I can cope to a certain degree with social interactions. It is when there are ‘extra’ interactions that I start to panic.
I so far have been able to cope with each time I am in the customer service role part of my job because that is for a set period of time, so I know my ‘torture’ will only last 90 minutes and then I will be ‘free’, if even for just a little bit.
When the colleague who takes over from me on the front desk is late to do so-like today-even if it is for just a few minutes my already fragile composure starts to crumble.
Like Dante Hicks in Kevin Smith’s film ‘Clerks’ I just want to scream ‘I’m not even supposed to be here….’
The sad thing is I used to volunteer at a local arts centre in my town, a place I used to work at, and I haven’t done a shift there since mid December, and I won’t be doing another shift for the foreseeable future.
All I have to do is take tickets on the door for the performance, whether it is a film or a play, and maybe make sure no one collapses in the audience (this did once happen to me) and yet I am currently incapable of doing this.
Because they talk to me.
The customers, they make conversation with me.
And I can’t talk to them.
It could be something as simple as ‘do you know where the toilets are?’ and I can respond and do a good impression of a ‘normal’ person but inside my heart rate is elevated and I wish I hadn’t just had that exchange.
I used to love volunteering there. I used to do multiple shifts in one day. I used to come in day after day to help out.
And now I don’t know when, or if, I’ll return.
I can feel my career aspirations and goals become smaller and smaller until at the moment my dream job is one that involves sitting in a room, maybe analysing spreadsheets and never talking to customers or answering the phone.
This isn’t normal.
To be honest I didn’t pick up on my social anxiety until quite recently. I knew I had an aversion to people, but I assumed that was due to shyness. I’ve always been quiet. I am an introvert. I prefer to be on my own then to make stilted small talk with someone. I have always panicked about talking to people, but put that down to insecurity. I have always loathed teachers who tried to force me into talking in class. I have always wondered what the big deal is about coming out of your shell.
I once referred to it as social anxiety but felt like I was over embellishing it, like when you say ‘I’m starving to death’ when really you are a bit peckish. I thought labelling it as social anxiety would make me seem like I was looking for attention.
I could talk to strangers, I just preferred not to. I went out of my way to not talk to people on the phone. In fact I talk to people on the phone so infrequently that on my phone one of my ‘favourite’ contacts is my Dentist!
My name is Flo, and I am anxious.