Archive

social anxiety

I seem to have landed in anxiety land. After three full months of unemployment and fruitless job search, maybe it makes sense. Almost every action causes me intense anxiety, and mostly, I’m seamlessly anxious/afraid without needing to do anything much. Big sigh.

Despite the fact that yesterday, I went for yet another interview, and it seemed to go quite well. I had a bunch of memorized ‘examples’ of things going well at work and myself being a working superhero. The interview was at my favorite time, early afternoon, so I had no struggle getting there on time. And then, the interviewer didn’t use the standard behavioural interview questions at all. He was pretty off the wall in fact, and very ready to be pleased with me it seemed.

The interview was not with a big corporation. It is a small company that contracts out to large corporations. So, more informal. And in the old section of town, which makes me feel a bit better – a lot of buildings in that hundred year old orange brick that’s a little crumbly and narrower than modern brick.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer said he liked me a lot, and that most likely they’d ask me to join them for a three month upcoming project. So I know nothing for sure yet. As they are small, I’m a little uncertain about them. The project might fall through, for instance. However, the fact is, I did well in the interview, they liked me, and whether I get work or not, this is a good experience.

I also took a small dose of an anti-anxiety med before hand. This makes a big difference I think. I certainly feel better, and I believe I come across as more trustworthy and competent when I’m not trying to batten down mega doses of anxiety while fielding bizarre and useless questions.

So I should be feeling calmer. I’m not. This is anxiety like a sickness – I’m not aware of thinking anything in particular, and most everything is causing it.

The other thing that happened was I went on a short date. A coffee date, with someone from the internet. Men will stir up my anxieties and could be that this has contributed to my current state.

The man was quite nice. He wanted to talk about culture, so we talked books and movies, as well as jobs. He was more self-assured than I was, more outgoing, and I told him i don’t date much so am a bit shy at first. I did see a look of boredom flash on his face a few times, especially at first. After an hour, I said I wanted to get going. I wasn’t bored, but I was anxious, and so glad I had had the courage to meet someone, and relieved it could be over now.

I’m not sure what he thought. The situation made me too anxious to really evaluate how much I liked him. I think I did basically like him. He said maybe we’d talk again, I said sure, that would be great, and that was it. I haven’t heard from him since – we met three days ago. A friend advised a quick email after several days, so I’ve sent an email saying I enjoyed meeting him and hope he wants to meet again. Haven’t heard back. So could be, he’s actually not interested. Though he might still write back I suppose.

I have to learn to tolerate this kind of thing I suppose. But maybe the dating/ probable rejection plus the rejection inherent in a job search has been a bit much for me to cope with.

If I go to bed, and do nothing much, or try some light reading, the anxiety goes away. It’s like playing dead. Maybe I have to do that for a while now. I should be continuing to look for work but it’s too anxiety provoking at the moment.

Anxiety like this that’s around all the time is unusual for me. I’m much more likely to be felled by depression than by endless feelings of fear when there is actually no threat.

 

My boss is away for two weeks, and I feel so much better. My co-worker is perhaps struggling, though she never says anything unless I ask her a direct question. She works very closely with our boss, who basically micro-manages her every move. So presumably as I don’t work with this stuff, she’s been left to do my boss’ job. My own job has little to do with my boss, and I manage it myself. If my boss ever gets involved, it’s disastrous.

She pulled me into a meeting room the Friday before she left, and said I am not looking happy, and would I be interested in this job going permanent if she gets that approved? I told her it’s true I’m not feeling positive about the job.

She of course launched into speech. As usual, it wasn’t clear what the upshot of what she was saying was, except it seemed critical of me and my co-worker. When I said I didn’t know what she was talking about, did she mean X – she said no, she didn’t mean that at all. Never did find out what she meant.

Since she didn’t have approval to offer me the job, I didn’t have to accept or decline, so I left things up in the air. Absurdly, I did feel better after we talked. I told her how much her behaviour the past week, where she seemed to be berating me every day for the same problem that happened a week ago, upset me. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all when I say things like this. Which is interesting to me. We seem to throw emotion back and forth and then like each other better afterward.

But – overall, I cannot work for this woman. I’m realizing it just in how much better I feel now she’s not there. I think I could manage the various problems of the job itself, if I didn’t have to manage her personality.

So it seems she is going to offer me this job, unless the big boss thumbs it down. I will decline, unless I can persuade big boss that she really needs me on staff, and that to make that happen, she will assign me to a different manager. I have two in mind that I would like to have as bosses. I actually don’t need a boss, and in any case, none of them has any documentation skills. But both these guys are intelligent, seem reasonable, and are nice to people generally. I’ve worked with them and they’re great.

