The geriatric dude’s overtaking me. Again. I take a look behind because I’m sure someone’s laughing at me. It’s raining and I’m jogging around Princes Park. I wanna throw up in my coach’s face.
Rest assured, this is all part of my genius plan to kick social anxiety’s ass—by putting myself in situations that interest me but have previously avoided for fear of embarrassment or failure. It was the same fear that made me think I wasn’t worthy of attending university. If you’ve ever experienced social anxiety, you’ll know how much it digs forcing you to hang out in an Orwellian dystopia where it acts as Big Brother, and any thoughts that might create positive mental health outcomes are expunged.
Before I even get to the running club I’m certain I’ll humiliate myself. Within the first ten minutes of jogging, I just know I’ll trip over. The person in front of me will turn around after hearing the crack of the concrete. They’ll yell, “Are you okay?” while contemplating coming back to peel me of the ground. I’ll choke back tears and hastily answer, “No, no. I’m fine. You keep going. All good.” And they’ll sprint on and I’ll finish the run too. Even though I’ll be pretty sure my shin bone wasn’t aggressively poking through my skin before.
Afterwards, the doctors at the emergency room will inform me that because I didn’t attend to the broken bone straight away, I’ll never walk again. “How’d you even run on it?” they’ll ask, mystified. “Man, don’t ask me,” I’ll reply. “This is an anxiety day-dream. Logic doesn’t work here!”
Psychologists call this line of thinking, ‘catastrophising’. I cancel three times before dragging my nervous behind to the running group around the corner from my house.
I feel awkward the second I get there. I stand next to the athletics track where I’ve been told to wait for the coach. I try not to be consumed by a ridiculous river of anxious thoughts: Am I standing weird? What the fuck do I do with my hands? Should I put them on my hips? No. Don’t. You’ll look arrogant. Fuck it. I’ll just let them hang by my side.
I end up looking like some dipstick boy scout standing to attention, singing the national anthem while the Australian flag is raised.
Is it too late to bounce back to the lockers, grab my bag and head home to torrent the latest episode of Girls? Yep. A grinning Norwegian guy is asking me something.
“Are you Merran? The one who emailed me last night? I’m Anders. Nice to meet you.” I instantly feel more relaxed. Mainly because the coach is such a delightful man, that if I did stack it I wouldn’t be wholly consumed by embarrassment.
And I pass the geriatric dude on my final lap around the park. I haven’t fallen over. But I am in a lot of pain. The kind of pain personal trainers say is desirable. Meanwhile, grand-dad’s doing push-ups. God, I’m unfit. Physically. But mentally, I’m fucking killing it.