I mentioned in a previous post that growing up, I probably had a mild form of social anxiety, and part of having to deal with that kind of anxiety is learning how to handle different social situations. This is something I am personally still working on, because it is a lot harder than it might sound. And to those people who will tell me to, “Suck it up, buttercup,” and “What do you have to be anxious about?” No, that’s not how this works. Anxiety is not just a mental state that can be overcome by sheer force of willpower. Most often it’s not even something we can control because it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain that sometimes requires medication to offset that imbalance. For me, the anxiety can stem from something so irrational, like worst case scenario, almost like an impending doom sensation. Like if I screw something up, even just a minor thing, it’s going to cost me my job, I’ll have no money for food so I’ll starve, and so on. Now, my brain might be trying to tell me that none of this is going to happen because it’s minor, but fear often beats out logic. Probably, almost every time. Because fear is stronger than logic. Those two anxiety attacks I had in the same day were driven by a fear so strong that I couldn’t shake it. All because I had been told that I would have to engage and run my own conference calls. I’m not a big talk on the phone kind of person to begin with but to be told instead of asked if I could do this put so much fear in me that during my second anxiety attack that night around bedtime, I told my mom that I was going to quit the very next day, just to avoid having to do these calls.
Sounds extreme, I know, but that’s how my anxiety works. Thankfully, my mom talked me out of quitting my job and I am still working there today, but I did write a detailed letter to my supervisors explaining the situation and they were very understanding. I don’t know why talking on the phone bothers me as much as it does. I don’t even like calling to make doctor’s appointments. Maybe I’m afraid of how my voice sounds, maybe I’m afraid of being judged, though for what, I have no idea. As a general rule though, I try to keep my phone conversations under three minutes unless it is required to be longer (like I’m getting tech support and I need to help walk the person through what’s wrong).
Little things like this are especially challenging for someone with social anxiety. Oftentimes we can’t rationalize or explain why we’re afraid, just that we are afraid.
Now, I work from home, which means the only interactions I generally have with co-workers are via text, IM, or email. On occasion I’ll get a phone call, but not too often. Which is great because then I don’t have to try and make awkward small talk with people passing in the halls or during my lunch break. (I suck at small talk.) Plus I can work in my pajamas and no one’s going to care. However, in living where I live, which is at home for financial reasons, I have to deal with two of my biggest stressors for anxiety. My parents. Don’t get me wrong, I love them to death and am glad they let me move back in when I had a falling out with a roommate. But there are just some days when everything they do and say irritates me and I can’t for the life of me explain why. Like trying to hold a conversation with me when I’ve just rolled out of bed and am not fully awake yet. Not to be rude, but I am not, and have never been, a morning person. At least wait until I’ve had breakfast before asking me all sorts of questions. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. Confrontation is also not a strong suit for me and I’m usually ok with suffering in silence because I know you guys are not doing these things to annoy me in purpose.)
One of the top stressors is loud noises, especially if I’ve been home all day in silence or had soft music playing. I know my dad has some hearing problems and that when he comes home from work, he wants to watch tv to unwind and relax. Not a big deal. But when he turns the tv up as loud as he does to be able to hear it, it’s usually quite jarring to my nerves and that sends my anxiety through the roof. He also likes to flip channels because he hates commercials, which can also pile on to my annoyance. Sounds pretty irrational, right? Being anxious over some noise and channel changing? Herein lies my predicament. One of the best ways for me to settle down from this is to listen to my music through headphones as loud as I can take it. Not so loud as to give me a headache but loud enough to drown out everything else. And not just any music either. Oh yes, I made myself a playlist especially for times when I need a little music therapy. The list consists mostly of Evanescence but also has one or two Tool songs as well as A Perfect Circle. These songs will generally calm me down and quiet my mind, especially if I sing along to the ones I know the words to, and I can’t explain why it works, but it works and that’s all that matters.
I really am trying to be better about these things, because I know sometimes my parents are not doing it on purpose just to annoy me, but I also want them to know and understand that even the littlest things can trigger heightened anxiety for me and I don’t always know what’s going to set it off. I have a general idea of the big ones, like loud noises, large crowds, and meeting strangers one on one, but the smaller ones are often the most irrational and unexplainable triggers, and I’m sorry. I am still learning how to deal with and handle my anxiety better without shutting people out. Just be patient with me, please. I know how hard it is, and I sometimes hate myself for it, but please just be patient.