JJ Barnes

JJ Barnes writes about parenting, feminism, current affairs and writing

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Dealing with post party anxiety and self loathing.

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Yesterday my new fiancé and I had our engagement party. It was, by all accounts, a lovely event. Our song is Halestorm’s ‘Here’s To Us’, so we put up the song title and surrounded it with photos of us as a couple and with our children over the last five and a half years, us as a family growing together. We had a kid’s corner with activities and treats, and a guest book for people to put up well wishes on little notes. Friends and family came, there was eating and drinking, and everyone chatted and laughed the afternoon away.

My engagement ring

It was a lovely event, but I struggle with anxiety, so however lovely an event is, I pay a toll. Even the most benign of social occasions leave me stuck with my brain doing an intensive post mortem, analysing every single thing I said or did that could have offended anybody in anyway, but my own engagement party is even worse. It is a new experience that overloads me with things to obsess about. The anxiety mixes with my narcissm (both things I try constantly to keep control of) to convince me that if anybody left early, it’s because I was dreadful. If anybody didn’t seem happy at any point, it’s because I’m horrible to be around. I have been spiralling down a path of self loathing, obsessively going over every second of the party to find ways to hate myself more. And I’m tired. I am just so tired.

I love this man and our engagement makes me so happy, and given how well the party seemed to go, why can I not just shut this noise off? Why can’t I get this feeling of nausea and squirming out of my guts? I lay awake last night trying to turn off my brain. I drank too much, I was too loud, I was too rude, I was too weird. I said something offensive, I didn’t understand someone’s joke, I made joke somebody else didn’t understand. I was wrong. Everything about me was wrong. And I can’t make that constant voice shut up. I can’t make it be quiet long enough for me to rest. Why can’t I sleep without waking up to worry obsessively about why I am the way I am, and why I am so fucking dreadful? Why can’t I just be? I’m so sick of fighting. So tired from carrying it all.


This has been something I’ve been dealing with for a very long time, and I’m fortunate enough that I have had support. It’s better than it was. I have coping mechanisms now and I panic less, obsess less. Day to day I am in a healthier place and I am much less likely to lie awake at night, I have fewer panic attacks and I’m better at preventing them from starting. I’m learning to understand that what I’m dealing with is anxiety so I can rationalise it and communicate those feelings better. But the feelings are still there, and coping with them still feels like a constant battle ground in my head that I can never escape. And something out of the ordinary, like the engagement party, is enough to trample all those battling emotions and push me into this space full pelt.

At our engagement party

If you don’t experience these feelings you’re very lucky. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could get some peace from the constant the fighting in my brain. I wish I could keep the anxiety at bay without it trying to distract me, and the threat it might overwhelm me at any unexpected moment. I wish I could be without the knowledge that if I let it win and take control of me, I won’t be able to cope. I want to just enjoy my time with my family, not be so narcisstic that I’m obsessed with my own behaviour like this, not be so anxious that it makes me shake.

I don’t regret having the party. I won’t regret having the wedding. But I know I’ll be paying a price that so many people have no idea I’m paying. Sometimes that cost is really high.

The battles we constantly fight that other people aren’t aware of are real and exhausting. And so very varied. So many of us carry things with us, weighed down at all times with invisible baggage that we put so much effort into carrying every damn day, and so much of it is done alone. But I’m grateful to be marrying a man who sees me struggling and holds me, let’s me talk about what it is I am being attacked by in my brain, and helps me win that fight. He is my human, and he loves me the way I am. I just wish I could learn to as well.

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1 thought on “Dealing with post party anxiety and self loathing.

Getting over my performance anxiety… sort of. – JJ Barnes 17th October 2019 at 11:38 am

[…] as myself. I know I don’t do well in front of a big crowd, and I get definite and intense performance anxiety (nightmares in the build up to a public appearance, neurotic obsession afterwards), but it’s […]


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