anxiety · coping mechanisms · flight or fight · overthinking things · social anxiety · writing

Coping Well And/Or Badly

I don’t know where to start. It’s 12:34 AM as I am typing this very sentence. Whenever something happens that affects me, of course I feel shaken up by this thing called life. I’m sure it’s similar for other people, even though it is truly impossible to live in another person’s shoes because each person’s experiences is uniquely their own. What am I even writing about again? If you’re still reading this and were expecting a linear post with a clear topic and less rambling, this isn’t it.

My thoughts are less concise and put together for this post, I think. The workings of my brain are like a computer that never shuts off and the only time I get to be away from the motherboard is when I’m asleep. This is why I can’t ever be a professional writer since my writing has a kind of free flow structure to it that I am too used to. Often I retell an event that happened by starting not at the beginning but somewhere in the middle before I go backward in reverse order of how the event happened.

Right, I was talking about life. Hm. I am unsure if I will be brutally honest about the latest hit-and-miss of my life or be reluctantly ambiguous. It’s a time such as this that I question if it’s worth writing about if, right now, I feel as if the problem is neverending but it’s something I innately know will pass and everything will be fine whether I believe it or not.

I think about some recent things that gave me a sh*tload of anxiety, and to my own disbelief at the time, I somehow didn’t die from the heart palpitations and trembling and heightened senses and that desperate, raw wish to turn tail and RUN for my life. Two weeks ago I started volunteering for an environmental organization I really care about. Holy f*ck I had a miserable time in the hours leading up to it. The event was also quite early in the morning, which I was both thankful for (so I could deal with the situation asap) and silently cursing (because I had to get up early and rush through breakfast just to be on time). Anytime my anxiety takes front and center, I’m of two minds; one who wants to be brave and courageous by telling anxiety to go shove itself in a corner while I own the situation like the boss I am, and the other who is just looking for every and any way out from the situation. Avoidance can be a cuddly plush toy but it can also be the stab in the dark that I knew I was going to get.

I really don’t know how I made myself go to the volunteering event. I felt as if I was going to lose my mind from the strain of my body while managing to conceal the internal hell of it all. At one point I arrived at the location and I got concrete feet syndrome (don’t bother googling the term because I made up the name) where I couldn’t take another single step towards the volunteer site. I was that terrified. Yet my mannerisms seemed to come across as contemplative rather than distressed to a nearby farmer at his flower stand. He said to me, “You look like you’re deep in thought.” Ha. If he only knew. Should I be glad that my survival skills have helped me to blend in this way? I think most people who have never experienced intense anxiety expect someone to be curled up in a ball on the floor in hysterics over feeling the physical and emotional symptoms of it. Maybe in some circumstances, something like that could happen, but it depends on the person and situation.

There was the anxiety and then there was the social anxiety I felt. Ugh. Somewhere in this mess of fear and indecisiveness, I tried to cling to some of the positives of why I wanted to volunteer in the first place. Those shreds were what pushed me to go to the volunteer coordinator. I was still nervous and shaky even after she was super nice. She excused herself later to grab breakfast since she didn’t eat yet so I was left alone to manage the site. The flurry of people that came and went was amazing and frightening. I both liked it and hated it. Mostly I didn’t have to talk to people as they came to drop off stuff unless they asked me questions. My insecurity showed here. I felt so repelled by the idea that people relied on me for information, not because I found the questions annoying, but because I was worried about giving the wrong answers or being too vague. In the worst case scenario I envisioned in my mind, I saw myself getting told off by someone for giving an inadequate answer. Perhaps the newness of the situation was too much for me but I made an effort to at least try.

This week, I volunteered again for the same organization but at a different location. Goodness. It was the first time all over again, with insomnia and restlessness and constant worrying plus overthinking about meeting a new volunteer coordinator and being in a new place. The only difference was I already got the experience from last time about what I would be doing at the volunteer site so that made the trip there slightly more tolerable. One less thing to be scared of. I guess?

A horrible aspect of my social anxiety is I jump to the assumption that the person is obviously going to react badly to me or not going to like me for one reason or another. I specifically said “my social anxiety” because not everyone with SA might have the same exact thought pattern struggles as I do. The irrationality of my mind knows no bounds, especially when I got there and observed the coordinator chatting cheerfully with someone who literally walked up to the booth to ask a question which turned into a full-length 10-minute conversation. I saw evidence that the person was so nice to a stranger, and still, I kept thinking if I went up to her, I would get treated badly. I thought this when I did approach her and she was smiling at me before I said anything. I was afraid of rejection even when the person was kind to me and had shown no signs of irritation or frustration towards the questions I asked her during my shift.

Now it’s been days after this, and still, I mull over the perceived things I did wrong instead of my successes. I have also thought a lot about how my own perceptions of myself tend to color how I perceive the other person must see me. Example: I felt I was too quiet during some portions of my voluntary shift when I mostly listened or nodded along to what the coordinator was saying or I responded with a short remark or comment. And because she was a talkative person, that put too much focus on how quieter I was than her.

