This article was written anonymously for Performant Mental Health, The Series.
I have social anxiety and depression. It sucks, big time! For me, for my wife, probably for my friends and family too. I over think everything, my inner monologue analyses each conversation to the point of paralysing me.
Did I say something to offended the other person? Did the other person just insult me? Oh crap, did I reveal how emotionally unstable I am to them? My mind is in fight or flight mode constantly and it’s exhausting.
When confronted with a social issue, or a situation that seems illogical, my mind automatically escalates it. I react with a ‘defensive’ attack or even worse I cry like a five year old! My thoughts spiral down to some really dark self destructive places and I end up spending a good deal of my life asleep in an attempt to avoid confrontation.
It might seem odd but I don’t think of myself as weak, I have happily faced up to a bullies in defence of someone else, I just don’t value myself enough to do the same for me.
This isn’t a short term problem for me, it’s not like I had a bad day at the office and need a moment to get over it, this is my life. No matter how many self help books I read, prescription drugs I take or psychologists I talk to, I am never really able to completely over come my subconscious.
My earliest memories are filled with thoughts of feeling useless. That there’s no reason for anyone to like me let alone love me. If someone tries to be my friend, my impulse reaction is why? What do they want? What’s their ulterior motive? How can I get away from them before this interaction turns sour? This way of thinking is self-fulfilling and I have lost many a friend and job because of it.
Looking back there wasn’t really anything my parents did to make me this way. I wasn’t bashed, I wasn’t unloved or neglected. I always felt different and while other children seemed to effortlessly enjoy their lives, I spent nearly all my time alone, stressed, trying to understand the world instead of being part of it.
To my mind everything in life is a problem. Luckily I also feel that every problem can be solved and my way of solving problems is to learn more. Surely if I am smarter than everyone around me, they’d feel threatened by my amazing intellect and leave me alone! Like a lawyer in court room, I’d be able to out smart any bully, always staying that one step ahead of the competition.
Sadly, knowing lot’s of stuff is really hard and your IQ doesn’t change the way people treat you. As one of my favourite singers once said, ‘Knowing how the world works, isn’t knowing how to work the world’.
My approach to work has always been to work harder than everyone else. Going to work early, working through lunch or doing overtime served dual purposes in my mind. I had an excuse to not socialise and my bosses would love me for doing extra work! If my bosses loved me they wouldn’t fire me, they’d pay me more and they’d be on my side if I had any issues with my work mates. This behaviour became part of a cycle.
I get a job, work my arse off, set up unrealistic expectations for my employer that I can do anything needed and quickly. My bosses think it takes no effort for me to do the work so they don’t reward me. I end up working twice as hard as everyone around me for the same or less pay. I burn out and wonder why the guy sitting next to me looking at Facebook is making more money and leaves early all the time, while I’m told I am not performing. I quit, think I failed at that job and that I won’t be able to get another job of that type. I switch careers thinking I might be more suited to something else. And… Eat, sleep, rave, repeat!
Now in my mid forties, I have learnt a lot about the world in my search for happiness. I try to ground myself by listening to the problems of those around me and try to make others feel the self value that I have never been able to feel. I try to find the positive in everything, after all everything is just a problem that can be solved if you think about it enough, right?
I know I am not alone in my struggles, my wife and nearly all my friends also have anxiety problems. I have no right to think my issues are bigger than anyone else’s! These issues are global we no longer live in a world where finding our next meal consumes our every thought.
We have become so far removed from our natural existences in such a short time that our emotions have not had a chance to catch up with our new ‘artificial’ environments. We have so much time to think and so many options that we’ve forgotten to step back and smell the roses.
I’ve recently completed a university degree, something I never had the confidence to do earlier and scored a short term job with my dream employer. Everything appeared to be on track. My wife has stuck by me, we own our house, I have a loving family, I live in a first world country with no real concerns. Can you feel the ‘but’ coming? Even with lot’s of positives in my life I have hit that point again when I feel totally lost.
I am more educated and employable than ever but still the cycle is ruling me. A couple of bad experiences with people at my last job, my apparent ‘dream’ job, have made me realise once again I am blindly following the same pattern that’s etched somewhere deep in my mind. A pattern I am determined to break… one day.
At the moment I have given up, I have lost my drive, I am hiding from the world in shame and embarrassment, yet my logical mind knows that no one else sees it that way. Everyone else thinks I’m ok, some might even think I will do something great in the future. Even though I am writing this in bed, unemployed, feeling totally useless, there is still a part of me that wants to fight.
I just don’t know what for yet.
To read more stories written for everyday people by everyday people, visit Performant Mental Health, Part 5.