I got a new part-time job about a month and a half ago as a very busy barista. That was one of my goals when I moved here to Nashville, Tennessee. I wanted to learn latte art. I wanted to meet people. I wanted a job I could DO. But it hasn’t been that easy. The store I work at is extremely busy and close to “tourist central.” I generally work 3-4 shifts a week, 5-7 hours each. It is a bit more hours than I wanted, but I am trying to make it work. It was really hard last week because I was feeling so physically sick from the sleep medicine.
So why am I going on about my job? Because it is the first job outside my home that I have had in years. I suffer from severe anxiety disorder (complete with panic attacks) as well as bipolar 1 disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. It is better because of the many meds I take, but even those sometimes are no match for a line of 15 impatient customers at the coffee shop. Why do I do it? Because I have to try. I have to try and face the anxiety head-on and win. I have to learn how to be a part of the workforce. I want to be stronger.
People in my Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) support group can’t understand how I can handle the stress. They tell me they could not do it. I didn’t know if I could do it. In fact, I still don’t, but again – I am trying. If it turns out this particular job or location is too stressful for me, so be it. At least I will know that I gave it a shot, that I had set a goal and reached it.
It is so easy to be afraid. I think I spend a lot of time being afraid of things, especially because I catastrophize. I am, however, proud of myself for pushing myself outside of my comfort zone (which is really just my bed and being with my dog).
I have a really hard time touching door handles.I have a great fear of germs. I am not a tidy person, but germs freak me out. Sometimes, not often, I am able to touch a restaurant door handle (quickly followed by hand sanitizer, of course) and not lose my cool. To you that may sound silly and ridiculous, but to me it is an accomplishment. Again, I am trying. I am trying to prove to myself that I will not actually die if I touch the handle or the menu or the customers change at the coffee shop.
I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to let my life be controlled completely by mental illness. There are a lot of things I cannot control about my illnesses – episodes of mania and depression, fear of crowds, panic attacks – but I can try to challenge myself, to allow my world to grow.
Yeah, maybe I will fail. Likely I will fail to meet some of my own challenges, but at least I will know I tried.
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