Junior Member (female)
Join Date: Aug 2007
Anxiety is all I am anymore.
My life with anxiety has no clear beginning. The earliest instance I remember is being 5 years old and hiding from my parents the fact that I learned how to tie my shoes because I was embarrassed and scared of not needing them for something anymore. I was always afraid to pick a partner in class, because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. As a kid I spent nearly all my free time running around the neighborhood with friends. I didn't know about any bands or tv shows (other than cartoons on saturday morning) and I was always so embarrassed when kids in class would interrogate me on whether I liked this certain band I had never heard of, and I had to lie and tell them yes because I didn't want to be made fun of. But they knew I had no clue what I was talking about anyway and made fun of me for that instead.
By middle school, I pretty much isolated myself from kids my age. I became the tag-a-long with my younger brother and his friends, I guess because I felt I wouldn't be judged by younger kids, I'd be a leader. That seemed to just make the other kids my age even less inclined to be my friend. I was weird, and too immature for them. I had no interest in dating or the mall or talking incessantly on the phone.
By high school, the damage of not having friends had been done. I was deathly afraid of hearing "choose a partner for this assignment" and I always felt like everyone already had a best friend and I would be a perpetual third wheel. My senior year I (somehow) managed to overcome that and made some friends, but I still felt awkward and often uninvited. And not long after I made a strong friendship with one person, I became too clingy while she became more interested in talking to as many people (screwing around with guys really) as she could and she just left me behind after using me for a place to stay or a ride to work for a few months while she needed it.
I am still too afraid to approach friends to hang out. I always worry I'm bothering them, or they don't want to hang out and they're just trying to be polite when they accept or come up with some excuse. I always wait for them to come to me, and I wrestle with my own brain trying to decide whether I should go, whether they only invited me to be polite, and whether I would be stupid as usual and make a fool of myself so it's better I just don't go in the first place. I am also afraid of committing to hanging out with someone simply because I fear something else will come up and I'll have to choose between the two. Again, going back to the idea that I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or pick one person over another (though I'm fully aware that I hurt everyone involved when I lie and avoid people, I just wish my brain would actually listen to that).
But the biggest problem with my anxiety is hands down, getting and keeping a job. I quit my first job after a week because they hired me and then decided to train me as a cashier instead of in another department. I couldn't bear the thought of standing in one place for a whole shift, being forced to smile and talk to people, and handling money, while customers silently (or not so silently) complain about me not moving fast enough or doing something wrong. I quit because I got a call back from a different place I had applied to and they offered me a job that didn't involve cashiering. I stuck with that for 9 months, the last 3 of which I had been forced into one department where customers never even came during my whole shift but I was not allowed to leave for fear of theft, so I literally stood around or walked in circles for 7 hours everyday.
When the managers couldn't even find the time to be present in the store for me to talk to, I decided to leave. I told my co-workers about my plans to quit once summer began, and I went on vacation for a week. When I came back, I found out a manager heard of my plans and took me off the schedule without even giving me a chance to put in my two weeks' notice. She told me she was disappointed I decided to leave without discussing it with her first, forcing her to amend the schedules because I wasn't going to work the shifts I was assigned. It was complete B.S. but I didn't know what to do, I was just so nervous so I basically said "ok" and left with my paycheck and never looked back.
The last few months of working there were not easy for me. I hated most of all the fact that I was forced to give my time for (literally) no reason, as I stood around for hours doing nothing and couldn't leave even when there was no work to be done. I would wake up hours before I had to go in to work, and stare at the clock, doing the math to determine exactly how many minutes I had until I had to get up, how long it would take me to eat and get ready, how long it would take to drive there, and how long until I would be back home in bed again to worry about tomorrow. I'd wake up with stomach cramps and restless legs and thoughts of lies I could tell as excuses not to go in. After I left that job, I decided I had had enough.
Since I went to school on scholarships and had saved money for years, I didn't really need a job. I decided to just focus on school and worry about work after graduation. I assumed once I had a job I enjoyed, that I felt was meaningful, work wouldn't be a problem at all.
Then came my internship. It was a dream come true, exactly the field and the agency I hoped to work for after graduation. But things went wrong from the start. After the lengthy application process and interviews they rescheduled twice, they told me the internship at the location I applied to was being discontinued. I was given 48 hrs to decide if I wanted an internship at a different location (about 50 miles away) instead. I had to accept, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. But then I found out that location already accepted an intern who was a graduate student with a security clearance from being in the Army Reserve. He could access information and participate in ways I wouldn't be allowed because the internship didn't provide a security clearance to me. So I was relegated to clerical work. Making copies, running errands, and filling out Excel spreadsheets. It might have been okay if not for the 2-3 hour commute during rush hour, and the fact that I was spending over $100 on gas every week for a job I wasn't getting paid for.
Then they wanted me to answer telephones. I don't know when or why or how but I have developed a severe aversion - even a phobia perhaps - of talking on the phone. I have a hard time hearing people over the phone, and I'm always worried I won't understand them and won't know what to say, or they'll catch me off guard. I actually had panic attacks while I laid in bed the nights before I had to go to my internship, worried about having to answer the phones, angry about how the whole thing turned out to be horrible, and clueless about what I should do. When I found out my school didn't approve me for the second 3-credit internship class, I told the agency I was leaving once my hours for the first class were finished. My supervisor seemed sympathetic, but on my last day told me she didn't think I was suited to the field and I should think about doing something else. She then wrote a letter to the internship coordinator at my school telling him I didn't do my best because if I really cared about the work and the agency, I wouldn't have cared whether I was getting credit for it or not, or how long I had to drive and how much I had to spend to have the opportunity.
That was two years ago. I didn't even bother trying for another job or internship until I graduated from college. Then I discovered just how bad the economy is right now, and how my bachelor's degree means absolutely nothing to employers, especially in my field. No one would even look at my application because I didn't have a year's experience in anything, or any full-time experience at all.
Almost a year after graduation, I found a part-time job. It's only a few days a week, which I thought was a good idea because I really need to ease into this whole working thing. And I like it a lot. I like everyone I work with, and I like the things I do. But I still wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread just because I *have* to go in. Because my life is being controlled by someone else deciding when I have free time and when I don't. Even though I like everyone, I don't want to see them outside of work because it's exhausting to me - it feels like more work.
And now... they want me to answer phones. I don't know what to do. The whole big panic attack thing has come back just like that, with the mention of answering phones. It's so stupid, I can't believe I'm risking a job I like over something like this, but I can't help it. I really don't know why I'm like this or what I can do about it. I feel like the only way I will ever be okay with working is if I work for myself. Unfortunately, I don't have any skills for a self-employed business. I'm not artistic, I can't program or design websites, I'm not a good salesperson and with the phone-phobia (and also the fact that I have a soul) I can't do telemarketing or anything that involves tele-commuting.
I'm stuck. My anxiety has won, and I don't know where to go from here. My biggest fear is disappointing my family. I worked so hard and always did extremely well in school, and now anxiety and some unfounded hatred for the institution of work is making me a failure and a disappointment. Every day is another battle for me over the simplest, dumbest things. I hate living like this, but I can't even remember what it's like not to be this way.