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social anxiety

Definitely depressed today, Sunday. I am exhausted by work, and then I end up resting and doing the basic chores, and don’t make the further effort of doing anything special. But when you always want to lie down, it’s tough to push for things.

I’m not sure what’s going on with me. Yesterday I cooked dinner for a friend. It was quite satisfying to be the one giving, instead of having someone cook for me. It was hard being social though, even just with her. She seems to be going through a rough time herself, and hinted at being down, but she doesn’t like to discuss her problems. At least, not the big ones. I know she is pining for a boyfriend and feels sad about her life as a single woman.

I am relieved I am not pining for a boyfriend. Yes, I would like one, but mostly, I don’t think about this. There’s no one specific anyway. And, I had more than my fill of a partner who was destructive and whom I wished gone for a long long time before I finally was able to leave.

She asked me about my therapy, just casually, and asked if it would ever be over? I said who knows…..It is one of my anxieties, that this therapy process is so open ended. On the other hand, if I don’t go, I’ll still have the same issues, just without a therapist. I’ll still be me. This friend doesn’t ‘believe’ in therapy, though she doesn’t go so far as to tell me not to go. She just doesn’t understand it.

Anyway. I did get my back balcony planted. It’s kind of artistic, if I do say so myself.

I should have gone to visit my son and didn’t. I don’t think I’m much good to him depressed like this.

My session last week was good. It didn’t seem a chore to go – I was eager to see Ron. We had a low-key, companionable type session. We talked about how I might get more people in my life. I’d been trying with an ACA group and with church, but have given those up for now. They took a lot of my limited energy and I didn’t end up with much social contact out of it. Ron wondered if those situations, because they focus on the person, make me even more self-conscious, and if an activity based group would be better.

I liked how Ron was trying to help me think of what concretely I could do. I’m kind of assuming that once in social situations more, I would make pals. I seem to be doing OK at work – I enjoy the cameraderie there that comes from just sitting together at a table. I feel like I’m having companionship even if we’re not best friends.

Activities might work, assuming there’s nothing terribly wrong with how I speak to people or how I’m being perceived. I kind of think there isn’t, really. That if I had people around, I would make friends.

This was all OK. Towards the end of the session, I brought up a visit to my family the previous weekend that had not gone well as usual. I tried to explain to Ron what had been bad. It’s hard to explain about my family. I don’t want to get into it here – this is likely the cause of my depression. I get the strong feeling they blame me for my son’s condition and for him living with my parents, which I know is very hard on them.

My family is such a unit. They all stick together, dancing the family dance, and I don’t fit, don’t want to fit, and get judged.

Anyway, if they’re so great, how did I end up in parts? That happens only in severely dysfunctional situations. They are not that great. They were a terrible family for me.

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I’m still going to therapy every other week. This week was a no session week. I’m trying to remember a week back to our last session. What did we discuss?

I remember Ron did bring up this time that I’m cancelling a lot and wondered why. I just said I wanted some time where I wasn’t triggered, and that sometimes, therapy seems to trigger all kinds of emotions but doesn’t really resolve anything, so that I’m not sure how helpful it is.

Ron didn’t say much. I got the impression he doesn’t agree that we should have fewer sessions, but he didn’t say so.

I didn’t say this, but I also think I can commit to approaching difficult topics every second week, but not every week. I’m willing to sacrifice some days to therapy recovery if it’s not every single week.

I’ve been thinking about how alone I’ve been in my life, and how that’s especially evident now. I suspect one reason I can’t seem to recover from therapy is I have no one in my regular life to help me ‘regulate’. It sometimes is very helpful to have people around, not even to discuss issues with, but just people doing ordinary living. It helps me calm down.

I’ve noticed this at work. I now have the option of working with some other writers at a big table, instead of in my cubicle. I actually prefer the big table. I thought I would hate it and feel horribly exposed, but having little interactions with other writers makes my day feel so much better. Just being able to speak sometimes, or listen to someone else go on about something.

I spent one day in my cubicle at work, and was pretty much suicidal by the end of the day. No one spoke to me. It’s a bit of a bad atmosphere there at the moment as the contract is ending, although we haven’t been told that in any kind of an upfront way. As well, there’s renewed pressure to produce lots of work very quickly. And the PM is no longer friendly to me, maybe because I’m not that fast. I like to think about what I’m doing, and produce quality, and all he cares about is quantity, because that makes his project look good.

When I moved to the table the next day, I had a much much better day. Other people are in ordinary moods, and they are catching. If I want to grumble about something, I can, in a low voice. My mood was so much improved.

So generally I’ve concluded, although I do need some time to myself, in general I do better with people around.

Somehow I’ve ended up pretty much alone. My one friend and I seem to have had a bit of a falling out, unless I’m imagining it, so she hasn’t called in a few weeks. I know I could call her. I have my ex I suppose. He’s very misanthropic and unsociable however.

I feel that I am fairly well liked at work. Chance threw myself and my star co-worker, whom I disliked, together, and it turns out we do OK together. He’s pretty outgoing, and it’s helping me to practice being more outgoing also.

Having people around at work is cushioning some of the blows of work – the contract is not being extended as promised, the PM is asking for impossible quantities of work, and other things. I just think in the same way, if I had people in my life outside of work who were more reliably present, it would help me come out of the bad places therapy puts me into.

I’m not sure Ron can really conceive of my difficulties in sociability. His view is that we need to be authentic with people and have real relationships. But I think we first need to have any kind of relationships. If I have no ability to attract anyone, I need to work on that. I don’t mean attract as in sexually attract, but attract in terms of someone wants me around. And I will not be attractive to people if I’m completely depressed and unable to be social.

I just came back from a birthday tea for my sister at my parents’ house. I can see how my social anxiety developed by watching them. My mother basically doesn’t speak. My father has very set topics that he wants to talk about – his garden, his work when he worked. So everyone dances about him speaking in horrible detail about his garden, as if we were all fascinated by this, to appease him.

Some other guests came, and so the conversation veered to different topics. At that point both my parents stopped speaking at all.

I think the dynamic is that speaking puts you at risk. In my family it’s not safe to have your own life, your own experience and opinions. So no one risks speaking about anything. I do, and I get rejected quite a bit. For example, this afternoon my brother wasn’t veering far afield, but started to talk about how he wanted to plant a miniature rose for his front walk. I suggested a tea rose. Well. My father is obsessed with old fashioned once flowering varieties. My suggestion was completely unacceptable to my sister and my father. Because intelligent people only love the old style roses. It doesn’t seem to be OK to have your own opinion on what you like.

Anyway, I can see where I developed a fear of saying anything that dogged me for my first forty years. I experienced this as not being able to think of what to say, but it’s more that all topics were potentially humiliating, so I kept quiet. Even when keeping quiet was peculiar in the situation.

So now, I can speak, thank goodness. Just I haven’t peopled my life with people who want to hear me and speak back. Wanting people in my life doesn’t have much of anything to do with ‘authenticity’ though, as recommended in therapy. I don’t really want to pour my heart out at this point. I just want some people around who like me.

 

 

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.