Social anxiety day

How I long for someone to call and talk to. I’ve had a bad day, and it seems there is no one to call. I do have friends, but not a friend who will not freak out about problems, or on the other hand, whose experience is so limited they cannot really understand.

I have two kinds of friends ITRW at the moment. One is the ‘normals’. They freak out about problems. They will try to quickly give advice, and then not call me again for weeks, unsure how unstable and strange I am. They are fair weather friends. That’s OK, but of no use to me when things are going badly.

The second kind are the ‘unwells’. These are my favorite friends. I can to some extent discuss things with them. However, they live restricted lives due to their various conditions. Or they are fragile and can’t cope with anything. I feel more kinship with the unwell friends, but they have these drawbacks. Some cannot work and haven’t worked for years, so have no idea what workplaces can be like. 

I’m not in any way commenting on anyone I’ve met online through blogging of course. Just my lack of a solid friend ITRW.  Which is most likely my own darn fault.

I have in the past had close women friends who had both understanding and patience for difficulty, but at this time, there is no one. All I need is to have someone listen to me for a few minutes. Is that so hard? It seems it’s hard to find.

My social difficulties really reared up again today at work. There was a department lunch in honour of a contractor who has had to cut short his contract for personal reasons (he didn’t discuss them). I kind of ‘froze’ at the lunch and didn’t do well.

To start with people car-pooled there. I didn’t know they would, though it makes sense, so I had no one to go with. I ended up trailing after the co-worker who doesn’t like me, who was with two others, and asked if I could go with them. She kind of grunted, so when I asked again she said yes, impatiently. Clearly did not want me along, but couldn’t quite  say no. If I’d known about the car-pooling I would have asked someone else before all had left. I really wasn’t sure where this restaurant was to tell the truth, so didn’t want to go on my own.

Well, great start. So they talk about rock groups I don’t know about, but I make a comment about something else to try and fit in. We got to the restaurant, and I know I want to sit far away from this co-worker, C. So as she is at one end, I edge towards the middle of the very long table. I can’t quite bring myself to go right to the other end where no one is sitting. So I end up sitting across from the boss, who makes me uncomfortable, next to the PM, who is very loud and I’ve never talked to, and beside a very quiet young man who is kind of nice but won’t talk much.

Anyway, the only people I know a bit all come later and sit at the other end of the table, and I’m stuck with the boss. So no one talks to me. And the conversation is about more stuff I don’t know about – TV shows (I don’t watch much), people I don’t know, and just topics I don’t feel comfortable with.

I asked a few questions of the quiet guy to draw him out. It did start him talking, but he launched into conversation then on that topic with another young guy, and I couldn’t contribute. I got more and more tense, and decided I would just sit. I made a comment about the food I think, and said something about Seinfeld at one point.

Well, I said a few things now that I think about it. But overall, said nothing. So uncomfortable. I wish very much I hadn’t gone to that lunch. If I could have sat with someone I had something in common with, that would have been different.

My instinct with people I don’t know is to ask a question to learn something about them. However, no one else does that it seems. They just launch into talking.

Then on the drive back I gave up and just sat in the car letting the others talk. They were all younger and had things to say about which I know nothing.

Very dismal.

Back at the office, I plugged in my headphones and listened to podcasts while I did some routine work so talked to no one for the rest of the day.

I feel so out of it. I know it’s social anxiety – it’s not as bad as I think. My thoughts are likely deceiving me. It’s easy to think everyone thinks I’m really strange, lost in my own world.

I don’t wish to be like that but I don’t see a way out. Likely the contract won’t be renewed for lack of fit.

I bumped into the PM I sat next to on the way out of the office for the day, and he just gave me this really strange intense look. Not a friendly look. I would normally say goodbye, but that look just scared me.

So a friend I tried to call who didn’t understand just sent me an email to say hang in there. So nice. He means well.

At least I can write things out on this blog. I don’t wish to be a strange person. Just cannot seem to fit in.

