(This is the second post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.)
Previously, I spoke with Devin about her diagnoses, relationships, and her social life. At times, her anxiety can keep her from socializing with others and from attending events like baby showers and weddings. Our interview continues below as we discuss social anxiety, self-confidence, and workplace issues.
Summer: Is there any anxiety in not attending social events? Even though staying home is more comfortable at the time, do you worry about how others will react when they find out you’re not there?
Devin: I don’t worry about that because I also have pretty low self confidence and think that no one will miss me…. or maybe I just don’t care. Sometimes Nick will take the blame for me, say he’s sick or doesn’t feel well, so that I don’t have to be the one to cancel.
Summer: I definitely know that anxiety can take a huge toll on self-confidence. Have you found anything that helps to build your confidence level back up?
Devin: I’ve gotten involved with the crafting community on Etsy …. it’s helpful because a) it’s online and I don’t actually have to meet people face-to-face and b) it gives me an excuse to spend all day sitting on my butt making stuff. When people tell me they like my jewelry or are a fan of something I’ve made or tell me I’m creative – well, there’s no reason for them to lie about that. They don’t have to tell me these things like my friends or family do.
Summer: What is it about the online context that makes it easier to interact with others?
Devin: I don’t have to leave my house to interact with people. Also, I don’t know why, but I’ve also found that a lot of the people I’ve become friendly with have similar problems, such as depression or anxiety, and we can relate to each other. I don’t have anyone in real life that I can talk to about these things.
Summer: Does the anxiety impact your day job, though? Do you need to work in an office for that job?
Devin: I am so, so lucky with my day job. I have the ability to work from home which I admittedly take advantage of. I’ve been cleared to work from home on Tuesdays. I realize that not going into the office affects my relationships and possible friendships with people I work with, but I also get really stressed when I’m in the office for too long. It’s almost as though there’s too much going on and my brain can’t handle it.
Summer: Any other major anxieties about working?
Devin: I’m afraid to talk to people on the phone. Luckily I can do most of my job through email, but every time I have to talk to someone on the phone, I have to psych myself up. I tend to keep my phone on “do not disturb” so that it will go straight to voicemail so I can return the call when I’m ready. I’m just afraid someone will ask me something I don’t know or I’ll give the wrong response or I’ll stutter…and therefore sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Summer: Have you learned anything through therapy that helps you with your job? Or with talking on the phone or socializing? Do any techniques really stick out as helpful for you?
Devin: This is something that I’ve learned previously, but my therapist tries to reinforce it – at my job, I know more than my clients. If I say something incorrect, they won’t know. Then I have time to correct myself or work around it. I had a session with my therapist before my big work conference this summer where we meet a bunch of our clients and have sessions and generally hang out for three days. I’ve been before, but each year I’ve always stressed out about talking to them and what am I going to say and what are we going to talk about? So my therapist told me to talk about the weather. I said, “but that’s so cliche.” and she said, “So?” And it was true. It’s small talk. No one really cares what you’re saying. You’re not expected to solve the world’s problems. Just talk about the weather.
Summer: What would you say to others who are having anxiety symptoms that are similar to yours?
Devin: Breathe. And know that you’re not alone. Knowing that there are other people out there, that I’m not the only one dealing with this, is so helpful.
Photo credit: Devin Wais