“You Can Talk to Us”: Social Anxiety at Work

Social anxiety presents itself in a variety of forms for different people and can be perceived by others in a lot of negative ways. Last week I got called out by a coworker for rarely speaking to the employees on the first floor.

My desk is in the basement along with 3 other workspaces that occupy two part-time employees and one is there twice a week. Most days I am downstairs by myself.

The fridge and microwave are on the first floor so when I arrive in the morning I put my lunch away and come back up a few hours later to get it. In those few moments I am upstairs I try not to make eye contact or speak with anyone else.

bts-v-shy-02

What I look like walking down the hallway at work.

Last week I was walking back to the basement after heating up my lunch when my coworker said, “you know you can talk to us.”

I was dumbfounded. I felt exposed as if she pulled back the curtain to see socially anxious little me hugging my favorite teddy bear.

My anxiety has always told me that nobody wants to talk to me or cares what I have to say. It has made me believe that it is best for me to keep to myself so I don’t bother others.

My response was, “Oh, I can? I thought you were all really busy most of the time.”

She said they aren’t then we proceeded to casually chat for a few minutes.

Over the years, I have shut myself off socially at work.

At my last job I kept to myself except for talking to my supervisor. Most of my other coworkers weren’t friendly so I didn’t speak to them unless necessary.

Nobody has called me out on my social anxiety (except my therapist) so it has become a normal way of living for me. It has definitely given me some perspective on how others view me at work. Something to certainly think about.

Do you have social anxiety? If so, how do you cope with it at work/school?

Also what is your current coping method when you’re struggling with your mental illness?

As you can see from the featured image, my current coping mechanism is BTS. Whether it’s watching their incredible dancing in their music videos or reading along with the translated lyrics, BTS makes me happy in all ways. It also helps that they are all super cute. (If you’re a fellow Army, I love Jin, V and RM most.)

What warms my heart is their lyrics in “Love Yourself” that say, “even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations.” These words are powerful for me because of my history with self-harm.

I Need to Call My Therapist

Today was the peak of my anxious December. Each day I have been getting more and more anxious, little things add up to become huge issues in my head.

A week ago I was nearly in tears because I was overwhelmed by anxiety. I often feel like I need to have a perfectly spotless house. When I’m tired or just want to relax, I sometimes ignore that and keep on cleaning. It becomes too much for me to handle so I crack.

Today I was experiencing a lot of anxiety that I don’t know where it was coming from. I was angry at everyone and everything for no reason. I could feel my muscles tense from the anxiety so I thought I would go to the gym to release it. Sadly it only helped a little bit. I walked back into my house and the stress fell back on to my shoulders.

Anxiety is the freaking worst. For me it is worrying about everything. Anxiety is stress piled up so high on my mind that I cannot see the top. It is being unable to act because I am frozen with anxiety.

On Monday I am calling my therapist to make an appointment. I need to hash out the worries and blockades in my brain that are holding me back.

How has your mental health been? If you struggle with anxiety, are you managing it ok?

A Decade Mental Health Reflection

10 years is a really freaking long time. Looking back I think this may have been the most transformative decade of my life because so many monumental things happened.

I graduated from high school and college. I got my first part time job at Wendy’s (a fast food restaurant in America) and first full time job (that I reluctantly quit). I fell in love twice, lost my virginity, had my heart broken many times and bought a house with my boyfriend of nearly 3 years.

**I’m going to be writing about self harm and suicide. If this may be triggering for you, I suggest waiting for my next post. Talking about self harm is triggering for me still but I want to talk about it openly and honestly.**

Self-Harm

During this decade I learned about depression and anxiety, finally labeling how I had felt for most of my life. I cut myself for the first time in 2011 in my college dorm room because I felt an overwhelming sense of depression and loneliness. This action impacted my life quite a lot. I used it to cope with my mental illness when I was at my lowest points for many years.

You can still see some of those early scars on my arms in the right light. I usually notice them in the summer when the sun shines the brightest. It takes me back to all of the pain I felt in those moments, when I thought this was the only way I could survive each day.