Well, I am trying out a therapist tomorrow. Maybe she can be of some help. Though my social troubles do not kick in in one on one therapy, so they never understand what I am talking about.

OK, what to do?

1) Greet at least two people in the morning.
2) Approach at least one person for a brief chat, preferably early in the day so I don’t seem so isolated the rest of the day.

At least I’ll seem like I’m making an effort.

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10 comments
  1. Paula said:

    Dear One, I so much can relate. In my preofessional life I am all talk, chat and outgoing, approachable and most of the time have the right word on my lips. Private life is somehow different. SIGH. OK, majorly different. I seldomly open up. Except my partner. Over the years I have lost friends due to my condition. Since my trauma therapy I am more aware of it. The next and last intrvall of trama therapy will happen late Spring and afterwards I am supposed to attend a group therapy. GROUP: like talking, setting boundaries, having a laugh, creating and defending my positions. My restrictive social phobia is cringing already. That will be a hard thing. I do know that there are plenty of groups in the USA as well. Even in meetup.com ( social network) you may find a small group which meets because of anxiety, depression etc etc. Like you I am seldomly have someone to talk too. It is hard and let the condition progress further. Your approach in setting goal and being aware one has to start small is awesome. You go girl.Love from my heart to yours.

  2. diver said:

    Nicely written Ellen, a vivid description! I was able to imagine myself right there with you in the car and at the lunch :-/ That was a pretty gross psychic hammering you took today by the sound of it. So sorry you had to go through that alone … that sucks. Wow, not even one colleague showed you friendship. Damn.I might come back and comment analytically another time. For tonight I'd just like to offer you some digital empathy and say "it's not your fault". You're clearly a nice sensitive person doing her best to try and fit into a new but alas none-too-hospitable workplace. You didn't 'freeze' ma'am, you were just left out in the 'cold' by others' insensitivity!

  3. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,The most important thing to remember is how you rounded off your post: "At least I'll seem like I'm making an effort.". But more accurately regardless of how it is percieved is for you to know yourself you are making the effort and what more can you do than that?Workplaces can be horrible when there are cliques. Some can be so hardened that it does not matter how nice or friendly you are they will not let you in. Some just fear sharing and allowing someone new in. In those cases you can do nothing about it.This reminds me very much of college. I went day release from my workplace and was on a course where most of the people worked beside each other. Even though I didn't particularly like them as people I tried hard to be friendly with them because I felt awkward between breaks sitting alone. But the sods didn't want to know and so I just gave up but its not a nice experience I know.You would have known how hard the car pooling and lunch would have been before hand so credit to you for going through with it. I can't give any advice on the people there. It seems to me that's the way they are and won't change. My own method was to occupy myself. I started going to the library at lunchtime to read and during breaks would find a quiet spot to read some more. I think in these situations our energy is better spent on ourselves than trying to change the unmovable.All the best and I really do feel for the situation you are in at the moment- which is not your doing.Nechtan

  4. I think it is just that way for some people. I've come to accept it as being that way for me and don't get stressed about it anymore. I just won't go to things like that. It also has been difficult for me to find someone to talk to about the difficult days. Writing does help even tho there is sometimes no reply. your post really hits home.

  5. gniz said:

    Hey, I can relate. I dread lunches and any kind of party atmosphere where small-talk is expected. At one work event, I went and got a drink and some food and wandered around not talking to a single person and then i left the room and called my wife.It sucks. People like us, in my experience, are more oriented to meaningful conversation and have difficulty with surfacy, small-talk.I can and do force it at times, but it's always rough and deeply uncomfortable for me. I sense that at times I am off-putting because of this attitude as well.The thing to try and remember and notice is that frequently the people who do well with small-talk and socializing just PLOW through no matter what. I've seen people who will talk and talk regardless of the fact that people are rolling their eyes, or if someone is disinterested in what they're saying, etc. In other words, you and I may be more self-conscious. We want to talk because someone else actually gives a shit about what we have to say. We get nervous if it seems that others are annoyed or indifferent to conversation. But really relaxed socializers just don't care, the talk and laugh and get others to relax and open up with them.It's not that there's something that drives people away from you. You aren't comfortable opening others up, in getting through that ice and making the connection.But it's not due to anything being wrong with you. It's just a style thing. Try to relax. Try to share funny little harmless stories about yourself from time to time.I've taken to discussing my low-carb diet, joking about my eating out too much at restaurants, etc. And try and listen to others and maybe make a note about something (perhaps they have kids?). Then just ask about their kids. Ask them about themselves and people will generally talk away.Oh you like to golf? I've never golfed, what's it like to get a lesson…how much does it cost?Maybe get a journal and listen to others conversing and write some of it down as notes to see how they do it, what kinds of questions or comments seem to work.If you TRULY want to conquer this, analyze it and pay attention and slowly chip away at it. You can and will do it.Take care and best of luck. There are many of us (social anxiety types) out there!

