I am a chronic worrier. I let anxiety bog me down every step of the way. Questions like: “Should I do this?”; “What will happen if I do that?”; and “Oh my god, what will happen if I don’t?!” dog every move I make. It HAS become easier as I’ve grown older, but not because the self-doubts have gone away, but more because I’ve found the mute button.
It happens with every new project. When I’m speaking to a client for the first time, the ideas flow uninhibited. I find creative solutions without thinking too much, and the conversation is sparkling. At this point, it is a purely academic discussion. Contracts haven’t been exchanged, work hasn’t begun, and everyone is still feeling everyone else out.
It is my perfect place. Because, anxiety doesn’t assail me when I have nothing to do, and I have made no commitments. Once the contract starts though, it is a whole other ballgame. I freeze.
It is the classic blank page freeze. I don’t know where to start, so I put it off. When I do make a start, the research I do points me in an unknown direction. I have to learn new stuff. Timelines start to draw closer, and I panic. The panic exhausts me, and I start feeling ill. The illness makes my head fuzzy, and I can’t work. More panic sets in, and I am left weeping quietly in the corner, feeling utterly overwhelmed and out of my depth. And everything spirals out of control.
Finally, because I have no other choice, I screw up my eyes and just start working. No research, no learning, just work. When I have finished a first draft, the panic subsides slightly. When I start refining it, and come up with a better second draft, the panic subsides some more. And finally, when I do the research, and fill in all the gaps, the panic goes away entirely.
I seem to have found a way to cope, but I wish it wasn’t when I am pushed up implacably against a deadline, and sinking or swimming are the only two options in front of me.