Therapy

Back in 2014 I was in my last year of university, I had returned to the main campus after spending a year in a big city and abroad in England. I struggled so much to readjust to life on campus but I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus, I had no energy and no drive to attend classes or do my assignments.

This brought me to seeing my first therapist, Jennifer. She was the total opposite of me personality wise, she was straight-laced, practical and put together while I walked into her office a total wreck. She was a counselor at my university that I saw every other week. She helped me take those first steps to sorting through my mental illness which lead me to the therapist I have been seeing since September 2016.

I love my current therapist. She has been with me through my very darkest times struggling with intense suicidal thoughts and daily self harm. I saw her twice a week for months until I got a grip on myself. Once I finally made it to once a week I was so proud of myself. I now see her more or less on an as needed basis which I never thought would be possible.

Suicide

After a bad breakup from my first love, my life was in shambles. Before this I had occasionally had suicidal thoughts but they were not even close to the level of intensity these were. “Kill yourself” was on repeat in my mind constantly. I couldn’t have a moment of silence without hearing that phrase.

I never attempted suicide, I think because I had such a strong team of professionals supporting me. My therapist, doctor and psychiatrist were helping me, I didn’t want to let them down by dying. And we were all working to find a medicine that would help me.

Since being on medicine I haven’t had intense suicidal thoughts. I have them occasionally  if I’m at a low point but other than that I am ok.

I’m sorry this post is so long but I wanted to write up a brief bit of my mental health journey from this past decade. In 2010 I wouldn’t have expected for all of this to happen. Life surprises us, it surprises me on a regular basis.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Social Anxiety and Me

Starting a new job can be challenging for anyone but when mental illness is tossed into the mix, things can be even more difficult.

I am about to start the fourth week at my new job which involves doing marketing for a local charity. Of course during my first week I was nervous, you never know what your coworkers will be like after they aren’t obligated to be polite anymore.

Positive to Anxious

Everybody was very nice during my first week. I got to chat with a lot of people my age which was really great. I didn’t talk to many of my coworkers at my previous job so I had a lot of culture shock which is odd to say about a new work environment.

Week 2 was not as easy as week 1. I had become suffocated by my anxiety, unable to speak to anyone unless they started the conversation. Even then I would try to end the conversation or leave the room entirely to find a space to be by myself which is hard. I used to have my own office but now I share a workspace with 3 other people.

When I did get time alone, I was spinning in my chair, pacing the floors trying to get my head to relax. One day I had to hold my coffee cup with both hands to drink because I was shaking so badly. I asked myself, “Megan, what the hell?! It’s just a new job, how is your anxiety this bad?”

Here Comes the Depression!

That Friday as I walked out the door of the building into the chilly evening, my anxiety plummeted into depression. All weekend I had no interest in anything, I was completely numb. I kept myself busy by constantly cleaning and cooking so I wouldn’t fall pray to my usual answer to depression: laying in bed for hours.

My boyfriend kept thinking I was upset with him or that he had done something wrong. This is the first time he has truly seen my depression first hand since we moved in together. I had to explain that it wasn’t his fault, that it was the new job.

To help I asked if we could watch a “Harry Potter” movie together. I chose the fourth movie, “The Goblet of Fire” which is my favorite one! We got out our toy wands and he put on my special Harry glasses which made the experience so much more fun.

My Therapist Saves the Day

Thankfully I met with my therapist the next day to talk everything out. I explained my fear that nobody would want to talk with me even if I initiated the conversation and that I was too nervous to make the first move.

She reassured me as always that they all just met me and that in time maybe I will make a friend or two. That would be pretty cool to have a new friend!

Her positive words and encouragement helped me get through my 3 days of work last week. I was able to speak to people and even begin conversations with my coworkers!

So progress? We shall see what this week brings, I never seem to know what my future has in store for me.

Have you had a similar experience? How to do deal with social anxiety?

I’m sorry this is so terribly long!!

TLDR: New job makes me anxious so I talked to my therapist. Last week was better than expected.

How Does One Fit In?