Who knows if this is possible. It would create problems with my current boss for sure, as she would then only have one employee, and so a lower status.

Younger scared parts of me are so worried I’ll accept the job as is. Because I so deeply do not want another contract, to start all over again from the beginning in a new place, with a new subject matter, with all new people. It exhausts me. I’ve done that for two years now, and I so don’t want to do it again.

But I just must not torture myself by staying in a situation that is continuously bad for me. I won’t do that to myself.

 

I was thinking about my last post. First, wow, did I ever leave a lot out of my session. And second, about my distrust of my therapist currently. I’m so depressed. I think I distrust everyone at the moment. I’m seeing all the darkness, all the failures, all the disappointments. I’m not seeing the caring, the many responses I have received, the attention to me while I’m in his office. So I find some of the things he says off. It’s OK. I’m pretty sure I’d find that with anyone.

One thing I left out – I talked about how I used to be somewhat like the young silent people at work. In my twenties, I barely spoke. I’d make an exception for a very few ‘safe’ people. But I’d never speak in class, or elsewhere. I felt scared to speak to anyone. And kind of arrogant at the same time – I’d think how could people be talking about such stupid things. At the same time, I’d long to join in. I felt I didn’t know what to say to people. No one in my family ever chatted. I didn’t know how to make any kind of small talk. And my silence would build – as time went by, and I didn’t make any kind of remark, I’d become more and more self-conscious, and would feel as if my face were maybe frozen.

This was one reason I clung to a fellow misfit – my ex. He also rarely spoke to anyone and didn’t do small talk. I felt like I was the exception to his general scorn for other people – that I was the one person worth talking to. I didn’t realize his reticence was also from low self-esteem, because he was so critical of everyone. Anyway.

Now I’ve changed. I think it’s important to talk with people, and I’m no longer as afraid. I’ve figured out what some common topics are, and what it makes sense to discuss in different contexts. I’m still a bit anxious sometimes, but I can handle myself a lot better socially than I used to.

I’m also no longer drawn to people with low self-esteem. I would accept them, but wouldn’t seek them out.

I don’t know if the young people at work have the same shyness problems I did, or if they just prefer to very silently focus on their tasks. I can definitely understand either way. Just it makes me feel lonely I guess.

One thing we discussed in my session is how very fraught the situation at work seems for me. Instead of being a bit disappointed that it’s not working out as well as I’d hoped, or maybe thinking I don’t know that much yet about this boss or co-worker, I’m likely projecting a lot, to what I think they’re thinking, and I go right to wanting to jump off a bridge. I could take it easier. Ron didn’t say that exactly, but I think that. I’m going to extremes here.

Why is that. The situation must be triggering me into old feelings. One thing I thought of is how very isolated I was as a child. Especially as a teenager actually. I found high school very very rough. I had few social skills, and felt like an outcast. Then at home, my father had stopped speaking with me, and my family more or less colluded in this – they pretended it was not happening. I felt surrounded by people who would not talk to me as if I were a normal human being, who counted.

Writing this is scaring me a bit. In session, I said that basically, in my family, no one cared how I felt. I kind of didn’t know what that would be like, if someone actually cared. Once in a while, I’d experience bits of caring, mostly from women. Some aunts were kind to me, and treated me like someone with feelings. The nicer ones were in old European country though, so very far away. One of my mother’s friends was kind, but in an over-emotional kind of way I found difficult.

The consequence of this was, I didn’t really learn how to be kind, how to care, and what people were like. People just seemed dangerous to me, and I mostly pretended no one else was there. That seemed the only safe thing to do. Any feelings I had, I’d mostly try and pretend I didn’t have them.

So that was hard. Now I’m an adult, and things are different. I’ve changed – I’ve learned that people have feelings, that people might care about me and I about them. Even if I haven’t found a lot of friends, I know how to care and how to show some caring also.

So with the people at work being so very reserved, I must feel triggered back into that time when no one cared and when the only safe thing to do was to pretend no one else was there. That was so painful.

I don’t know if that is what the people at work are doing. I don’t understand Chinese culture and what things mean. Surely I’m not catching the subtleties. It is definitely a different culture, and I can’t expect people to act in a typically Western way.

Anyway, that’s why I want to jump off a bridge. It’s not so much what’s actually happening. That might feel strange and unusual, but it would not normally be devastating.

