Following on from a previous post about anxiety being a symptom of chronic pain, I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone once again. In this blog post I write a letter to the tradesman who never turned up for an appointment and explain some of my thoughts and how it affected me because of my anxiety.
Tomorrow is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. Although the focus is stress, anxiety can easily be confused with stress, or anxiety can lead to stress. I wanted to take this opportunity to do my bit to raise awareness of how I am affected by different mental health issues.
Dear Mr Tradesman
I know you are a busy man and you don’t necessarily need my custom to keep in business so this letter probably won’t mean much to you, but I’m writing it anyway.
You don’t know me, and you don’t understand my individual situation. I can bet that what I’m like, and all your other customers are like, as a person, probably doesn’t even cross your mind. Ever. I get you have a practical and methodical way of thinking, you wouldn’t do the type of work you do if you didn’t. But a little empathy towards your customers when you don’t turn up for an appointment isn’t a big ask. And I’ll tell you why…
I have anxiety. You don’t need to know the details but it is exasperated by my chronic pain. Again you don’t need to know the details, but managing daily life with one of these disabilities (yes, mental health conditions are considered a disability), is tough enough, but both is challenging. So for me to build up the courage to invite you to my home to do a quote for some work, was the first in a long line of tasks outside my comfort zone. It sounds silly, right? Even to me it does.
As well as being anxious on the day, I seem to build up lots of thoughts and worries beforehand. With an event like a tradesman coming round, these tend to be along the lines of what if I forget what to say, what if I don’t understand what you’re saying, what if I don’t ask the right questions, what if I forget to ask the questions I’m supposed to ask, what if it’s a wasted trip and I have to go through it all again.
I hate answering the door at the best of times. I generally ignore the doorbell unless I know who it is or I am expecting a parcel to be delivered. Where this fear comes from I don’t really know, but it is there, and is another thing that adds to my anxiety. You also hear frightening stories of tradesmen entering houses and getting up to all sorts of illegal things (catastrophizing is also a thing with anxiety), so to invite a stranger, who I’ve never met before, who I know nothing about, is quite a big deal. I’m sounding quite pathetic now aren’t I?!
On the day you were meant to turn up I was pretty much clock watching all day. The appointment was in my calendar and on my Apple Watch so I had a constant reminder that you were calling by later that day. You see, my memory is pretty rubbish too. This is likely to be caused by my anxiety or ‘pain fog’, or it could just be me; I could just have a rubbish memory, who knows.
I am also one of these (annoying) people who likes to be half an hour early rather than 5 minutes late. So when you said you were coming round between 16:00 and 16:30, I was ready by 15:30. Because I’m always early, it’s like I half expect others to be the same. 90% of the time this is never the case, but again my anxiety was on high alert (it’s the only way I can explain it) and I was anxiously awaiting the doorbell going.
And while waiting, I was on edge. With every noise and car door outside, I thought it was you arriving, so the nerves and butterflies [and adrenaline], kicked in.
When I get nervous I always seem to need the loo a lot more. Because I have to think ahead (because of my chronic pain) I did go to the loo ready; the last thing I wanted was the distraction of needing the loo whilst trying to concentrate on and remember what you were saying. But in the time waiting for you I must have gone another three times. In fact, I’m still waiting so I’ve lost count.
Oh and another thing, I’d unlocked my side gate ready for your arrival. I know you’re a busy man so I wanted things to be ready for you, and for me not to cause any delays and time at my house longer than necessary. Because you didn’t turn up, my dogs wanted to go out (yes, they had been outside in good time before you were due to turn up) and thankfully I remembered the gate was unlocked. You don’t want to know the thoughts that go through my head if I were to leave the gate unlocked. I think, in the whole time I was waiting for you before I realised you weren’t coming (when it was dark – you see, I still had some hope) my dogs went out another two times. And each time I thankfully remembered to lock the gate.
Some of the above thoughts and worries aren’t always big, they can sometimes pop in to my head for a few seconds. Nonetheless, they are there, and they seem to stay in my subconscious (or whatever the technical term is) and the combination of all these thoughts can be overwhelming and mentally draining. Because of my anxiety, part of me is relieved you didn’t show up, but I was more annoyed in the end.
I think deep down I half expected you to let me down, as this whole not turning up business seems to be a common trait amongst tradesmen. And to be quite honest and frank with you, and forgive my language, but it really pisses me off. In my line of work, if we just didn’t turn up for an appointment, or a meeting, it wouldn’t be acceptable. So why is it acceptable in your line of business? It doesn’t take much to communicate and send a quick message to let someone know you’re no longer able to make it. Especially as that was how we were communicating when we set up the appointment.
See now I’m thinking, are you ok? Did something happen that meant you couldn’t turn up? Did you have an emergency that didn’t allow you to send a quick text? See, the catastrophizing is real.
If I’m wrong with all of the above, then I am sorry. It’s not your fault that I react in this way, and how are you to know. This is me, and this is what my anxiety does. It takes over. But please please please can you think about letting people know if you can no longer attend an appointment.
And now I’m worried what you think of me…
Until next time, when I go through all this again, all the best.
PS I know you’re ok because I can see you’ve read my follow up messages