By Sarah Wong
I bail on people. All the time.
Yep, I’m one of those people that everyone hates when organizing events, and I hate it too, believe me. It’s not like I enjoy being unreliable or getting people’s hopes up. You have no idea how shitty I feel about it considering that one of my biggest fears is disappointing people. Despite that though, I’ve bailed on people more times than I’ve gone through with plans. I’ve lost $50 bailing on friends before…and more importantly, damaged those friendships among many others. And I really hate attributing it to my anxiety but honestly, that’s my only explanation for it.
Whenever people invite me to something, I always say yes because why not, right?
Well let me tell you why not:
And that’s how it all hits me – like a brick wall, sometimes just 10 minutes before I’m supposed to leave the house. So then I bail due to an overwhelming fear of the hypothetical. And it happens all the time, even if the occasion is something as simple as going out to lunch with a friend. It’s really hard to explain just how debilitating these thoughts can be, but one notable effect they have on me is that they make me completely disregard fundamental traits of who I am, like my fear of disappointing people, losing money, my capability of logical judgement, and my view of the bigger picture. No matter how much I have to lose by bailing, my fears get the best of me.
That time when I lost $50 for bailing was for a group-organized vacation (“After-prom”) that I was invited to by people I wasn’t exactly close friends with at the time. In fact, when they had invited me, that was a point in my life when I felt pretty socially isolated as I didn’t have many close friends, but rather a wide circle of acquaintances. At that time, I really just wanted to feel included and like I had a distinct group of friends, so I made that $50 deposit, because why not? Right?
Besides my extreme discomfort with spending a ton of money at once (a whole other anxiety in and of itself), I honestly don’t even remember why I changed my mind, but it probably went a lot like the above description. I wasn’t able to get my deposit back and I spent those days after prom doing homework and YouTubing in my room.
I do regret it. I regret the lost opportunities: to make memories with great people, to strengthen my friendships with them, to get away from the depressing environment that I had created for myself and spend some time in the wilderness. All of that is priceless.
At the time I didn’t tell them why I cancelled. I didn’t know it was attributed to anxiety, and this was about a year ago, before I openly discussed my struggles with mental health. Now that I’m more vocal about it, I do let people know that when I bail on them it’s because of how anxious I feel…but do they understand? Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone does; some people may think I’m just bullshitting to make them feel bad for me instead of mad at me.
But regardless of whether they can empathize or not, is it an adequate and valid justification that what makes me unreliable, irresponsible, and disappointing is a ‘side effect’ of my mental illness? No. I can’t use my anxiety as an excuse; that’s how it wins. And it’s so easy to let it win all the time because you feel like you’ve completely lost control of yourself. It’s really fucking hard to be able to recognize that you do, in fact, have the control to disrupt that flood of fearful hypotheticals.
I hope that if there are people out there who struggle with being chronic bailers too, they realize they aren’t powerless victims of their own internal thoughts. Or maybe you’re someone whose friends frequently bail on you and this gives you a different perspective. Personally, I still struggle with this but I try to make a conscious effort to not let it continue being a regular occurrence, and not something I’m known for, because it’s not who I am.
This is the anxiety speaking for me, and I’m not going to let it be my voice anymore.
Herro! I’m a student going into my second year at the University of Toronto studying Psychology and Neuroscience, with a little bit of History and Philosophy of Science thrown in the mix. I’m an executive member of the clubs Active Minds UofT and AFTER UofT, and I contribute to other mental health advocacy efforts on campus. I’m also a bubble tea barista, an avid podcast listener, and I kinda wanna get back into graphology again. I have depression, generalized anxiety, and a slight lactose sensitivity 🙂