 

I’m anxious rather than shut down and numb. At least it’s a change. It’s actually easier to get things done in this state than in a numb state, up to a point.

I guess I feel wrong and bad somehow. Ron has not replied to my email. It’s unusual for him not to reply when I specifically ask, and yes, I sent another last night asking for a reply. I thought he’d said he wasn’t going away this weekend. His email goes right to his phone, so he’ll have received my messages.

I’m trying to breathe and leave lots of space around the feelings of fear and anxiety.

I had a pretty good day in that I’m no longer sick, and not tired from working, and the therapy hangover has worn off. I went to some vintage furniture stores, and pretty quickly bought two items I’ve been needing for a long time – a teak coffee table, MCM, and a small pair of teak shelves, also MCM. I’m wanting small and lightish furniture, as I live in a walk up that twists and turns, no elevator. I’ve lived here four years, and never really bought furniture, so this is really good. They were a few hundred each – comparable to the more pricey IKEA maybe. I hate IKEA. I get overwhelmed in the giant store, by the hugeness of it. Then I’m crap at trying to put the stuff together. Plus my car is so tiny, I can’t fit anything into it.

I like that I got wood furniture, not particleboard, and it’s been previously used, so I’m not adding to the garbage of the planet at least for this one time. I like supporting a small local business instead of huge corporate IKEA. It’s good. Since I’ve been too overwhelmed to spend any money, I have the funds to buy a bunch of stuff at once if I need to.

Like I said, anxiety is much better for getting stuff done.

Tonight I went to my 12-step group. I feel really anxious about that also – it did not calm me down. I haven’t made any good connections there, and no one approaches me to talk at the break or after. Another woman I happen to know just started going, and always people want to talk with her. She’s young and attractive, but also, she has a better manner. Well, obviously I’m jealous. Which is stupid.

There is a huge variety of people there and it’s quite a large group, maybe 20 or more. Everyone shares who wants to for a few minutes. In my mind I break them up into basically fine with a few small complaints, and pretty much psychotic with stress and issues coming up. I’m in the second group. The first is very much larger, and they really like each other. In the second group, we kind of recognize each other, but I don’t speak to them either.

I think what I shared didn’t make tons of sense. I spoke about the new job starting, just mentioned it. Then about how I struggle with dissociation, and with recovering from therapy. And how I need the dissociation to cope with work and stuff, but at the same time, I’m trying to heal it. Something like that. Which would make no sense to anyone who doesn’t have those issues, probably.

I did feel quite teary eyed after I’d shared, as I’m not used to telling anyone about dissociation issues. Then, after a few minutes, I totally came out of that and felt more angry and pissed off and judgemental. So many people seemed to be talking in a way designed to get others to like them. How grateful they were to be there. About their higher power. I don’t know. I felt so out of it.

At break, I forced some people to chat with me – that is, I talked about our coffee cups with one really shy man, and asked another person sitting beside me if they’d been away. I was frantic to have some connection with someone, but it felt a bit forced. I was anxious and that doesn’t make for good conversation. Anyway.

After the meeting, I felt so bereft that everyone was chatting, and no one wanted to talk with me. But. I could have stayed a bit and just challenged those feelings of no one wanting me. I know those are old feelings. Am I really sure no one could relate to what I shared? Anyway – could I relate to what someone else shared? Mostly not so much to tell the truth.

Actually there is one older man whom I tend to want to talk with and I don’t. He told his story one night, and there were similarities to my own. He said he’s going to a trauma therapist, and I’d love to talk to him about that a bit. And he just seems – smart and grounded basically. Plus he’s older. The young people there are more difficult – they have such different concerns, and want to talk to others their age.

I think my fear of being ostracized came up. That’s why I was frantically making small talk in the break. I remember the feeling of being ignored, and I just would do almost anything to prevent that happening again.

Then at the end of the meeting, it was as if my fears came true. No one wanted to talk to me, so I felt I had to leave as soon as possible to cut off the experience. When maybe it would have been good to take my time, to see if it was really true. It may not have been. Maybe something about my expression puts people off sometimes, could be. I’m definitely not a cool thirty something with issues that I can explain at length, comfortable and able to speak and explain myself. OK, I’m having trouble with empathy and self-esteem and a bunch of stuff obviously.

Anyway. I’m looking forward to my coffee table and shelves being delivered, hopefully next week.

I’ve become depressed. For today anyway. Mostly I lay down and read. I did go for a walk. I did cook soup. So, some efforts where made.

