An image showing the acrylic painting Live Performance.

An original painting by Ronnie McInnes Live Performance © 2014.

In blog eleven I wrote about a special award my family won and how that was mainly due to how my wife has been battling her demons. I think it's only fair (at least on my wife) that I share a bit about some of my own demons. This week I am writing about my own battle with anxiety.

If you think I may be oversharing then so be it, I don't mind. I've read complaints on social media that others had been oversharing, then the very same complainants chimed in agreement of and shared articles about suicide and how people should be able to open up to others. Jumping from one side of the fence to another within just a few days. My blog isn't for these kinds of people anyway, so if they have issues with my blog I don't care. The main reason for my oversharing, if you wish to brand it so, is to let others in my position know that they're not the only ones who feel like that. It's very a small comfort, but, I think it helps to know that you're not the only one.

Not everyone is able to pinpoint what they feel anxious about. Others, like me, can. In part I am anxious when talking to people. The anxiety gets worse when I don't know the people very well and it gets worse still when I talk to groups. The larger the group, the more anxious I feel. I'm sure a lot of people get nervous in front of others, but somehow those people seem to be able to keep their sh*t together just enough. When my nerves kick in I mispronounce words, stutter, mumble, lose my train of thought or ramble on about irrelevant, trivial things. Afterwards I beat myself up about how I couldn't talk right or how I caused others to lose interest in my words. The moment is there to see by the way, that moment the person has lost interest, looked away or even started a conversation with someone else, just to escape. It does, in part, say something about the person turning away, but I can't really blame them for being uninterested in ramblings.

The painting above points towards my own anxiety and a fear that I'm causing people to switch off. I'm playing music to a wall because at least the wall won't switch off or talk over me. The wall doesn't feel any need to correct my mistakes nor will it take them as acts of stupidity. Normally I don't feel stupid but, unfortunately, I must look stupid when I get so anxious. I certainly feel stupid in those moments. It's as if my brain is fumbling around in the dark, trying to find things I already know. Not all my interpersonal situations are like that, I cope a lot better in one to one situations. Dealing with one person, even a stranger, at times is almost easy. Any more than that and things gets tricky.

Another cause of my anxiety is my job. It was something highlighted to me over the weekend when I was having a rather nice, educational conversation with a scientist (just one) at Heriot-Watt University. We were talking about her project in which engineers, biologists and physicists were working together in a unique way. A fantastic and well meaning project. I was intrigued by what she was talking about and asked a few more technical questions of her. After answering my questions she said "You seem really interested in this, by any chance are you an engineer?". I looked away and told her that I wasn't an engineer, just an artist interested in the qualities of light. She stopped me, looked me in the eye and said not to discount what I do. She noticed that I was almost apologising for being an artist. In the past I have had regrets when I've chatted with someone I had not seen for a while or chatted with someone new. Often the conversation will move to what one does for a living. I've spent years observing and studying characteristics, emotions and body language so I tend to see the signs, when someone doesn't think you're doing a real job. But the conversation with the scientist felt different, I was apologising before I saw her reaction. I don't know when I started doing that, it's even possible that I'd been doing it all along. Next time someone asks me what I do for a living I must say with conviction "I am an artist".

I'm working on my people skills too, they're not getting better yet, at least it doesn't feel like it, but I hope that with practice they will get better.

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