  6. Em said:

    have you ever thought your work collegues arent the right people for you? instead of thinking your the one with the problem. feeling like a square peg in a round hole, your may not be the wrong-un you just need to find a different shaped hole.i applaud you for fightening your corner. for persisting and not giving in. yet why not try to find out what your bag in life is and go for it. then surrounding yourself with understanding others would make day to day life much more pleasant.i do think office ettique wherever you are in the world is the same. generally speaking the film of fake-ness the world over. like car salesmen, estate agents you know what the score is.sorry about my spelling etc, partically woolly day. but well done for working forward against all odds. xxx

  7. Thanks so much for your post, and your blog. Millions of Americans are suffering from adult and adolescent depression and anxiety. Silver Hill Hospital has clinicians trained in evaluation, diagnosis and treatment and provides hope for people who may not have been getting the right care. Talking/blogging about mental illness can be extremely helpful not just for yourself, but for others in need. Keep up the good work.

  8. Ellen said:

    Thank you dear commenters. I have been remiss in responding promptly, but your kindness cheered my heart.@Paula – Thanks Paula. For me, business chat is very hard, while talking with friends I know is a lot easier and more comfortable. I'd bet a group would be great for overcoming some of those fears. Hugs@diver – Thanks 🙂 Well, I'd say it was a combination of my social fears and their not very welcoming behaviour. It's tempting, but I'm not going the route of 'not my fault' because then there's nothing I can do. I'm going to keep plugging and beat this thing. Thanks for the support though – good to know it could be seen two ways.@Nechtan – Interesting that you can relate so well Nechtan. I think my experience is not so unusual. If you think there's one person in every work department in the world who struggles with fitting in, I'm one of millions!Keeping busy is a good idea. But I'm going to keep trying, as I've had a bit of luck with chatting in the days since the awful lunch. It just takes me being seen chatting with one person to break the image of someone who is unfriendly and too quiet. I suspect there's a trick to fitting in which I may stumble on eventually! Take care@Anonymous – Glad you could connect to the post and welcome. There is help out there for social anxiety so I hope you access some of that to help emerge from the loneliness. Though this post is about what social anxiety feels like, we can help ourselves to start to change our perceptions and actions for the better. @gniz – What a helpful response gniz, thank you. And phoning a 'safe person', for me a friend, for you your wife, is classic I think. I do that a lot when socially overwhelmed. It helps to reconnect to the world when we feel shut out. Those tips are a good idea. And the point about it not being about the 'essence' of who I am, but more of a surface problem, I think that's true and it's very easy to lose track of that fact. It's a skills thing, not a lack of likability factor, I trust. That makes it more manageable. I might try the journal idea. Take care@Em – Yes, I have thought that many times Em! If only they were different….Maybe I will find some work that suits me better in future, but right now, I must repair my ravaged finances and persevere. So for now, these are the folks I need to cope with. I will keep in mind though that there are other people out there who are more my cup of tea!Spelling etc seems fine to me Em. Thanks for the support. Take care@Bridgette – Thank you and thanks for coming by.

  9. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the
    blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    • Ellen said:

      Hi social – I’m not aware of any problem as it’s loading OK for me.

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