I suppose my Christmas job is probably the most logical place to start with updates. It was for 2 weeks, sorting mail. I was very anxious on my first day there but took a small dose of propranolol beforehand, and that seemed to help a little bit. I managed better than I thought I would at first – I managed to carry on a conversation with a couple of people without any major mishaps. One day I even managed to carry on quite a long conversation with one of the permanent staff, but I was sweating and blushing the whole time. Having a simple conversation with someone is like trying to navigate a minefield for me – I feel that there’s guaranteed to be a mishap sooner or later. It seems so weird to me that I break into sweat just making small talk with another human being. I’m not sure why but being asked things like who my favourite bands are or my opinion on something makes me really anxious. Working there also just made me even more acutely aware of how little I know about interacting with other human beings and how socially stunted I am. It’s as if the social part of my brain is broken.
The ratio of men: women there was about 5:1, which made me even more anxious. I’d get the walk disturbance every time I had to walk along the warehouse walkway to/ from wherever I was working, and (as always) found it difficult to ask people questions about things (I got better at that over time though). All I really did for the 2 weeks was sleep and work. Work + anxiety + S.A.D are a very tiring combination. I didn’t particularly enjoy it but it was okay for a Christmas job.
The thing that struck me, though, was the sense of not fitting in with anyone and – as always – being an outcast. I have never fit in anywhere. I’d be sat awkwardly at a table on my own during the breaks while almost everyone else was sat in a group talking and having a laugh with others. Someone who I was working beside one day actually felt the need to point this out and ask me why I was always on my own: “Do you prefer to be alone? Do you not like other people?” I awkwardly tried to brush it off by telling her that I don’t dislike people and I’m just very, very shy. She didn’t seem to get it. I always worry immensely that other people will take the fact that I’m always alone and generally don’t talk to people unless they talk to me as a sign that I’m antisocial or rude or stuck up or just generally not a nice person. And in this particular case, she seemed to assume just that. I actually sat at the table she was sitting at one break time and said hi to her but she just ignored me. I don’t understand such people and they clearly don’t understand me.
There were a couple of people there who I think I would liked to have gotten to know a bit better/ make friends with, but of course my anxiety and lack of social skills/ inability to connect with people/ lack of social intuition made that impossible. I tried really hard to talk to people and come across well but still ended up in the same situation as always. I can’t even explain how frustrating and disheartening it is to be/ have been the social outcast literally everywhere I’ve been – nursery school, primary school, high school, summer school, university, volunteering, Christmas job – in my life. It certainly has not done wonders for my self-esteem. What is wrong with me?
One thing that I did while at work was consciously try to verbalise in my mind every SA thought that I had. In doing so, I realised that:
1. SA thoughts are pretty much a CONSTANT if I am in the same room as other people who are not my close family members, and often continue even later on, when I’m at home and reflecting on all the social errors I made that day. It’s like there is someone hijacking your brain and giving a constant monologue about everything you’re doing wrong socially and about everything that is fundamentally wrong with you as a human being.
2. The thoughts are often so fast that I can barely even verbalise them – never mind analyse or question them.
3. A lot of the things I worry about are ridiculous and yet I still can’t shake the feelings of intense anxiety.
4. At the risk of sounding somewhat insane, I try to argue with the SA thoughts and tell myself how ridiculous they are and that no one is staring at me or judging me negatively or whatever, but it makes no difference. It’s pretty much like:
“Oh crap, all those people are staring at me and wondering why I’m sat here all on my own”
“No one is staring is staring you, they’re just looking in your general direction. Eat your dinner..think of something else…no one is staring at you”
“Why are they looking in my direction then?”
“I don’t know why they’re looking in my direction…why would they be staring at me though?”
“They ARE staring at me.”
“No they’re not – there must be another explanation. And even if they were staring at me, it might not necessarily be for a negative reason. Maybe they’re just wondering why I’m alone or something”.
“Nope, DEFINITELY staring at me. Definitely negative.“.
And it just goes on like that constantly throughout the day. I try to fight the SA thoughts but they mostly win. It’s exhausting and downright annoying.
In and of itself, working for the postal service was not bad as a first-time paid job. It would have probably been better and a lot less miserable if I’d been able to connect/ converse with the other people there and maybe get to know some of them, and not feel like the resident socially clueless outcast once again. Oh well. Such is life.