Stablehand job

I began my summer job search back in April and ended up coming across a job advertisement for a stable worker. I haven’t had any luck applying for customer facing jobs in the past (and would probably find that kind of job very difficult) and I do have previous work experience at a stables. It’s also good experience to have if I do decide to become a vet nurse or something similar, so my mum and sister said that I should apply for it. I didn’t want to because this involved having to phone the owners of the stables, but I somehow found the courage to do so. I was terrified and couldn’t stop shaking for about an hour after the phone call but I managed to get my words out without stumbling over them and without my voice shaking too much. The woman who I phoned asked me to show up at the stables the next day so that she could ask me some questions and tell me more about the job.

Although I sometimes feel that I’m making very little progress with my anxiety, one of the things I have definitely gotten better at is phoning people who I don’t know. I remember the very first time I did work experience (also at a stables) when I was 14 years old and had to phone the stable owner. It was the first time I’d ever had to phone anyone to enquire about work and back then, I would honestly have rather walked barefoot over 5 miles of loose Lego blocks*. I spent hours preparing a script of exactly what I would say on the phone, and when I finally did phone the stable owner, I was so anxious that I was nearly in tears and my voice trembled the whole way through the phone call. So although the prospect of phoning potential employers is still terrifying to me, I’m glad that it’s no longer as incredibly difficult as it was for me back then.

* I have no idea why this was the first example of a torturous experience to come to my mind, but I’m going with it. 

I was obviously very anxious when I showed up there the next day (not least because it was very difficult to find and I was nearly late) and did my best to fake confidence/ “normality”. The woman did ask me a couple of questions but it wasn’t anything like a proper interview. After a morning of just trying out the job to see what it was like, I was put on a work trial for a month. Most of the people there are very friendly but due to my SA, I find it extremely difficult to hold a conversation with them. Since I started working there, I have made a real effort to start conversations with the other people there. I think my ability to make small talk with people has improved a little bit over the last 2 or 3 months but it’s still something I struggle with. I have no idea how other people always seem to know what to say in any given situation, or how they can hold conversations for so long and become friends with their colleagues. Three of the other people who I work with most regularly are all seventeen years old and yet they all seem to be so much more advanced than me when it comes to almost anything. They are so much more confident than me, so much more advanced in their social skills, and they probably have a lot more life experience than I do, despite being 3 years younger than me. All three of them are in/ have been in relationships and have friends who they regularly go out with. All three had their first paid job at a much younger age than I did (I only managed to get my first paid job the month before I turned twenty, and that was only a temporary job), all three have already passed their driving tests, and two even have their own car. I feel bad that I have to rely on my parents to drive me to work (it can only be reached by a country road, which would probably be too dangerous to cycle along), and the fact that progress with my driving is so slow makes me feel completely incompetent. I know having SA and depression obviously puts me at a huge disadvantage when it comes to most of that, but still… I feel like such a baby. I am so far behind everyone else – even people who are years younger than me – in life.

While I do enjoy working there, I still get extremely anxious when I go there, and I usually sleep very poorly the night before. This is mostly because I’m worried that I’ll make a mistake and be shouted at by the farmer/ stables owner. This happened a lot when I first started working there because a lot of things either were not explained to me, or were not explained to me very well. It also seems that the farmer expects me to know everything despite only being there for a few hours each week. For example, on average, each horse has 5 rugs, and there are about 20 horses there. After just 3 or 4 days of working there, he seemed to expect me to just know which rug went on which horse on any given day. Even the people who have been there for a long time still struggle with remembering that. The farmer also has a condition which causes facial twitches and sometimes makes his speech unclear, so I often find myself unsure of what he’s actually said to me. I can also find it difficult to take in verbal instructions when I’m anxious.

If I do make a mistake, it makes me feel even more anxious, as well as just generally useless and incompetent. There was one time that I went home in tears because the farmer had shouted and sworn at me for making a mistake. I find it so difficult to not take criticism to heart. I somehow managed to hold the tears in until I was leaving in the car with my mum, but I cried for about an hour after that. Crying in front of other people is one of my biggest fears, and even crying in front of a family member makes me feel so embarrassed and pathetic and weak. I wish I could have waited until I was home and in the shower before bursting into tears so that no one would know but I usually find it very difficult or impossible to control my crying when it relates to being criticised for something that my SA had a factor in. I read a thread on an SA forum a while back about someone disliking people who cry in public because they’re “obviously attention seeking”. Honestly, if I could control my crying to the point where I never cried in front of another human being again, I would most definitely do so. I have cried in front of strangers more times than I would like to admit, simply because I cannot control it when I’m highly anxious. I find it mortifying to cry in public and wish that the ground could swallow me up when I do. If I’m in an anxious state and have been upset by something, the more afraid of crying in front of people I am, the more likely I am to do so. I hate it and I’d do anything to avoid it.

After crying because the farm owner had shouted at me, I was even more anxious about going there, and even more afraid to talk to him. Being shouted at and feeling incompetent made me feel even less confident in myself. Thankfully, I have not made many mistakes lately, and I am getting very slightly better at talking to him, but it’s still difficult to even look him in the eye. I also still struggle to talk to his wife (the woman who I phoned about the job and who showed me around the place at first). I always find it very difficult to talk to people who have authority over me, and this is why I found it so difficult to ask teachers for help when I was at school. It’s why I still find it very difficult to talk to tutors at university. I have tried to analyse why I am still so anxious about going there and I think it relates mostly to being afraid of crying in front of the other people there and humiliating myself/ having them mock or laugh at me. I would be terrified of being that vulnerable in front of other people.

I ended up being put on trial there for 3 months, and ended up feeling more and more doubtful that I would get the job, as well as feeling more and more useless. However, just last weekend, I was told that they are keeping me on as a permanent member of staff there. I still worry though, because I don’t have as much experience with horses as the other people there, and I don’t know as much about horse body language/ behaviour. There is always the risk of injury from the horses, and I do worry about that. While I do like horses (as I like all animals – except perhaps spiders), I do fear them slightly because of this. If I were to become a vet nurse, there’s obviously always the risk of injury from dogs, cats, rabbits and so on, but those animals aren’t 3 times my size and don’t have the ability to kill me in an instant. A lot of other people there have been injured (though thankfully not seriously) by one or more of the horses at some point and I’ve already nearly had two horses stand on my feet. So I’m going to invest in some steel-toed boots now that I know I’m being kept on there. I also worry about not fitting in with other people there because I’m the only person there who doesn’t regularly go horse riding. Two of the seventeen year olds there even have their own horses. I have no idea how they can afford it.

Despite the anxiety, I do enjoy working there. Although the pay is low, I still much prefer this job to my Christmas job at the post sorting office (which was very monotonous), and I think I’d much prefer to be doing this than working in a customer-facing retail job where my anxiety would be even worse. I only work there for a few hours each week so I can continue this job when I go back to uni as well.

 

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