anxiety · life · social anxiety

Anxiety blues in the office

Today I started my first day in an office doing volunteer work. I met with the supervisor I would be working with on Monday so she could show me around and introduce me to what I would be helping her with.

I was quite worked up about going in today. I went to bed at like 1:30 AM, woke up tired and with a budding headache at 9:20 AM. Immediately I had thoughts of backing out and not going because not only was I feeling emotionally stressed as I always do because of anxiety but now my head was hurting too. Perhaps a stress headache? The pounding in my head also got worse throughout the morning, even after I scarfed down a measly breakfast (a banana and peach). Did I mention that I can hardly eat anything when I feel anxious? My stomach had a combination of flip flop somersaults and butterflies.

I made myself go. The entire way I was fighting this other part of me that likes to give me excuses about why I should pull out now and how it’d be better if I just didn’t go. What drove me to go despite how frightened I felt is what I want to get out of this volunteer experience. It’s not a paid opportunity, so of course, I’m going out of my own volition and desire to learn new skills. That’s no easy thing to set my mind on, especially since I know how flaky and indecisive I can get. How many times have I planned to involve myself in something, an event, a job, an interview, or hang out, only to bail out because I spent the whole night beforehand freaked out and then making the choice in the morning to not go because I feel tired and haggard? Too many to count.

Denise, my supervisor, is super helpful. She was actually at a doctor’s appointment when I came in, so someone else had to get me started on the filing work I would be doing. The office itself in its entirety scares me, though. It’s quite large with everyone in their own cubicle and desk. Plus the fact I don’t even know half of these people. I got introduced to a couple of people on Denise’s team, but I only remembered one person’s name because she interacted with me more by helping me get started with filing. And I managed to ask for her name again once I forgot it since I wanted to make the effort to remember her. Her name is Tessa. Thirdly, I was nervous about being in the same space as the guy who referred me to this job in the first place. He works for a volunteer organization affiliated with the company Denise works for, and they happen to share the same office. I did see him in his cubicle today, but felt too shy about going up and saying hi. Ugh, why me??

Because the majority of my work required me to use the file cabinets, I did not spend any time at the desk Denise assigned for me. I basically just left my stuff under the desk, and I only went back from time to time to grab more stacked files that were left there for me to file into the cabinets. The cabinets themselves are next to the receptionist desk. After I finished filing, I had to begin pulling out file folders and sorting each thing in it into a specific order, which I would then have to scan and send to Denise, before shredding all of it. This phase was necessary to get the files digitized so the paper copy of the documents could be gotten rid of. This work once again allowed me to be away from my desk because I was essentially standing over the file cabinets doing my work. I was actually relieved over this because I felt uneasy about sitting so close to the team’s cubicles. I’ve volunteered for an office before, and it is the most awkward thing to be assigned to sit in a cubicle next to people I don’t know, even if my supervisor introduces us to one another because then I have no idea what to say to the person. It’s also hard for me to sit in a cubicle and not get anxious because everyone around me is so chatty and casual with each other but I’m the new girl and it’s intimidating to try to jump into the conversation. And even when an interesting topic comes up that I feel I have knowledge on, I’m basically too self-conscious to speak up and wonder if people would give a damn about my opinion.

Denise said goodbye to me when she left work for the day. I was finishing up too. My headache had evolved into a throbbing migraine by this time. At one point during the day, Tessa had come by to ask how I was doing. I guess she also did this since I happened to be standing right next to the office’s outgoing mail box, and she had something to drop off. I was both startled and taken by surprise that she was talking to me. It might have been both my anxiety and the headache, but I just said I was doing good, and then looked back down to resume working. A very bad habit when I feel a surge of anxiety is that I’ll try to end the conversation as swiftly as I can because I feel anxious and don’t know how to deal with it besides taking an action to get rid of it as soon as I can.

The biggest blunder I think I made today was not saying goodbye to the team when I grabbed my bag and left for the day. They were engrossed in a group conversation and didn’t even see me come by to collect my things. I’m probably making a big deal out of nothing, but one of my fixations with social anxiety is that I have anxiety when I have to be the one to approach someone and engage them in conversation. I do not like doing this, especially if I perceive the person is busy talking to someone else or doesn’t see that I am nearby. I kinda had a mini freak when I finished filing all the folders and had to go to Denise at her desk and tell her. But I was able to do it because she’s my supervisor and I felt my duty to inform her outweighed my anxiety. But with the team members, I barely said anything to them aside from “hi” and “nice to meet you” during introductions. So part of me felt, like, Does it even matter if I let them know that I’m leaving? Would they even care? Would they find it odd that someone they don’t know is talking to them? What if they think I’m weird because of this?

This is why I didn’t say anything to the team members when I left, and now I’m sort of dreading coming in on Friday and if I’ll need to say good morning to them. It’s easier to greet someone, in my opinion, if the person has already spotted me as I walk in. If they don’t and I have to be the one to speak up, this is where I kind of lose my nerve and would rather just slink past without saying anything and hope the person doesn’t think I’m rude for not saying anything. Ugh. 😦

If you’re reading this, please give me your opinions or suggestions.

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11 thoughts on “Anxiety blues in the office

  1. First of I want to say you should be proud of yourself I know how hard it is going somewhere new while dealing with Social anxiety but you did it!

