The Empty Seat Next To Me…

empty seatHaving such a past riddled with “anxiety issues” has made fitting in one of the biggest challenges for me.

I suppose lots of people feel like outsiders from time to time, but the very nature of anxiety can make you so freaked out about being with people. Even as I am actively practicing my own anxiety recovery, I find that feeling like I fit in with peers, neighbors, acquaintances, work people, etc. pretty difficult.

Since I don’t live near my mom or sister, and since I don’t have many real life friends, I tend to go pretty much everywhere alone. This is not something I see as bad, necessarily. I think it builds my character to be able to walk into things “alone”. Of course on days when I am feeling very anxious it would be fantastic to have a safe person to go places with. But that just was never in the cards for me.

This morning I went to a spin class at my gym. This is a one hour class where everyone sits on stationery bikes and rides to music following along with an instructor.

I walked in and and got on the bike I usually choose. Once I was in the seat I noticed 2 of my neighbors sitting together on the other side of the room. We did polite waves and hellos and then the class started. The bike seat next to me remained empty.

And I started to get anxious.

And the dialogue began:

Anxiety Monster/ Voice of Self Pity: No one goes anywhere with you. You go everywhere alone.

Jill: This sucks.

Anxiety Monster/ Voice of Self Pity: You’re damn right it sucks. They probably called each other and planned to meet. No one called you. Now just think how crazy it would be if you had a panic attack right now. Maybe you’ll fall right off this bike onto the floor. What a mess that would be…

Voice of Reason: Listen to the music and ride harder and faster. You like this song (Someone Like You by Adele). Go ahead- sing it!

Jill: [singing and riding hard] “…I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited. But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it….”

Anxiety Monster/ Voice of Self Pity: They’re probably going out for coffee afterwards.

Voice of Reason: You are strong and healthy. Keep singing. Keep riding hard!

Jill: [Really loud, bad singing voice] “Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead! Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead!…”

The class proceeded through about ten songs and then when it was over, I decided not to just run out the door. I stayed back and sort of joined in the chit chat about one of the neighbor’s new bike shoes.

Pretty soon I was walking out of the gym with both neighbors (and fitting in nicely, thank you very much). One of them said goodbye and went to her car. I ended up standing outside the gym talking to my other neighbor and just having a nice little chat where we updated each other on our kids.

**Yay!!** :)

The fitting in thing is sort of a paradox for me because while I always feel I want to fit in and be in like Flynn wherever I am, I also happen to love my personal space.

I think the anxiety part of this has something to do with how I am feeling spiritually. If I am lonely, then not fitting in tends to bother me and make me anxious. If I am feeling content and happy, I don’t tend to focus on this so much.

Yesterday I did feel lonely. Me and Bob were having a disagreement of sorts about something really stupid. I know that’s why the sight of my 2 neighbors sitting together triggered my anxiety this morning.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t even fit in with my own family. I try not to give too much head time to self pitying and other stupid irrational thoughts. But the truth is the girls are growing up and we don’t as a family really hang out together all that much. (And yes I know it would be really weird and Brady Bunch-ish if we did)

I nipped this feeling in the bud this weekend with a little help from Halloween. We had 2 big pumpkins to carve and I knew if I asked, no one would want to help. So I just took the first step and started hollowing out those bad boys.

It got big and messy in no time and so I called Bob to come and give me a hand.

Once I had all the pumpkin guts out, I washed out some seeds and roasted them in olive oil and salt. The oven sent the delicious fumes wafting upstairs and this stirred my 2 brooding daughters downstairs.

Pretty soon we were all in the kitchen doing the pumpkin carving thing, eating the seeds and listening to the radio. It was a nice little Hallmark moment. And I fit in nicely :)

Here’s my jack-o-lantern masterpiece. I copied the idea off the internet.

my jack-o-lantern



Cute right?Ok, back to the subject–

So.. Who will sit in the empty seat next to me?

If today’s spin class and this weekend taught me anything, its that I have a choices about how I feel about fitting in at any given time.

It’s easy enough to let the Anxiety Monster have a seat and make me feel like crap.

In fact sometimes it feels natural to do this. The Anxiety Monster loves to tell me how much having anxiety sucks, and that I’ve had a hard life. Now that I feel better and have all this emptiness inside me, I’d better fill it up with meaningful people and friends fast.. OR ELSE..

anxiety monster

It’s just as easy (but takes a little practice) to choose to be positive about the situation and let God, the Voice of Reason, or whatever have the seat instead, and remind me that I can feel good about who I am today.

I can stay grounded and present, pray a little or a lot, and throw in a few positive affirmations for anxiety to help me feel good. I can honor my journey of anxiety self help and know that I am doing the best I can today.

And then I can hug one of my best freinds.

my Buddy right before I mushed him :)

I wish you peace,
Jill G.


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This entry was posted in Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Empty Seat Next To Me…

  1. Zoe says:

    So were you REALLY singing out loud cuz that takes guts?!?! lol Maybe you could go sit next to them next time?
    I love your pumpkin and I’m so glad you family joined you. Not looking forward to my kids all growing up and being too cool for stuff like that! You’ve been posting a lot lately – I love it. You are like my daily inspiration :)

    • JillG says:

      Hi Zoe,

      The music blasts so loud in the spin class you cant even hear yourself think so its not like anyone knew I was singing. Thank you, I loved my pumpkin this year :) Its true the kids grow up way too fast.. The neighbors are cliquey but yeah I guess I could go sit next to them- something to think about.

      Yeah, sometimes I get on a roll and can’t wait to post and then sometimes I feel like I don’t have anything to say. It does feel therapeutic to get it all out. I notice you post a lot. You inspired me to try to do the same :)

  2. mazm123@btinternet.com says:

    Hi Jill

    I can relate to the empty seat as I do almost everything myself but you know what you’ll never really have an empty seat next to you because someone is always thinking of you and when you are in their thoughts you are in their hearts and that fills anyy empty seat in my book. I’m sure everyone on here thins of you as you are such an inspiration which means we all love you which means no empty seat. Thank you so much for your tips and time. You’ll never walk or sit alone. Enjoy your life because you’re really worth it. Maz x

  3. Martha says:

    Hi Jill
    I know this post is late-like over 30 days late-but i just read it now. How the heck can you script all the things i have felt for my whole life? The isolation i’ve felt in a crowd,thinking everyone was making snide remarks over my choice of clothes or shoes or …….
    Feeling my anxiety rolling in spitting drifts above my head.
    Periods of paranoia that started in my late teens from lack of self-esteem. More under control now (with a lot of hard work) (and tons of relapses). I will now look at that empty chair with the potential thought that just maybe someone really nice will sit in that spot.
    I too love your wee pumpkin in the bigger pumpkin-an idea for me for try next year. An upside down acorn squash looks great too, because they are mottled dark green and orange in a weird pattern.
    oh what a sweet pup Jill-lovely face.

    Take care.

    • JillG says:

      It goes to show that we’re not alone – not with the anxiety and not with the symptoms we feel and not how we think about having to live this way either..

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