping down to about a quarter of the bottle then getting dizzy and stuffy and taking myself to bed where I felt wheezy, and took my inhaler.

If you’ve ever taken salbutamol or ventalin you will know that it can make you a bit shaky – and what you will also know is that you are supposed to shake it before you use it. Apparently if you don’t shake it the dose is HIGHER than it should be, sooooo, I took waaay more than I needed by accident, which gave me palpitations and triggered a panic attack (yay me!), but as I’d had alcohol I couldn’t take valium so I had to just lie there at midnight freaking out for a couple of hours, and then had to get up 4 hours later for breakie! Brill! it was around about now that I found out I had to present my work in a 5 min talk in front of everyone in the lecture theatre and that borderline level of tolerable anxiety sky-rocketed and I had to admit defeat and take valium rather than alcohol in order to keep my body from imploding or the inevitable degeneration into a twitching, gibber-jabbering pool of sweat. sooo, $40 for a quarter of a cider was a bit steep and I totally pissed at myself for not being able to relax and just enjoy myself but I just couldn’t :(. I wanted to be able to just walk up to people and start chatting but I was crippled with the fear that I’d look stupid or that I didn’t know what to say to them.

Needless to say, my talk was OK – not award-winning but perfectly adequate and I was satisfied with it.

The rest of the conference passed with no dramas, and I went horse riding with the boss lady (though they call it horseback riding -is another part of the horse that you can ride on that I don’t know about?) weird. The flight back was ok but I really could have done with those 5 hours of sleep that we all missed out on thanks to time zones. grrrr.

One thing that really struck me, was how considerate and nice everyone was. In particular my colleagues that I was travelling with were very tolerant of me (I know I’m a nightmare to travel with) and yet they checked I was ok – they took into account my food requirements, and y’know, little things, like giving me a hand when I was struggling with something, and reminding me that I was going to be ok when I got stressed, and generally treating me like I was worth being nice to. That male colleague with the cute girlfriend was really great the whole trip and I only wish there was a way to tell him how much I appreciated how nice he was being, it was like travelling with my brother or something – but I think he’s just like that with everyone – This guy and his girlfriend invited me over to their place for my birthday one year because I wasn’t doing anything to celebrate – that’s the sort of people they are and I can only hope that some of that kindness has rubbed off on me. Clearly I can’t SAY that to him, it would sound really weird – like, hey thanks for not acting like a total dick the whole time…geees, I’d be pretty offended if someone inferred that to me! I just wish I wasn’t so damned inhibited, its terrible, I feel so BORING because I’m just so afraid of anything that might be fun, not to mention how selfish I can be…eugh! I was offered the opportunity to stay in boston for an extra night at the airline’s cost and would get a free return trip to the location of my choice and I turned it down just because I was freaking out. I want to be the person who CAN do those things, who CAN take opportunities without just losing their shit. How do I do that?

The fallout

When I got home, I’d been up at 6AM, spent the day in Boston (YAY aquarium time take 2), flew at 11pm, dozed a little, arrived in London 5 hours later at 9AM, taken the tube and train and then hoped I could be a lift home but no, SO couldn’t get me so I had to queue for ages for a taxi. By the time I actually got home I was exhausted – genuinely pooped. I dragged my luggage up to the flat and SO was there watching TV. At this point I was jet-lagged and sleep deprived so all I wanted to do was take a quick shower then sleep until my brain caught up. I had a conversation like this:

“Hello, how are you”

“fine, what’s the matter?”

“I’m tired”

…gets a drink of water…

“what’s the matter?”

“I’m fucking tired”

…sighs…

“What;s the matter?”

“You keeping on asking me what the matter is!”

..pulls annoyed face…

“whats the matter?”

“FFS I’m fucking tired and Jet-lagged for fucks sake I’ve been awake since 6AM yesterday what the fuck else do you think the matter is? other than you keeping of fucking well asking me what the fucking problem is!!??

I was, at this point offered the generous opportunity to exit my own property if I was going to be moody because SO didn’t want to deal with it.

I won’t continue and tell you exactly how unpleasant this homecoming was but I was expected to change the bedclothes as soon as I got home and there are still dishes from yesterday that I am going to have to wash. Needless to say I am now really quite depressed about certain things. You know how you rose-tint things when you aren’t close to them? Yeah, that happened.  It kind of hurt when I was dragged to the supermarket so that SO could get something, he got mega moody and so I carried the shopping (despite holding up a long skirt so it didn’t get wet) and he didn’t even open the car boot for me. It’s almost enough to make me want to make his jetlag 10 times worse if he ever has to go to the states without me. Almost, but I won’t let him turn me into that person.

all in all, an educational trip in the scientific, social and psychological fields.

Oh and I was in Boston when we heard about the gay marriage legalization in the states (woohoo), and I proceeded to have a dream about a (already married) female friend proposing to me! Hahaha!

“I know you know my head’s not in this now
“sneaker pimps, destroying angel

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One thought on “In which I carefully packed my anxiety in my luggage and took it for a trip over the ocean.

  1. God damn! What a whirlwind!

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