Anxiety at the DMV

This is a story about anxiety.

Today, I had to go to the DMV to get my license renewed. I also had to change my address. Typical, human thing, right? Not something to get too worked up about, right? No, not to me. My anxiety takes normal, everyday human activities and makes them an absolute nightmare. This morning, I spent close to an hour searching the web for information about how to prepare for this adventure. I looked up what forms I needed to fill out, what types of mail qualified as proof of residence, what was the protocol for renewing a license after it had expired (because, of course, mine had). It wasn’t enough to get all the information from my state’s DMV website. I also had to search the web for “what do you bring for a driver’s license address change GEORGIA” and devour everything that came up.

Feeling reasonably prepared, and after checking several times that I had the correct address for the DMV, I headed out.

By the time I got there, I was already sweaty and shaking.

To keep a long story short, basically everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. I didn’t fill out an online application I needed for my address change. I needed to provide my social security card, even though the information online assured me I wouldn’t need it. So, I didn’t have that either. I was missing other important documents I needed. Watching all my careful planning go out the window, I felt my anxiety completely overwhelm me.

I was nervous, overly apologetic. My anxiety told me that I was being a burden, that I had unnecessarily made this poor DMV employee’s job even harder. I felt embarrassed, ashamed. My anxiety was making my tense — snapping at my husband every time he text to try to help me (he was at home searching for my social security card). I worried that my anxiety would make me seem like I was being rude to the employee who was helping me, so I started to mask. I became overly polite and complimented her on every single thing I could perceive about her. I’m sure she thought I was kissing her ass so that she would help me, but in reality, I was just trying not to let the internal volcano of anxiety come spewing out to the external world. Thankfully, we were able to get license renewed and my address changed, but only after the DMV employee had to hold my hand through a bunch of paperwork I should have taken care of at home.

When everything was finally taken care of, I went to my car with my hands still trembling. As soon as I closed the door, I cried. Not a sad cry, or even an embarrassed cry. It was a cry of relief — relief that it was over.

I hate my anxiety, and the fact that even my daily dose of SSRI can’t keep moments like this at bay. I despise feeling like my body is in a state of fight or flight over something so small.

But this is who I am. This is the reality of anxiety. Although many of us who suffer from anxiety try to laugh it off, it can be debilitating at times. It can also be humiliating, causing you to behave in ways that embarrass you or that you have to apologize for later. Frankly, it sucks.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. That awful shit you go through is normal, at least for the anxiety-prone folks like us. We’ll get through. We’ll just do a lot of sweating until it’s done.

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