This is my second week at my new job and I am struggling to find my place there. During my first week everyone was friendly so I used a ton of energy interacting with them. I was exhausted at the end of each day because of it.

Now that it’s my second week I am trying to figure out how I can fit in despite my anxiety. Being new makes me even more nervous to speak to anybody. Today I couldn’t stop thinking that nobody liked me, that I won’t be good at my job and because my desk is in the basement office, I will be forgotten. I’ve already heard from multiple people that “they forgot I was here.” I thought, “Wow, great, cool, thanks for telling me how forgettable I am.”

At my last job I kept to myself most of the time. I didn’t talk to my coworkers very much and really only made connections with my supervisor. Whenever I was at staff meetings I rarely spoke unless I was spoken to or needed information from someone.

This is what I am accustomed to so I don’t know how to navigate this new environment. I don’t want to come off as antisocial or rude but I don’t know how to be my actual amiable self.

That is one of the interesting parts about anxiety, you keep to yourself because you’re anxious but people perceive it as stuck up.

Today I only had a conversation with one person. It was a really good one though! She is only training at my office so I will probably never see her again after her training is complete. But every time I consider opening my mouth to speak, I close it and scurry like a startled bunny back to my desk and put in my headphones.

How do you adjust to new situations? How do you put anxiety to the side?

Searching for Balance

Sorry I haven’t been so active here on the Bipolar Writer as I normally am. My life has been so out of whack that I can’t seem to find balance.

I have been coping with this imbalance by binge eating/overeating on a regular basis. Once I open my mouth, I have no idea when I will reach my limit. For the past three days I have felt incredibly bloated because of it which, of course, makes me feel depressed and critical of myself.

Each day I get angry with myself, saying, “Why can’t you just stop, Megan!? You’re not hungry, why are you eating again?”

The stresses of life have been chipping away at my mental health. I get home from work and am immediately overwhelmed by everything that I have to do. The daily chores get done but I feel like I can never get to the random tasks like pulling weeds outside or finally organizing my closet.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time and keep my house the way I want to. Because I go nonstop after I get home from work, I feel like I don’t get to enjoy any Megan time. I want to be able to write again, go to the gym, do yoga with my cats and not worry that I have chores to do.

My anxiety kicks into gear when I start thinking about this sort of stuff.

How do you find balance in life? If you have achieved balance, do you have any good tips?

Depression Makes Me Flaky

Canceling plans and  not showing up to things when I say I will has been a constant in my life recently. I am falling back into depression which makes me want to stay home all of the time.

Day to day activities like going to work have been very challenging. Yesterday I couldn’t make it through the day so I left two hours early. When I got home, those feelings of emptiness evaporated. My boyfriend had off yesterday so I got to spend some extra time with him which is always a plus since he works a lot.

Yesterday I also was flaky in my personal life. I lied to my friend saying I was working the day of her wedding and couldn’t come. Why would I do that? The regular, not depressed Megan wouldn’t do that.

I also flat out didn’t show up to my cousin’s last soccer game of her lifetime. I told her I would be there then just didn’t go. I feel so horrible about it, what kind of cousin am I?

I feel like a hideous monster that needs to run back under the bed. That I should’t talk to anyone because I will only let them down in the future.

Reflecting on my actions my stomach turns, my heart races and I can’t shake the feeling that I am a terrible human. My depression has such a deep influence on me that I haven’t made any decisions without consulting it.

“Depression, I was invited to a party what should I do?”
“We are not going. We are staying home, Megan.” 

My hands are stained red with guilt that I am a bad person for telling lies and being a flake. I was raised to always tell the truth but lately my nose has grown 5 times it’s normal size.

Does your mental illness make you act out of character? Do you ever cancel plans because you’re not mentally well?

“Is Cutting a Cry for Attention?”

Just as a warning to anyone in a sensitive time, I am writing about suicidal thoughts and self injury. I even triggered myself writing this so please take care of yourself.

Last week at work we had a suicide prevention seminar. A client killed herself in our building earlier this year so my boss thought it was appropriate to have one of the local universities bring their special suicide prevention team over to do a presentation.

