Today, I was working the morning shift at the historical hotel restaurant as I always do. The day I had was both short and long as I was working a split shift, so my first part of the day was done except for my last table of the morning which was a table with two gentlemen.
They started off as any normal table, a few questions about drink options, what came along with the meal package they had, the decision of what breakfast they will get, and what dressings they did or didn’t want.
It was two men that were very personable, one man told me how sweet I was, the other telling me how great I was and how amazing the food he just had was. The man hands me a crumbled up five dollar bill that I shove into my pocket as I begin to take the bill away from his table before he stops me.
“Why do you have one clear nail?” the man asks me, diverting my attention to my fingers.
Tucking his bill into my other apron pocket I spread out my fingers and present my hand to the man in front of me.
“It’s not a clear nail, it’s sparkly” I say to him, showing the fresh acrylics that were just put on yesterday afternoon.
I told him that I had just gotten them done at the salon and he was confused on the concept of not just painting your nails at home.
“These will last me about two weeks without chipping and they’re better quality.” I inform him, shifting slightly and nervously on my feet as he glances at me.
“Why do you have fake nails, then? Why pay all that money?” he asks me.
“Because I wanted to, not only that, but it helps me from picking at my fingers which I have the tendency to do.” I say to him with a nod of my head.
Of course, he asks me why I pick at my fingers.
To which I reply “I have really bad anxiety and when I’m nervous or whenever I’m bored I’ll pick at my fingers.” I say to him, giving him the short answer.
“What is anxiety?” he asks in return.
Uncomfortable and feeling like I have an interrogation light shining down on me, I swallow and begin to feel panic and anxiousness whirl around in my stomach. The familiar skip of my heart rate returns and my heart rate accelerates to the point that I can feel my blood thumping and pounding in the veins in my neck.
Uncertain of what to say I look away from him and twist the ring on my finger. “I just get really nervous about things and overthink a lot.” I explain to him.
“Well, I get nervous sometimes too, everyone has anxiety!” He informs me with a chuckle.
I nervously chuckle with him, taking his last bit of dirty dishes away from him. I left it at that and didn’t go into it fully with him.
I didn’t tell him that I am not just nervous before going up to a stranger to ask them if they want a refill, that I spend hours at a time before my shift, anxious over the thought of messing up their order, so much so that while at work I reread my notes and compare it to the order I punched in at least three times before sending it to the kitchen. I don’t tell him about how I pull up the same tab three different times, even after it is sent, to make sure I got it right.
I don’t tell him about how a lot of times I am exhausted, not because I worked two jobs yesterday and woke up at 5AM today, but because I spent the day before being social, taking care of tables, and selling merchandise at Hot Topic, and my mental capacity is low and I need to recharge.
I do not tell him that I get ready two hours early before I have to leave, leaving my house and giving myself over 30 minutes to get to my 10-15 minute drive to work, because I fear that something may happen, or “What if I need to stop and get gas?” and “What if my tires need air in them?” and “What if I were to break down?”
Only to get to work at 6:15 when my shift starts at 6:30 and I am alone in the kitchen until everyone else shows up for work, too.
I do not tell him that I pick at my fingers to the point that they are bleeding and sore – that I continue to pick and pull at the skin that resides on them until I get to the point of having to wrap band aids around each of my fingers and sleep with socks on my hands to give them time to heal.
I do not tell him that paying $45 to get my nails done is well worth it because the fake nails make it nearly impossible for me to pick at my fingers, giving the sore flesh time to heal and get better again.
Only for me to pull my nails off two weeks from now and fall back into picking at my skin.
I do not tell him about how big of a step it was for me to waitress, whenever I couldn’t even go into a gas station three years ago due to fear and anxiety.
I do not tell him about how I’ve been in therapy for three years, and how I go to therapy twice a week, and still manage to feel anxious and sad a lot of the times.
Instead, I smile and laugh at his poor attempt at a joke and thank him “so much!” for letting me wait on him, I tell him that I hope he has safe travels to his next vacation in Washington DC, and that I am very glad he enjoyed his breakfast.
In my head I cannot help but to be upset and put off by his comments and how his words made my disorder feel like they were no longer validated. I am uncertain as to why I cared so much about an older gentleman that I more than likely would never see again, ever, in my life. It still stung. I know that I cannot be upset, as he was probably coming from a good place and trying to be supportive and make me feel normal, but his attempts came off as insensitive and hurtful.
This isn’t the nervousness you experience before you go to your first job interview. This isn’t ‘first day of school’ nerves that pass once you get through the door of your new classroom. This isn’t the fast beating heart you experience before you go on stage, to forget about it by the time you start moving in front of an audience.
It is feeling a fast heart rate in your chest for reasons unbeknownst to you, it is knowing where every exit and entrance is, and which is closest to you if you need to run away. It is micromanaging everything in your head and leaving an hour early, just to arrive to the location you were headed and wait for 45 minutes, whilst picking at your fingers.
It is taking medications on the daily to feel normal, and getting withdrawal symptoms when you miss a dosage. It is getting up three to four times a night to make sure the doors and windows are all locked – even though you know its locked, but fear and ask yourself “What if it isn’t and someone breaks in – then it’ll be all my fault.”
It is constant nausea before and after you eat, and multiple trips to the doctors to get your stomach looked at – to come up empty handed and to leave you in a state of worry that something and everything is wrong with you and it’ll be too late before they catch it – whatever ‘it’ is that is wrong with you to make you sick all the time.
This is just scratching the surface of what goes through our minds on the daily.
Your nerves before a job interview, before the first day of school, or before approaching a crowd are not invalid. Rather, they are understandable.
However, you do not have anxiety just because you felt anxiety from time to time before big events that make you understandably nervous and on edge.
I would not wish what I go through on the daily onto anybody. I just wish that others whom do not experience it could validate my feelings and emotions just like I do when they tell me they had a bad day or they were nervous.