Brain vs Reality

I step into the shower, heart racing as the water scalds my back, runs over my feet, and circles the drain. I had a hard time getting up and this shower feels like some kind of victory or punishment depending on how I’m looking at it moment-to-moment. This feeling has been creeping up all day and I’m stuck in a pattern that I can’t seem to break. I want to squeeze my brain like a sponge and let the anxiety drip out into the shower drain. I’ve read that when you feel anxious, doing anything helps, and I decided to shower because it seemed easiest. I have yet to eat. I’m fixating on things, dwelling on various situations that wouldn’t carry weight in a rational brain but have been plaguing me. It started yesterday morning when I texted my friend asking to hang out and they didn’t respond. A normal person, a person without this anxiety might have the thought of “my friend must be busy, they’ll text back later” or “maybe they forgot.” I know this is the pathway my reality should be taking, but it doesn’t feel true. All day, this perceived slight has shifted the vision of myself and triggered memories of rejection.

This friend probably hates me. Her lack of response highlights that there are few redeeming qualities about me. I am at the bottom of the barrel as a person. I drink too much, I forget to text people back, I’m irresponsible with money, I say the wrong things. This friend probably thinks I’m as awful as I do, just like the job interviewer the other day who rejected me.

The job interview was a week prior. I sat down with the interviewer, a calm, generic-looking woman, my palms sweating, and my mind racing. I felt like if she’d said “How are you?” I wouldn’t have known how to respond. The room seemed to quiver in front of me like I was looking at heat in the distance over a slab of pavement. She sat across from me wearing a crisp black blazer, and her first question was “What’s something new you’ve tried recently?” I sat back and thought for a moment, not knowing whether she meant a professional endeavor or a personal one. I thought back to dinner from a few nights before. “I tried alligator.” I blurted, “My friend and I were at a restaurant and they had it on the menu.”

I cringe now as I stand in the shower, unable to lift my arms and wash my hair, the weight of that situation bearing down on me. I needed that job. I can’t believe I said that. The interviewer looked up and gave a tight smile. “That’s so interesting! What restaurant was it?” I knew she was just being nice, and I’m positive that that answer is exactly why I didn’t get the job. I mull over the responses that would have been better suited to her question rather than my awkward answer about trying alligator for dinner.

Option A: My boss recently brought me on to spearhead a new project, and my innovative ideas have helped cut costs and invited collaborations between teams.

Option B: I’ve taken up painting recently, and I feel like this creative outlet allows me to disconnect from technology on the weekend.

Option C: Anything else.

I wanted to give myself the benefit of the doubt and tell myself I was just nervous, but now, in the present, I can’t let it go. That response to the very first question set the tone of the interview and undoubtedly ruined any chance I had of getting the job. I can feel myself spiraling into self-hatred over it. I know it isn’t justified, but I can’t seem to switch that part of my brain off. My thoughts continue racing and I start to think about other stuff I’ve messed up.

Remember when you left your drunk friend at the bar and went home and she had to walk home alone without you at night.

Remember when you failed calc in college and your parents had to foot the bill.

Remember when you input the budget incorrectly at work and cost your clients’ money.

You’re never going to learn, you are irredeemable.

The thoughts are a running list in my head, a tally of all of the moments I’ve chosen to do the wrong thing. I can’t let them go. These collective mistakes are proof that I am a terrible person. I remember talking to my mom about this anxiety and her advice for when it swells up was “your thoughts are not your reality.” If that were true, I would’ve gotten the job, my friend would have texted me back, and I would be an all-around better friend, daughter, sister.

I step out of the shower. My limbs are tired from the exertion of leaving my room. I’m lucky I’m unemployed so I don’t have to be anywhere because all I want to do is crawl back into bed and try and take my mind off of remembering these situations. It feels like if I don’t revisit them a hundred times in my head, they won’t ever be resolved.

As I get dressed, my phone vibrates. My friend finally texted back.

“Hey! Sorry about that, crazy couple of days at work. I would love to get together, I miss you so much!”

The cloud lifts. It feels like I’ve taken a muscle relaxer for my brain. My chest, which was tight with panic before, loosens, and I breathe. I was being dramatic. My friends love me — she said she misses me. This validation, her long-awaited text back, allows me to turn a new leaf. If I just have a positive mindset and realize that the world isn’t out to get me, I’ll be fine in situations like these moving forward. The interview lady was lame for not thinking that my alligator comment was funny. My response to her was fine — it showed a piece of my adventurous personality. If that’s all it took to lose a job, maybe that’s not somewhere I want to work. Maybe her rejection email was right, that I wasn’t a good fit since I’d applied to a position that required someone with more experience. I wish I could live in this reality more often.

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