This happened at work the other night:
Coworker: “So where are you from?”
Me: *Ok, Paleeza. You got this. Just answer where you’re from.* “Delaware.” *Shoot, she might think the state. Or she might want to know where I live now. I don’t live in Delaware now. What if she tells people I live in Delaware and has that false belief and later finds out the truth and thinks I lied? Oh gosh, I hope she can’t see my face turning red.*
Coworker: “Oh cool! So do you like working here?”
Me: *I hope she just keeps asking me questions and doesn’t expect me to carry on the conversation by myself. I’m already sweating from this short conversation.* “Yeah!” *Shoot, should I elaborate? I don’t know what else to say! I’ll just stay quiet.*
Coworker: “That’s good. You can tell me to shut up if you want me to stop talking haha.”
Me: “Oh, haha, no you’re good!” *Great, I blew it. She thinks I hate her. She thinks I’m weird. She won’t want to be friends with me now.*
Having social anxiety means that you are constantly battling with yourself inside your head. You over analyze every conversation you have and criticize everything you say. I don’t talk because I hate everything I say. A word escapes my lips and immediately I think about how I sounded. I could have said that better. This person probably thinks I’m weird. I didn’t elaborate enough so now they think I am being short with them. They think I don’t like them.
All throughout middle school and high school, people would tease me. Not in a malicious way. They meant no harm. I was never bullied for being shy and I am beyond thankful for that. However, whenever people near me would say something silly, they’d look at me and say something along the lines of, “Paleeza probably thinks we are so crazy. She doesn’t talk to us because she is so much better than us.” These people were friends, or on the same sports team as me, or in the same class. They meant no ill-will and were actually trying to make fun of themselves for being so silly. They’d push my shoulder in a joking way and smile as they said this. But I always took their comments so personally. I was, and still am, scared people think I don’t talk to them because I think I’m superior. I NEVER felt like I was better than others. In fact, I’ve felt the opposite. I never felt like I was good enough to speak. Hence the constant internal criticism.
Starting this new job at the psychiatric hospital was hard. It still is hard. I am meeting new people every shift. I have to constantly interact with patients. The other patient care assistants (PCAs) and I work as a team, so we have to always communicate with one another on where we are going or what we are doing. Every shift leaves me mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. But I love my job. This is a dream job of mine. I get to help others in need. And it’s in my field of study: psychology. I love this job so much that I refuse to let my social anxiety stop me from living my dream.
After next week, I will work full time. In order to ease into things, I will be working the night shift. Although I love my job now, I don’t want to grow to despise it because it is too mentally exhausting. I’ve worked evening shifts and once the sun goes down and lights are dimmed, the unit is so quiet. The coworkers are quiet because they are tired. The patients are in bed. Some patients get out of bed and need help and I am still able to assist them in whatever they may need. I can still help those in need, but in a far less taxing way. I believe that this is the healthiest way for me to work at my new job. Plus, I am a night owl and am always most awake at night. I am beyond excited to start working full time at night!
I will keep you all updated on how this affects my anxiety. And after I get the hang of it, I’ll post some tips on working the night shift. There are so many 24 hour facilities now and they are in desperate need of night workers.
This is all to say that it is not worth it to let your anxiety stop you from living your life the way you want to live it. You are the boss, not your anxiety. If you let it boss you around, you will be miserable and won’t get better until you take control. You are more than your anxiety, so much more! Don’t let your anxiety suppress who you are.