Update: Job interview and concert

Back in November, I mentioned that I’d be going for a job interview at uni. I didn’t get the job and the interview process was awful but at least I did get some feedback from the interviewers, and some more experience of interviews. There were about 20 of us waiting in the university foyer to be interviewed (they employ a large group of people each year and this was one of the many interviews), which was really awkward, because no one was talking to the others and everyone seemed to be avoiding eye contact. We were all taken to the same room and after a quick talk by one of interviewers, we began on the first task, which involved being paired up with another person in the room, having a conversation with this person, and then having to tell everyone in the room as much information as possible about them, while one of the interviewers observed each pair. I’m so glad that I decided to take a low dose of propranolol before this because I don’t know how I would have managed without it. The woman I was paired with seemed really nice but I still found it very difficult to talk to her. I was really anxious to begin with but calmed down slightly towards the end of the conversation. Having to talk while everyone else in the room listened to me was awful, though maybe not quite as bad as I thought it would be. I felt like I’d made a complete idiot of myself in front of everyone and that everyone was thinking: “What a weirdo. Why is she even here?”

The second task involved everyone in the room being split into 2 groups. Each group was given a hypothetical situation where we were on a sinking ship with 13 crew members but we only had time to save 7 people, and had to decide, as a group, from the descriptions of each pretend crew member, who was going to be saved and who wasn’t, then give our reasoning for this. I was awful at this task. I barely said anything within the group because it seemed that anything I came up with was mentioned by someone else before I could pluck up the courage to say it. I can’t tell you how nerve-racking it is to have an interviewer observe you constantly throughout all of this as well. The fire alarm went off during this task, which gave me a welcome respite. I couldn’t even talk to the others while we waited outside the building to be given the all-clear and allowed back in.

The third and most difficult task of the day involved being put into groups of 3 and having just 15 minutes to prepare for a 10 minute presentation. I did manage to contribute a lot in the planning stage of this, but the actual presentation was horrendous (though again, maybe not quite as bad as I thought it would be). Once again, I was so glad that I had the propranolol to get me through it. I didn’t know where to look and felt that everyone could see how awkward, uncomfortable, and inept I was. I felt like they could tell there was something wrong with me.

Once the presentations were over, we were all called individually to an interview. I did manage to talk a little bit to some of the other people while we were waiting to be called. Strangely, the actual interview was probably the easiest part of the day as I had thoroughly prepared for it and they didn’t ask me anything too difficult. I still felt that I didn’t come across well because of my anxiety though.

A few days after the interview, everyone was given some feedback via a phone call. The woman who phoned me said that I came across as intelligent and knowledgeable (which is news to me because I usually feel that I come across as a bumbling idiot to most people) but need to have more confidence in my knowledge/ what I’m saying. She said I had prepared very well for the interview. I apparently came across as very serious in both the interview and the presentation, in my tone of voice as well as in my body language. She also mentioned that I barely smiled and need to be more enthusiastic. This obviously isn’t the first time that I’ve been told that I seem really serious when I’m anxious. It must just be the way my body reacts when I’m anxious because I can’t help it. I suppose learning to relax my facial muscles might help me to smile (read: fake smile) more in these situations but I’ve no idea how to make my body language or tone of voice more relaxed when I’m that overwhelmed with anxiety. I was told that I relaxed towards the end of the first task and this showed – I asked more questions towards the end of the conversation and improved my body language (for example, leaning forward). I didn’t contribute enough to the the group work task, and was aware of this at the time. When I mentioned that my biggest issue on the day was feeling “a bit anxious” (it was actually incapacitating anxiety but I obviously don’t like to let other people know that I have a severe anxiety problem), the woman giving me feedback suggested that I could remember positive social experiences when I have felt relaxed – so never (except when with close family members) then? – and try to re-create these situations (in the way I act and come across) when anxious. She recommended going along to the networking event (which I didn’t really manage) and as many workshops as possible, and to practise presentations and smiling. I’m glad that I was actually given feedback on how I did in the interview process for a change, though I do feel a bit discouraged about appearing so serious whenever I’m anxious because I think it will be really difficult to change that. I must appear very unapproachable and unfriendly to people most or even all of the time. I’m glad that I managed to get through that incredibly stressful and anxiety-provoking experience but I don’t particularly want to go through something like that again any time soon.

