Standup comedian Sofie Hagen suffers from social anxiety. She knows she’s not alone and wants to help others who feel the same. Ben & Jerry’s tub optional.
I once pissed in a Ben & Jerry’s tub. It was empty, obviously; I’m not a monster. I just really had to go. There was a toilet in the house, but my housemate was having a party. Meaning there would be people out there.
You know, people… Those awfully terrifying, unreliable, existing creatures who will ask you questions that will make you feel stupid and who will maybe judge you or hug you or ignore you. I hope you understand why I had to pee in an empty 500ml tub.
That was the night I learned a lot of things. I learned that I probably had some kind of social anxiety. And I learned that sometimes a grown woman can urinate approximately 510ml all at once. Both valuable lessons.
Social anxiety just follows you anywhere. I will be honest with you, person reading this: I am writing this on a train. I had carefully picked a window seat from home. I know the anxiety will creep in if I don’t sit by a window. But at the last minute they announced to us that the seat reservations were no longer valid. People started running towards the train.
“If I were to sum it up, anxiety is peeing in places you’re not meant to pee and not peeing in places you’re meant to pee.”
I considered going home, thereby missing a gig that will pay my rent and my flight to Denmark to see my family. All because of two hours on a train not in the window seat.
I have grabbed an aisle seat. I am sitting next to an older man on my right who keeps talking to a couple about his many boats, and a very beautiful couple on my left who came in a bit too late and therefore have to stand.
I am writing this while doing every single breathing exercise I have ever learned. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Focus on your stomach rising and falling. Breathe in for seven seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for seven seconds. I am not even sure those are the right numbers, but I have to do it so as not to freak out.
I am going on tour with my standup show in less than two weeks. A tour of the UK. Seventeen dates, 17 places, 17 shows. I am overtly and massively excited. I can do comedy. I can stand on the stage. There is no anxiety on stage. I have space around me, people in my vision, a microphone and stories I love sharing with an audience.
As I was planning the tour, I remembered the Ben & Jerry’s piss-jar. I am not the only one to piss in places people shouldn’t piss in just because of anxiety. I realised that when I wrote an article a few months ago about hiding in bathrooms when I feel anxious. Ironically, not to pee.
If I were to sum it up, anxiety is peeing in places you’re not meant to pee and not peeing in places you’re meant to pee. I think all psychologists would agree with me on that.
The response I got was incredible. So many people related, so many people are, at this very moment, sitting in toilets not peeing but hiding. I was so happy to know that. I am not alone.
“Breathe in for seven seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for seven seconds. I am not even sure those are the right numbers, but I have to do it so as not to freak out.”
So I decided to make my tour anxiety-safe. Yes, you are right, that is not a phrase. I just made it up and it’s probably problematic and wrong. But this is what I wish to do:
If anything regarding a comedy show makes you anxious, you can drop me an e-mail and we will figure out a solution.
Does it make you anxious to sit near the front or do you have to sit near the exit? I will get you the seat you need.
Need to access the room before the big (hopefully) crowd? I will come out and walk you in and help you find your seat. We do not even have to make small talk.
Need to stand near the back? I will sort that.
I will do this on a case by case basis. Everyone’s needs will be different. I also wholeheartedly promise to not do any audience interaction. I am more scared of you than you are of me.
If you have any special needs, my email address is [email protected] which, yes, is a horrid email address. It is nevertheless the one I will respond to. I am also currently talking to venues about making all of their toilets gender neutral.
As soon as I have information about which venues are anxiety-safe and have gender-neutral loos and wheelchair access, I will post the list on sofiehagen.com. If you want to get a ticket for the tour, also go to sofiehagen.com. If you want to see what a website looks like if Sofie Hagen has made it her very self, also go to sofiehagen.com. You don’t even have to buy a ticket for the tour.
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Sofie Hagen is a Danish stand-up comedian based in London. She is also a body positivity activist and a comedy writer.