    My advice is to approach the situation like if it was the first day say hello/good morning on Friday and at the end of the day if you feel comfortable say goodbye the thing is we get so caught up in already thinking the worst that we forget to just relax and ask ourselves why am I getting so anxious over this? It’s just a greeting or a goodbye try to think about it like that I hope it makes sense what I’m trying to say.

    It’s part of CBT therapy you should read about it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, why am I getting so anxious about saying hello/good morning to people? It’s crazy to think about how I have always gotten so hung up on that. I’ve left volunteer jobs just because I have felt intense anxiety over coming in and having to say hi to people I don’t know. The advice you’re giving me makes sense, but I just don’t know if the time comes if I can push past my fears and say good morning.

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      1. I have a scheduled intake session with someone who’s been assigned to my case. I guess that’s a start, but it sucks I can’t talk to someone about my issues now before Friday rolls around.

        What’s one thought I should use it keep in mind as my motivation to say good morning to people on Friday? It needs to be something compelling to make me do it, I think.

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      2. What they told me to think about as bad as it may sound is that all those strangers or people you don’t really know they don’t care about you so why are you caring so much about what they will think about you? all those anxious feelings are just a waste, I know it’s easier said than done but it’s a start to try and get your brain to not think so irrational.

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      3. What they told me to think about as bad as it may sound is that all those strangers or people you don’t really know they don’t care about you so why are you caring so much about what they will think about you?

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  2. Hi, Nat.
    I can relate to you about what you said “I have anxiety when I have to be the one to approach someone and engage them in conversation”, I struggle to be the one who have to go and say hey, because I’m not confident I’ll know what to do next. So, yeah, there’s that. I understand.
    I’m agree with hellopeacemind, you’re brave just for trying! Your doing fine in my opinion, in the motivation department I mean, I know your anxiety is giving you a hard time. You managed to go even with your anxiety suggestions tho, and that’s awesome.
    My advices are to say good morning to people you have close to your desk, I’m sure they’ll be the ones who will take the lead to ask you things like “What do you think about the office so far?” and simple stuff like that. Focus in your tasks and if you need a minute to collect yourself go to the bathroom and take a deep breath, and let the air go out like your blowing a candle. Bring your favorite snack with you, to regard yourself after finish work, and give you something to look up for when you comeback home, like watching a favorite movie. Something it helps me too it’s to write somewhere in my arm a positive quote, I use long sleeves so nobody knows is there but I can just take a look if I feel like I can’t cope.
    Good luck, hun, big hugs~

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    1. Peaceofmind’s advice about the “good morning” bit has helped me to see things in another light, but I don’t know if I can force the words out from my mouth when I’m in the situation on Friday. I’ve chickened out so much in the past to the point where I’ve been so anxious about greeting people that when I do say hi, I feel like a total loser and that people can see my anxiety. Or that when I’m not able to say hi, I start feeling very bad about it and get paranoid that people will begin to think I am strange or odd. If it’s not either of these things, I feel a combination of both wanting to just turn invisible so no one can see me or I also want to be able to greet people and be seen but I’m too scared to take either option so I just abort out of the situation entirely.

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      1. Yes, I know what you’re talking about it’s one of those contradiction brain trips, I understand you perfectly. When I feel like that I always look for the exit door, like the one for emergency with the big green light lol I don’t have a clue why I do it because my social anxiety won’t let me run. About the paranoia, remember people forget what others do like 5 seconds after they do it, we stay overthinking but they won’t, so if you can’t say hi, don’t say it, you don’t owe them anything and I’m sure everybody must have a lot work to do, you’re there to learn and if it happens to be people greet you, just reply. I really wish I’ve another alternative, if you don’t go one time you can’t go anymore?

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  3. Yes, I feel people I don’t know are more likely to forget what I said to them right after I said it. I can understand logic, but logic goes right out the door when I try to think while I am having a bout of social anxiety. My brain also often gets tricked into believing what I fear the most is actually going to happen, even if it’s something impossible or not likely in the logic sense.

    If I don’t go one time, it’s not the end of the world, but then I’m still left with the problem of greeting people or not for next time. I have an intake session for starting therapy next Tuesday. I really wish I was contacted earlier about this because I have been waiting all summer for them to schedule a session with me. I feel that maybe had I been going to therapy all this time and had someone to talk to about my office problem, then maybe I wouldn’t be having such a hard time with this.

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  4. I don’t feel like starting a whole new blog discussing the new developments in my situation, so I’ll post it here. I decided not to continue with the job. In fact, I emailed my supervisor and I told her that I am having personal health issues that needs attention, and because of this, I do not feel I am at my best to be able to continue assisting her with the office work.

    I feel like a coward quitting after only one day. I spent the day hanging out with friends (who also have social anxiety, by the way) and I told them about my volunteer job. One of them had the opinion that I wouldn’t get much work experience out of filing and scanning for 6 months straight. And I have to admit, I agreed. Was this because I wanted a way out of the situation? Maybe. But he suggested that I shouldn’t do a volunteer job for filing and scanning when I can get the same job at a temp agency and get paid. I had a bad experience at a temp agency in the past, but maybe I shouldn’t blacklist all temp agencies just because one of them screwed me over so badly.

    So that’s it. I quit the volunteer office job. Whatever social anxiety issues that compelled to quit, it’s made me realize I’m probably more messed up on the inside then I realize. I have an intake session next week with a case worker to begin therapy. Maybe it will help me get the professional help I need because trying to overcome my SA on my own clearly isn’t working.

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