A penance post for my extended commenting over the past few days! I still owe an Ada Lovelace day post (I want to post on Suzanne Langer). But this is a nice segue for the On Anxiety series.
I’ve several annoying long term medical conditions. To pick a simple example, I’ve had a form of arthritis since I was about 30. It’s mostly controlled by medication but, for example, my hands are a mess and degenerating. One of the more annoying ones is my anxiety, particularly my social anxiety.
People find this really hard to believe because, ahem, I come across as a rather confident person. I speak up a lot (a lot of a lot…too much, probably) and I’m willing to ask questions all the time. I’m a pretty relaxed looking speaker and I can put together a talk out of thin air with no prep that sounds like a heavily prepared lecture. My stamina in comment threads and email threads is substantial.
So when I tell people that I’m painfully shy (about some things) and have difficult to overcome social anxiety they often just deny my claim. They can’t believe it. Which is funny and a bit annoying. (I am, indeed, annoyed a lot but all this. It’s a much better attitude to cultivate than sadness.)
My anxiety really makes it hard to write. Writing is a perpetual struggle. I’ve been trying to write some tiny bits of text for a grant proposal and Robert, my poor co-proposer, has been doing everything he can to extract a mere few words. (Useful words. I know exactly how they should go, usually. But putting them down just doesn’t happen.) Many of my usual tricks (e.g., staying up late/all night) aren’t working.
This certainly was a big deal for writing my thesis (hence the X-teen years it took). But it’s also the case for papers, email, exams, comments, blogposts, slides…
I find it really weird to be simultaneously such a voluble, articulate person and yet utterly mute in key contexts.