Yesterday I’d invited my ex and my son over for Easter dinner. In a way it was good. I’d already told my ex I was still kind of sick, so would just do a basic ham and bake some potatoes. I also bought wine and dessert. He was to bring veg.

It was OK. Everyone chatted. This time I was nice to my ex – I didn’t put him down or criticize as I did last holiday, so I felt good about that. I think the depressing thing was how he was at dinner reminded me so much of the past, of how impossible he was. He was in a bad mood, but trying to be polite also.

He has this weird philosophy of life that I hate. He has to work very very hard, but at his own self-directed tasks. Other people are obstacles to him accomplishing all this work. And the work seems useless to me – like Sisyphean tasks. He is endlessly rebuilding his old house. He is the messiest person I ever met, and he hates to spend money on furniture or anything that people usually buy. His house is such a wreck. He doesn’t clean, won’t pay anyone to clean, and he has hoarding tendencies, so it’s filled with junk. It’s just so odd – he devotes himself to this house, and yet it is always such a shambles, he can’t really have anyone over comfortably.

He mentioned his mother. He always does, at holiday meals. It’s like he longs for her to come back and for food to be as she would have cooked it. Ham should have pineapple. I happen to dislike pineapple, so don’t cook it like that. She never had smoked salmon, so he doesn’t like it when I serve it. He’s at the same time very emotionally entranced by food, guilty about it, and wanting his childhood foods.

He was upset that some students took up some of his day (he teaches a course at a college), so presumably he didn’t get in his quota of “work”.

I guess….I want to be understanding, and I kind of am. But his attitude just reminded me how awful he was to live with. People always being in the way of his “work”. The stress about the food. And I felt judged, for only cooking a ham and potatoes. For not going all out to ensure I had many complex dishes. That is kind of women’s unspoken duty, in his philosophy. Not that he said it. But I felt that.

Besides being afraid of his temper, I was extremely lonely living with him. He does not value connections and doesn’t value talk about feelings very much. Everything is about his work. Which never pays, he’s always fairly poor, rarely working full time, but always completely stressed out and overburdened by his projects.

I know he has severe issues. But he hasn’t worked on them, as I have mine.

Anyway, the dinner actually went fine. I was glad I’d made the effort. It can be rewarding just to feed people, and eat together. I really want to do more of that, but maybe with different people.

I feel I’ve really failed in not establishing another family, finding someone who shares some of my own values. Who clings to their ex like that? Not that I see him that often. But there’s no one else really.

I thought I did well with the conversation. Even some topics that get me mad, like a high profile sexual assault case here where the accused was acquitted, I skated over OK. I was able to have my opinion and state it, without fighting with his opinion or my son’s opinion too much. This is a new skill, that I pay attention to the tone of the conversation, and don’t attack people’s opinions.

When they left, I was so wound up I couldn’t sleep. Finally I took some gravol and did get some sleep. And today, I was so depressed I could barely move. It was similar to how I’ve sometimes felt after therapy – needing to lie in bed for hours, doing nothing much. Maybe it’s numbness. Or being dissociated somehow. I was surprised that happened, because as I keep saying, the dinner was OK and had it’s good points.

Doing nothing most of the day feels bad once I come out of that state. I feel cut off from the world and stuck in my own stupid head. I start to doubt that anyone would ever want to hear from me or talk to me.

Tomorrow I hope things will feel more normal once again.

I’ve been sick for the last two weeks. I needed five days off of work, plus a weekend, and am sadly still sick. But feeling emotionally well actually. When I was sick, I got really knocked over and needed to stay in bed for a few days. It actually felt like I was working through the work situation – with each coughing fit, I felt I was protesting the situation – the bosses confusing mixed messages, my anger, their anger, the worry, the sadness of being let go. So after all that, at this point, I feel better. I am glad this very confusing and painful situation is coming to a close, and I’ll get to rest for a week. Hopefully not too much more, as I need to find something else. Tomorrow is my last day.

Therapy on Saturday did not trigger me. Not only that, I felt calm and connected for most of the rest of Saturday and for most of today. As if a light got switched on internally, and I can feel some happiness again.

Which is ironic, since I now have no job and am also still sick, but there you go.

I can’t remember that much of the session. We were both a bit sick, with it seemed the same ailment, though I did not infect Ron, as I hadn’t seen him for two weeks. I tell Ron I’d find it hard to be a therapist with a cough, because I’d cough whenever I got anxious. But then, that’s just me, probably.