************************************************************************************

I really enjoyed the concert that I went to on the same day as the interview. I ended up getting stressed out because we got stuck in rush hour traffic in Glasgow and it seemed like we’d never make it there on time. My sister and I ended up almost at the back of the queue but we were still quite close to the stage when we got into the venue. My sister even managed to get us to the front barrier by the time Rise Against came on (I don’t know how she managed it but I’m definitely taking her along to concerts more often). I had wanted to jump around a bit more and to feel a bit more part of the crowd but the ratio of males to females at that concert was about 6:1, and many of the men there didn’t appear to know their own strength. The second support act (who will remain nameless) were a bit dodgy – they were drinking on stage, kept raving about marijuana and why it should be legalised, and couldn’t go more than 5 words without saying some variation of the word “fuck” – and we noticed that people in the mosh pit were actually punching each other while this band were playing, so we quickly decided to steer clear of that. I think there were people who showed up just to see that support act because things were a lot calmer and a lot less violent when the main band came on. Maybe the support act just invited the wrong kind of people. I was really happy that we managed to get the front barrier because we weren’t getting shoved all over the place, we were only a few feet away from the band, and my anxiety was greatly helped by the fact that I could just climb over the barrier if anything happened or if I was feeling really overwhelmed at any point.

I usually never sing at concerts because my anxiety prevents me from doing so. Even though I know that no one will be able to hear me over the music and that no one will care that I’m singing, I still usually feel far too self-concious. But I managed to sing the “wooah-wooah-wooah”s in ‘Make It Stop’, and a few words of ‘Saviour’ (which is one of my least favourite Rise Against songs but it was the last one they played so I thought I may as well). I know it probably seems petty and pathetic to most people, but it’s a big thing for me to be able to sing even a few words or sounds. I can sing in front of a family member if it’s in a joking way (like the duet with my sister that I mentioned) but I struggle to even sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them and I was never able to sing at assemblies in school. I wish that I could have sung along to the entire concert. I was singing along to every word (just like I do whenever I see a band that I really like) in my head. I really enjoyed that concert. Concerts always give me a natural high but this one maybe more so than others, due to how stressful my morning had been.

This is the only video I have of the concert (turn the sound  waaay down if you don’t want to be deafened) – I was too busy enjoying myself and occasionally being shoved into a barrier to film any more (and yes, I filmed it vertically like an idiot):

 

My dreams are not unlike yours
They long for the safety
And break like a glass chandelier
But there’s laughter and oh there is love
Just past the edge of our fears
And there’s chaos when push comes to shove
But it’s music to my ears

– ‘People Live Here’ by Rise Against

 

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2 Responses to Update: Job interview and concert

  1. Allan m currie says:

    You went to a concert, you don’t have SAD, you don’t know what the fuck social anxiety is, stop pretending an stop using SAD as an excuse just to stay on a bsnifit, I know the real thing an you would never want it, so shut the fuck up,

    • Gemma says:

      First of all, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is a genuine comment, rather than simply a troll comment. Secondly, I will resist the urge to simply write an angry and dismissive reply to your (rather rude) comment because, particularly as someone who is the author of a mental health blog, I feel it is my responsibility to combat ignorance with education.

      The first thing you should know is that social anxiety disorder affects different people in different ways. Going to a concert is one thing I can now do which you clearly feel that your anxiety prevents you from doing. Likewise, there are things that other people with social anxiety disorder can do that my anxiety would prevent me from doing. Perhaps there are even some things that you are able to do but which my anxiety prevents me from doing, perhaps not. There are people with social anxiety disorder who can film videos of themselves and upload them to youtube. I have no idea how they can do that. When I first realised that I had SAD, I probably would have also (ignorantly and wrongly) dismissed these people as not having SAD. But no two people with social anxiety disorder have exactly the same difficulties, symptoms, or life histories. Perhaps there are things I can do (for example, I now feel able to do a supermarket shop, thanks to years of exposure therapy, and my new job) that those same people would struggle with. There are also differing severities of social anxiety disorder, from people who are so profoundly affected that they are unable to even leave their homes, to people who are able to have a group of friends, have relationships, function with only mild impairment in a job, and so on.

