Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Anxiety

This is something that I've been wanting to write for awhile now, but could never muster up the courage to. You see, I have a problem. This isn't one of those joke problems like "what am I going to do with all of these frequent flier miles?" This is a very real problem that affects my day to day life and sometimes affects my ability to be a good judge.

I suffer from social anxiety.

More specifically, I develop anxiety in larges masses of people, like World-War-Z-crush-of-zombies sized masses, and the associated noise. If this seems odd for someone who spends a majority of his weekends at airports and large Magic tournaments, let me explain. Those two places have a degree of order to them, and in particular it is a degree of order that I have conquered.

Let's take airports. I have 1K status with United, which is the highest status you can earn. This gives me access to the cheater lines at check-in, security, and boarding. Especially with United going to a clearly demarcated five-tier boarding system, I rarely have to wade through the masses anymore. During layovers, I beeline to the United Club, where I can hide out from crush of bodies. It's a nice quiet place to read e-mails and have a beer. About five minutes before boarding is scheduled to start, I make my way to the gate and try to time my arrival so that I can get right on the plane.

At Magic events, I am in charge, oftentimes literally as the Head Judge or Event Show Lead. When I get up in front of 600 people and make a pun like "We would hate for your Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale to become a Tabernacle of Ginger Ale" I don't feel nervous just because all eyes are on me. I actually like it because of the quiet and sense of order. Similarly, the mass of bodies when pairings are posted does not bother me. I know exactly where all those players are going and what they are doing. Even when I am wading through those players with the pairings in my hand, I am in control; a loud "judge coming through with pairings" will part the players.

Order and control. These things keep my anxiety down. In contrast, I suffer very bad anxiety attacks in Japan's subway system. There are way too many people crammed into way to small a space for my comfort. And unlike players at the pairings board, they don't move out of the way just because I tell them to. When a train stops, there are two streams of people fighting against each other, and despite what you might think about the polite demure Japanese stereotype, things can get brutal.

Yesterday, I suffered a pretty bad attack at a soccer match. Well, not even at the match. Outside the stadium on the way to the match. My anxiety level was building for a while leading up to the stadium as we saw more and more soccer fans--rowdy soccer fans. When the stadium came into sight, I lost it. I could feel the crush of people in my future. I could hear the chanting in my head. I stopped dead in my tracks and could not move another step forward. Tasha had to lead me away from the stadium back to the car and we went home.

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