I stayed fairly adult this time, and felt no real pull to switch. I wonder if being half sick, and so aware of my body, grounds me somewhat. Could be. I tell Ron about work. I remember to keep labeling my feelings. It feels a bit artificial – oh yes, now I’m labelling this feeling – I’m feeling angry….but overall, it’s really really good. It feels a bit childish, and it is, because I was not taught to do this as a child. Feelings were really never ever discussed, even though they ruled our lives. Labeling them seems to give me some handle over them, so they don’t have to overwhelm me.

Ron doesn’t ask me to label feelings – it’s my idea, but he listens carefully.

I’m trying to work out what happened at work, because it’s hard to know. I float the theory that it’s partly my fault – if I had been less reactive, and less anxious, I would have made a better impression, and they wouldn’t have started to wonder if my work was any good. I tell Ron that in the future, I’m going to lie more. Even though that’s not what therapy is going to tell me to do. Ron says it depends what I mean. I mean, I don’t have to engage all the time. If I don’t agree, or if someone is getting something confused, I don’t have to jump in and correct them. It just gets them mad. If something is going wrong, I don’t have to try and save it. Just let it go….if it’s their idea, I won’t be blamed, and they’ll still like me.

We talk about how by ‘engaging’ I mean engaging negatively. I know a lot of people automatically shy away from engaging negatively, especially women, because we value connection and acceptance so much. For some reason, I easily confront and contradict, and it’s not doing my career any good. Ron says if by ‘lying’ I mean not saying something that the other person can’t hear anyway, then there’s no contradiction with therapy. But I could try engaging positively, looking for areas of agreement.

Whatever. Maybe. Each situation is so very different, but I’m going to try and keep this in mind.

I talk about wanting a social life, but how to get one? There’s meetups, but I did used to go occasionally, and never made a friend there. The people were always different. Then I feel shy at work….sometimes I don’t chat enough with people.

Of course, the talk turns to my childhood. I had best friends as a child, but then stuck with that one person or two people at most – I didn’t branch out. And….oh, my mother dressing me in odd clothes, so I didn’t fit in just from that aspect. She dressed my sister and me in my older cousins’ cast-offs. We lived in a wealthy suburb, so this was unusual behaviour. That, combined with my extreme shyness, and also the fact that I did very well in class, made me a bit of an outcast. Though I did have the best friend at least.

I talk a bit about my mother. She was not empathetic or emotionally attuned in any way – no one actually ever expressed interest in my feelings about things. I tell Ron this was the seventies after all – people were like that. Not all people, says Ron. Yeah, I agree. If your parents family’s were warm and connected, they passed that down to their kids. If not, then not. It happened like that for my mother, and it happened like that for me and my son.

I tell Ron that since my mother never was warm and connected, I didn’t really know what I was missing. Well, says Ron. If you’re missing vitamin C you still get scurvy, whether you know you’re missing it or not. Yeah, I agree. You mean connection is like a need. You need it whether you’ve gotten it ever or not.

Um. Writing about this is kind of upsetting me. Well. Writing about work doesn’t upset me, but writing about my childhood does.

Then one last thing happened. At some point, Ron was talking about something – mothers, or families, or some such. It was supportive and I agreed with it, but I also felt angry. So I went with the anger and told Ron about it. I know it’s not about what you’re saying, I tell him, because I agree with that. I just feel – angry. Like I’m being oppressed somehow. Like I have to fight back. Ron considers this. You don’t like being told what to do. No, I don’t. I don’t remember what else we say, but I strongly remember that feeling of anger. Maybe it was from remembering what it was like for me as a child. Or, maybe it is anger that pops up anytime a man starts talking…That’s a scary thought. I do feel angry very fast, though I don’t usually express it, as I know it’s not appropriate to the situation.

So I wish Ron a good recovery, and he wishes me the same, and I leave. The first few hours after, I feel kind of tired and confused. But once I snuggle down with my novel and relax, I start to feel really good – calm and warm, as if everything is OK and I am safe.

Not really sure how I got to this good feeling, but I’d really like to bottle it and keep it on hand for after every therapy session. Second session in a row where I haven’t suffered after therapy, and one of the few where I’ve actually felt better after going than I did before. Maybe it was not going into parts, yet still talking about things that seemed worthwhile. And maybe it was really nice to have Ron listen and accept my version of things. He can be very kind and supportive sometimes. I remember this feeling from when I first started going to him. He’s good at connecting and making you feel accepted. I’m rather licking my wounds at the moment, so it was nice.