A counter-argument to my own debate might be to consider if how I see myself on a negative spectrum is actually how she sees me. Probably not, right? I find I have the same perception problem in other situations, too. Like yesterday during a car ride when I was listening to my brother and dad talk about some of my brother’s friends and what kind of jobs and salaries they have. Immediately I associated the conversation with my current unemployment, which I sometimes think is a source of embarrassment if people ask my family what I do for a living and such. That shame is exactly why I avoid chances for family gatherings or to see extended relatives because I don’t wish to deal with the question. I got a similar sense of anxiety and guilt at lunch with my parents and brother while seeing my brother attempt to haggle with them into letting him pay the food bill (which they declined). All I could think of was how I have no income to financially support myself and I’m a pathetic burden to my own family and that behind my back, they’re all either laughing at me or speaking ill of me.

A third situation that hit me hard was the coincidence of both my parents having dentist appointments on the same day as my brother. I hadn’t made my own appointment but I got slightly antsy thinking someone was going to ask why I hadn’t scheduled mine yet and somehow figure out I have been purposefully not making the call. Truth is, I don’t like dealing with the dentistry reception as whoever picks up usually speaks in one of the two commonly used Chinese dialects (typically they use Cantonese, which I don’t speak at all). The fact the receptionist answers the phone in Cantonese instead of English could have nothing to do with me and more to do with the area I live which is populated with some Chinese diaspora who only speak Cantonese. I get that, but it sets an almost unspoken expectation that just because I am registered with a dentistry run by Chinese folks and that I am Chinese, people assume I can speak Cantonese without even asking me first. The last time I was at the dentistry, that’s what happened with the dentist assistant.

Featured Image by Bernard Hermant.

9 thoughts on “Coping Well And/Or Badly

  1. Really love the way you write -writing down thoughts the way In which they appear is so therapeutic and for the reader it emphasise the feelings trying to be connoted. Well done on the volunteering start anything new us scary and with anxiety it can be even more of an achievement to fight that ‘what if ‘ I know for me it can feel like that! Keep blogging ☺ xx


    1. Thank you for the wonderful comment, Rebecca. 🙂 I am surprised you liked the way I wrote things in the post. I started out typing the post thinking how all over the place my thoughts were, especially the more I wrote, haha. Starting out at a new place is hard to get used to. Every step of the way is scary! I agree with the achievement of fighting the anxiety. There truly is nothing that can compare to the weight of relief that comes directly after I’ve faced a situation and all that tension and fear just drains out of me. Thanks for reading. 🙂


    1. Thanks! I wanted to be there but the actual process of doing it was difficult. Every time from now onwards if I continue will probably be hard in terms of feeling that pull of anxiety and thinking how much I’m going to make an idiot of myself. I just don’t think I’ve given myself enough consistent exposure to the situation to start having a significant decrease in anxiety yet and getting that the situation is not as frightening as I believe it is.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I was super anxious! This will probably continue to be as it for a while as I increase the exposure I get each time I put myself in the situation because there really is no getting around the irrationality and overthinking for me. I don’t think it is possible for the anxiety to make a full stop exactly but I want to work on decreasing the level of it.


  2. Good on you for volunteering twice! Haha…concrete feet syndrome is a creative phrase and it is sooo applicable to those of us who have anxiety and find it hard to get going XD I don’t think it’s strange you start telling stories from the middle and jump all over the place. The middle could be more interesting or has the message you want to get across – and you know how some people who have short attention spans or like to talk a lot themselves…

    Maybe you do mask your real feelings very well. For me, I like to think I do that quite well and when people ask me how I am, I usually just say something quick like ‘Okay’ or ‘Good’. Also I’m not a huge fan of smiling or showing much expression on my face. The more I show emotion on my face, the more attention I may draw to myself and that wigs me out. But because of that, people have said I look cold and unapproachable. Oh well XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I am glad concrete feet syndrome was self-explainatory for the situation and because you can relate to what it feels like.

      Thanks about the story telling aspect of my posts. I’ve read some bloggers advise not to write big paragraphs and to break stuff up into simpler sentences so your audience won’t lose interest in continuing to read. I don’t have the dilligence to heavily edit my posts like that and I don’t expect people to finish reading my whole post in one sitting if it is very long.

      Me too with masking my feelings well. The funny thing about smiling is I did it a lot during the first volunteer shift as a reflex whenever someone approached me. I don’t know if the smiles came across as genuine to people because I was both doing it to try to not seem like I was going to jump out of my skin whenever someone asked me a question and to seem friendly so people wouldn’t be put off by me. I think it’s normal to not smile as to not attract attention. I would have done that too for the situation if I didn’t have to talk to people lol.


      1. You can write however you want, long or short paragraphs. If your story is interesting, then people will read. And you already have quite a few readers 🙂

        I think people in general expect an attendant to be friendly…and so they probably wouldn’t think much of your forced smile, and would feel like you were meant to be there before even speaking to you 🙂


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