      With regards to the part of your comment that suggests I’m using social anxiety disorder as an excuse to stay on benefits (what is this, a Conservative party political broadcast?), I am not, nor have I ever been, on benefits. I would have qualified for Disability Living Allowance back in early 2012, when I was profoundly depressed – applying for this was suggested to me by the community psychiatric nurse I was seeing at the time – but I chose not to apply for this, as doing so would probably have only made me feel worse, and (despite how incapacitated I was by both depression and anxiety at the time) I would have felt like a benefit scrounger. This most definitely does not mean that those who do claim benefits because depression and/ or social anxiety disorder prevents them from working, are benefit scroungers. I can assure you that social anxiety disorder is most certainly not something I have simply made up. It is not something that is somehow “fashionable” to be suffering from; it is a profoundly painful and incapacitating mental health condition.

      I will assume that it was probably only this post, or a handful of them, that you actually read. If you had read my earliest posts on this blog, you would know the profound and devastating impact that social anxiety disorder has had (and even now, continues to have) on my life. You would know that it led to me being friendless for almost a decade, until very recently, that it led to me having frequent panic attacks while I was still at high school, that it led to developing severe depression, with suicidal thoughts from the age of fourteen. You would know of the isolation, loneliness and pain it has caused me (and even now, continues to cause me) throughout my life.You would know of the medications I have been on, and the many difficulties I have had with so-called “mental health professionals” and their apparent inability to understand this disorder or take it seriously. You would know that my SAD was so severe that it led to me being misdiagnosed as autistic. You would know that it led to self-injury (which has left me with permanent scarring), and that it led to me almost making an attempt on my own life back in February 2012. You would know that since then, I have been trying my best to rebuild my life and to overcome my anxiety to the point where I can get at least some of the things I want out of life, and to the point where I am able to hold down a full-time job after I (hopefully) graduate from university. You would know that even now, at the age of 21, I have never been in a relationship and still have only a couple of non-close friends who I see only once every few months.

      I am very lucky indeed to have made significant progress over the last 3 years, to the point where I now have a couple of non-close friends (as mentioned above), can go shopping in the supermarket and busy shopping centres with anxiety but without having a panic attack, was able to pass my driving test, and now even have a job. That’s not to say that SAD doesn’t still significantly affect me. My anxiety while at work is so severe that it has caused me to nearly pass out while there on multiple occasions (confirmed by my GP). I still have intense physical symptoms of anxiety while at work, and when doing other things that trigger my social anxiety. I am still worried that my SAD will prevent me from ever having the chance to be in a relationship, though perhaps I will once again be lucky, and eventually prove myself wrong.

      To come on my blog and suggest that I don’t have “real” social anxiety disorder (as opposed to the “pretend” variety that you can buy from any good retailer?) or understand it, simply because I’m now (after years of exposure therapy) able to go to a concert, is not only ignorant but extremely belittling and minimising. It minimises the lifetime of indescribable pain and anguish that I and many others have been through. It completely disregards the often immense courage and strength that I and others have needed to face our worst fears, in order to make progress with our anxiety. To suggest that I don’t have the very disorder which has effectively ruined my life, is extremely ignorant.

      I realise that your comment probably comes from the place of unimaginable pain, anger, loneliness, and terror that you currently find yourself in, and perhaps have always been in. I don’t know what you’ve been through in life or how your own SAD manifests itself. But I can assure you that I am no fake or fraud, and take a very dim view of anyone who might think it’s cool, clever, or glamorous to fake having a mental illness.

      I feel that there is almost no awareness about social anxiety disorder, even among mental health professionals, so no, I don’t intend to (as per your brilliant suggestion) “shut the fuck up” about it any time soon.

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