Social anxiety – it’s been a huge issue for me. I will no doubt talk about it many times, because of the impact it‘s had on so many areas of my life. But the sun is shining, so I thought I’d share a positive today and talk about an area that I’ve (just about) managed to overcome.
Looking back now, I can’t identify the exact time it started or a reason why, but somehow I developed an obsessive fear of going to the cinema. Pretty ironic for a film graduate, massive movie lover and wannabe film critic.
I remember it started with little things, like being nervous that I’d need a wee, and people would notice me getting up to go. Focusing on the sound of someone’s rustling popcorn or slurping drink. (I’m quite sensitive to these kinds of noises anyway). Becoming cross at the glow of the mobile that somebody hasn’t turned off. Obsessing over the whispers from the couple a few rows down.
Then the invented conversations would start in my head. I would imagine all of the things I’d say to these people, what they would say back… and before I knew it, I would have missed 20 minutes of the film and be frustrated and upset over an argument that hadn’t happened. I would get so anxious, stressed and incredibly tense that it became very much a physical thing as well as a mental one.
For a long time I didn’t go to the cinema at all. Even the thought of going would trigger an anxiety attack. But my local independent cinema and arts centre Broadway Cinema was much smaller than the traditional multiplex, less screens housed in smaller rooms with comfy seats – and the double bonus that you can take an alcoholic drink from their bar in with you. I thought that if I was going to tackle this problem, that was the place to start.
After I had my eldest, I found out that they held “Bringing Up Baby” screenings. They were gentle films, no more than a certificate 12, that you could take your babies to – the volume was a little quieter and the lights were a little higher, to make it easier to tend to your little one.
And the rooms were filled with women in the exact same position as me. Every single person in there was nervous their baby would make a racket, conscious of the fact we might have to get up and down or leave the room. So we seemingly all came to the joint realisation that it really didn’t matter. We were all there to get out of the house and reclaim a tiny bit of ourselves through those often tough and lonely newborn months.
It was like a weight had been lifted. I went back for a normal film and with glass of wine in hand, I felt less uptight, more at home. And I haven’t looked back. Granted, I still avoid going to other cinemas if I have the choice, but the thought of it doesn’t fill me with the same fear and anxiety that it once did. Now I’m able to enjoy one of my big passions again.