This week, I have felt like a potato. I am participating with a new theater group, helping with the Jewish context and dancing of a play called A Shayna Maidel. I’m even in the prologue scene. For me though, as someone with OCD, new places, new people, new anything means anxiety. Like a lot of anxiety. New has always been hard for me. Traveling to a new place? Hard. Starting a new job? Hard. Going to a new dance studio? Hard. Add on an ounce of responsibility, and yikes, mega potato.
And people have so much faith in me. The director of this show, who I’ve worked with before, wants my help for a reason. She seems to believe in me. She seems to think I am competent, and even skilled. But in reality, I am a potato (despite my boyfriend countering that I am, at least, a competent potato). The belief others have in me almost makes it worse because then I have to meet their expectations too. It’s a high bar for someone with such low self-confidence.
Part of me wanted to run away. Heck, part of me still wants to run away. I have left rehearsal every night this week breathing quickly and about to have a panic attack. As I drive home, I let myself listen to the music and try not to cry. Why would I go back the next day? It’s counterintuitive when I know the anxiety it will bring. But the reason I have gone back is because I try my best to not let anxiety drive. And as mentioned above, other people have a lot of faith in me. And I respect them, so I should at least try to meet their confidence. Plus, I think this play is an important story to be telling. My values say go. It’s my anxiety saying no.
So, I continue to go, despite the onslaught of anxiety when I enter the building or when I’m asked my opinion on something or when anyone looks at me with expectation. But today, on the fourth night, as I left, I realized I felt a little less like a potato. Just a little, but it means the de-potatofication process has begun. In psychology terms, this is called habituation. With each exposure to the new situation, I become a little more comfortable. The anxiety lessens. Time is my friend. It can take hours or weeks, or anywhere in between. It totally depends on the situation, but eventually it will come.
Knowing the anxiety will eventually come down doesn’t make that first step easier though. It is still uncomfortable to walk in head-first, knowing anxiety is waiting for me, even if it won’t last forever. But the alternative is much worse, of never being able to try anything new and perhaps never leaving my apartment. It’s tempting, but worse. So onward, this potato goes.