Being someone who has been suicidal and being relatively active in the mental community, I had my critic hat on. I didn’t expect to learn much because I know the signs that somebody is suicidal. I lived it for many months.

So the presentation went fine, I had no qualms or anything to be pissed off about. Until…

For some reason that I don’t have the answer for, two of our organization’s board members were present. I had no idea why they were there but they were. It all went to shit when the one woman raised her hand and asked:

“So what about cutting? Do people cut themselves as a cry for attention? Are they suicidal?”

I rolled my eyes so hard I nearly fell over. I was hoping the speaker would say something intelligent, to show that she actually knew what the hell she was talking about. Instead her response was outdated and she was entirely misinformed.

She said yes to both of her questions. I immediately became silently angry. I couldn’t believe that somebody who is an alleged expert about this is telling my coworkers that people who cut want attention and want to die.

Here’s my response to her question:

You can’t lump every person who self injures into a shallow explanation like that. As someone who has struggled with self injury for 8 years, I never once did it for attention. I have always work diligently to hide my cuts and scars from people. The last thing I ever wanted was for someone to see what I did to myself. For me, it’s always been embarrassing.

Some people are suicidal and cut but use self injury as a coping mechanism. Not as a means to kill themselves. During my severe depression where I had constant thoughts of suicide, I cut myself daily. But that’s just my experience, not everyone’s.

Responses to questions like that only perpetuate the falsehoods about people who self injure or are suicidal.

What are your thoughts about this? What would your response be to that woman?

Megan’s Anxiety Raceway

I have a recurring stumbling block that when I trip over that I can’t always get up from right away. When I have upset someone or done something wrong (no matter if it’s major or minor) I can’t function.

If it happens at work, I can’t be productive. I will spin around in my office chair until I can go home to crawl into bed and hope one of my cats joins me.

This morning it happened and I have barely done any work at all.  My mind continues to race around the thought that I upset someone. On repeat I hear, “you upset this person, there’s no way they will love you anymore” and “why are you such an idiot, Megan? Why didn’t/did you do that? So moronic!”

My stomach is in knots. My brain is a scrambled egg.

Even if what I did/didn’t do is minute, I always have this type of reaction. My anxiety jumps into the Subaru Legacy in my brain (that’s the car I drive), revs the engine and speeds around the race track that is my mind. I’m calling it Megan’s Anxiety Raceway.

I can mess up without criticizing myself only if my actions don’t effect someone else. Like if I spill my smoothie on the floor (did it last year, very messy) or misplace my work keys (happened this morning, they were in my office), it doesn’t matter. Knowing someone is hurt, disappointed or flat out angry at me makes my mind shrivel up. I think again and again about how I should have acted differently to prevent whatever happened.

My regrets stick with me because of my anxiety. I am a professional ruminater.

How do you overcome your anxious thoughts? How do you stop ruminating over stuff? Please leave me a comment! I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

How Do I Be Positive?

Getting into a cycle of negative and pessimistic thoughts is so easy for me. I look at a situation and can pick out all of the insurmountable challenges.

Whether it’s related to work, writing, relationships or general life, I see life with a negative perspective. It’s like having permanent sunglasses on that prevent me from seeing the positive light shining all around me.

As I’ve written in some previous posts, I am in the process of moving which has been overwhelming. The house my boyfriend and I just purchased was left filthy. I am still shocked that people chose to live in such filthy conditions. The bathtub and dish washer are moldy, all three sinks are grimy, I don’t think they ever cleaned their dryer vent and I feel like I have to wash my hands every few minutes to feel clean.

My negative mindset says, “You’ll be cleaning up these people’s shit forever!” “You’re never going to feel clean in your own home.” “This house was a mistake.” “Why am you so lazy that you can’t clean everything in one go?”

I spoke with my therapist today. She suggested to take each task one step at a time. To compartmentalize instead of looking at the house as one giant task.

It’s hard to look at it positively though when you live in a negative thought cycle.

Do you struggle with negative thinking? How do you change your mindset to think positively?