If you’ve read my post Socialising with Anxiety, then you’ll know social anxiety is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Recently, changes in my life have made my anxiety manifest differently from a couple of months ago. I thought I’d write about my experiences here today, so if for some reason you want to read about a stranger’s battle with her mental health, go ahead and read on.
The main change for me is that I’ve worked a couple of jobs in the ‘real world’ now. That’s right, I’ve moved on from being an innocent, naive school girl to a fully-fledged business lady. Now, I’m working hard every day to bring home money for my family. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But I have worked in two different office environments, learnt how to use two different sets of computer programs, and most importantly, experienced dealing with two different lots of customers on a daily basis. It’s a wonder I’m still alive to be honest.
Generally speaking, I think doing work like this has been very beneficial for me. Eventually, constantly being thrown into terrifying social situations gave me less time to worry about them beforehand. By the end of my first job, I was going into work with no social anxiety at all (unless I knew I had to make a phone call that day).
Speaking of phone calls, another change in my life is that I’m suddenly finding myself making a lot more of them. To most people, this ‘change’ probably sounds kind of silly and insignificant. However, for many people with social anxiety, phone calls are the bane of their existence. Temporarily working as a receptionist for my second job meant taking phone calls was something I had to do all day every day. Yikes. I’ll be honest, the first day was tough and involved many awkward conversations, nervous stutters, and highly ‘unprofessional’ moments. Luckily, by the end of the week I was totally calm – I’d gotten so used to making phone calls that they didn’t give me any anxiety anymore. Success!
In a way, these experiences made me feel like I’d become a lot more socially confident. In fact, at one point I was convinced I could pretty much take on the world now. After my first week of being a receptionist, I remember thinking to myself ‘my socially anxiety is GONE, I’m CURED, talking to people is easy so I can do ANYTHING I WANT NOW. FINALLY MY TIME HAS COME.’
Unfortunately, my slightly optimistic prediction didn’t turn out to be completely true. That weekend, I got invited out to dinner with a group of friends. A few hours before I left, I realised I still felt very anxious for no reason at all. These feelings didn’t really go away all night. While I was at the dinner, I also spent a significant amount of time feeling uncomfortable, awkward and shy. I didn’t feel like this for the whole night, but for a lot of it, the old anxious thoughts I thought I’d finally kicked out of my brain started peering their heads inside my mind again.
Overall, though, I think I am headed in the right direction. My social interactions around ‘proper adults’ (which is how I refer to anyone over 30) appear to be becoming easier while those around people my own age still seem pretty difficult. This may simply be because I’m spending less time around them because they’re all at uni. It does make me wonder what going to university will be like in September when I’m constantly surrounded by people my age… Will I have a breakdown? Will being ‘thrown’ into these situations help me in the long run? Will I be forced to make an impromptu trip to Timbuktu? I guess I’ll find out soon (and I’ll probably write another blog post about it).
Thanks for reading,