Originally written 26th October 2016:
Every month I go to a film club in the East End of London. It’s theme is ‘Folk Horror’. So far all the films I’ve watched have been classics I’ve not seen. I was introduced to it via my boss at Oxfam. I really enjoy films – moving images of all kinds- but music videos and films have been a Big Thing in my life. Hammer Horror movies were a stable of my childhood. I suffered from terrible anxiety when I was a child. I could not sleep. I’d be either scared of not sleeping and being late for school or just plain scared*. So I used to come down stairs about 12am to see my Mum in the kitchen. She’d find an old movie on ITV or Channel 4 and make me a fry up, she’d do her ironing and then we’d go to bed. My Mum had no problem with me seeing such films because she believed, rightly, that I’d see they were not real. The only films I could not watch were Mummy movies because I was terrified of Egyptian Mummies (more of this in another post). She’d not let me watch anything like the Ridley Scott ‘Alien’ films, or the 1980’s ‘Fly’, but old films were ok.
I’ve always suffered from terrible Social Anxiety. Social Anxiety in my case is a cycle, I’d be anxious, get up courage to be social, and then get shot down or have a horrible experience, which would add to the anxiety. But I got to an OK plateau and was fine for about 6 years. Then in 2012** I began to get anxious occasionally, and then constantly. I’d go and do things, but only with strangers- so I’d go to classes, or volunteer- there would be social interaction, but if someone went ‘wrong’, I could walk away. The people I served in the shop were a 5 minute interaction, my College classmates were all older people, who were just kind and ‘grown up’. Last year – my Mum’s sickness and my reaction to it, and the loss of my ESA*** – knocked me back even further. I stopped communicating with friends, stayed in and started having terrible episodes of anxiety randomly. I’ve not been to Birthday or other parties, even for or with people I care a great deal about. In place of this, in a desperate need to be sociable – to talk to people – I began to attend film and performance nights where everyone was a stranger. However, this has now become a problem. The performance nights (comedy, music etc.) ended, so now it’s just a monthly film night. I promoted the night to keep it going – telling friends via social media. I didn’t want the numbers to drop and the event to end (a very common thing in London). However, this has caused me a massive dose of anxiety. I don’t know who will be there, and if I will know anyone. I prefer to know nobody, than to have social surprises sprung on me.
*I think it was constant terror of my Mum dying. She had cancer first in 1987 when I was 6-7 the year after my Gran died of the same thing.
** I had Pancreatitis 4 times and nearly died. I think this had something to do with it – the pain was crippling and happened suddenly, including on the Underground where I ended up laid out on a Tube platform. Once the pain passed that day, I carried on to meet my partner, but he called to cancel. I went to Liberty to look at pretty things instead.
***A most terrifying thing. Imagine having your legs chopped off in front of you – it felt like the movies portray that. I still live in terror of the day I have to go through the ESA thing again.
I stopped going to this event. I have even stopped going to my local film night. My anxiety levels are currently too high to be around people I know. I’ve started talking randomly to strangers – I know that anxiety is how these behaviours begin. I’ll soon be the person on the bus who talks to you when you don’t want them to.