Sale day anxiety

When I first arrived at the shop on Friday night, one of the other temporary people signed in at the same time as me and introduced herself to me as we walked to the staff room. I stood next to her and tried to talk to her as we waited in the very crowded staff room to find out which department we’d each be working in. I’m always convinced that people see me as a freak almost as soon as they meet me. It’s really difficult to try and make conversation with someone when most of your energy is going into trying to hide the fact that you’re shaking so much you can barely stand still. One of the managers eventually came into the staff room and took a register while telling us all where we’d be working. For a moment, it was like being back in high school again. My heart beat faster and faster the longer that this went on and the more worried I was that my name would be called next. It’s amazing how much of my energy and focus goes into merely trying to appear “normal” in situations like this. When my name was finally called, I was convinced that I’d said “Here” in the completely wrong tone of voice and that I’d made an idiot of myself. I also felt as if people on the opposite side of the room were laughing at me, even though I think they were just laughing/ smiling at something a friend had said. I know that sounds really paranoid but no matter how much I try to rationalise with myself, those feeling always remain. I felt that everyone in the room could see how anxious I was and how weird I am. Even something as minor as answering someone taking a register puts me through a great deal of anxiety. I know this sounds weird but I was so anxious over the 2 days I was working there that my eye twitched almost constantly – thankfully, this wasn’t (as far as I know) noticeable to other people.

We spent the first night simply tagging and pricing clothes, as well as moving things from the stockroom onto the shop floor. It took me the first half an hour of my shift to calm down enough to stop shaking. All the other temporary people seemed to be talking and having a laugh with each other and I once again felt like an outsider. Even when I tried to position myself to join in on a conversation, one of them would stand in front of me with their back to me, blocking me out of the conversation. So I was a bit annoyed by this and ended up giving up on talking to people unless I was asking them something about the stock.  Why do people not like me? Is it my awkwardness? Is it the fact that I completely kept to myself for the first half an hour because I was so anxious? Was it my facial expression? Sometimes I feel like I might as well have a massive neon sign above my head saying “Social reject”.

I was irate after my first shift for 3 reasons. The first is simply that I was so angry at myself for not being able to talk to other people, and perhaps a bit angry at other people for blocking me out of their conversations. The second reason was that we were supposed to organise stock on the shop floor according to their codes but no one explained to us how to do this. The managers would tell us what to do and then leave without any explanation whatsoever so we probably ended up putting a lot of things in the wrong places. Everyone was annoyed and stressed out because of this. Thirdly, when we were leaving, the managers suddenly sprung it on us that the shifts we had been told to work were wrong and that some of us would be starting work at 5am or 5:30am that morning (it was midnight by this point). They told us that anyone starting this early should have been phoned and told not to work until midnight but this did not happen. My sister was starting work at 5:30 that morning so her Friday shift had been changed to 4-8pm, but I had been told nothing. There are also no clocks anywhere on the shop floor, and we weren’t allowed to have our phones with us, so if I hadn’t overheard someone with a watch telling their friends that it was midnight, I would have ended up working well beyond my actual shift. I was asked to come in at 5:30 that morning, though I was lucky because as soon as the managers saw how angry I looked, they said that it would be okay for me to stick to my original Saturday shift. I’m very glad that I was able to stick to the original shift because I was so worn out from anxiety and anger after my first shift that I would have been in an awful mood if I’d had to go back in again after very little sleep, if any. I was still annoyed about the fact that they still got many of the younger people (about 16 years old) to go back in at 5am after finishing at midnight, which is technically illegal.

The sale day was very much a jump in at the deep end.  Thankfully, I did manage to get away with wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt under the short-sleeved sale uniform. The shop was obviously full of customers and I was so incredibly anxious about the possibility of being stopped and asked something by one of them. This did end up happening on 5 different occasions. I ended up awkwardly explaining that I was only working there for the weekend but I would find a manager or other permanent staff member to help with their enquiry. The worst part of the day was when a customer asked me something but I didn’t understand her because her English wasn’t great. I asked her again but I still couldn’t understand what she meant. I ended up standing there feeling like such an idiot, as well as feeling embarrassed and absolutely useless. This was made even worse by the fact that person she was with seemed to laugh at my awkwardness. I very awkwardly apologised to her for not being able to help and tried to avoid them to prevent me from embarrassing myself further.

As on the first day, no one explained anything to us on the second day either. Again, the managers told us what to do and then went off to a completely different part of the shop. I honestly wanted to walk out of the shop due to how anxious and stressed out I felt. I was convinced that I would make a mistake and be shouted at by someone, though this thankfully didn’t happen. I did manage to figure out what to do after some practise, and being helped by a couple of other people. The good thing is that I was able to work mostly on my own for the last couple of hours of my shift, which eased my anxiety. I’m just glad that it’s over and I don’t have to go back again. I’m amazed that I managed to get through the sale day without a panic attack. Working in retail is definitely not for me.

I did end up asking about the side effects propranolol has been giving me at my nurse appointment yesterday, but she said it’s something I’d have to ask a GP about. Unfortunately for me, it’s going to have to be the same GP who prescribed me them. This is the same GP who told me that I’m making a big deal out of normal shyness and that the only reason I am this way is because I can’t be bothered making an effort to break out of my shell. She made me feel pathetic. The nurse actually said as I was leaving: “She’s such a nice doctor, isn’t she?” Heh heh…no. At least not to people with social anxiety disorder. As anxious as I may be, if she starts the same crap with me as she did the last time, I am going to try my best to be assertive because I am not being to spoken to in such a condescending way again. I wish I could educate her about the subject but I don’t really hold out much hope. The ignorance of so many so-called “medical professionals” never ceases to amaze me. They wouldn’t dream of telling patients with diabetes or heart problems to just get over it, so why do they insist that it’s so simple for someone with a severe anxiety disorder? I should not be spoken to as if I’m pathetic every time I try to reach out to a GP for help. Goodness how many other people this kind of thing has happened to. I just that one day, people will be able to talk to their GP about mental illness without suffering stigma and discrimination.

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4 Responses to Sale day anxiety

  1. I was stuck in retail for many years – you’re right, it’s awful. I always hated customers talking to me, too.

  2. charge291 says:

    Well done for working the two shifts despite all the stress and difficulty involved in doing so. 🙂
    Can you not ask a pharmacist about the propranolol? (Assuming you can find a quiet, non anxiety provoking pharmacy….)

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