Grumpy, anxious and tired

There, feelings identified – can I feel better now please? 😛

I think I’m probably grumpy because I’m anxious and tired, so that’s easy to understand. I’m tired because I’m still acclimatising to work. I was really active last summer because I lived within walking distance of the city, but since moving house last November I’ve used public transport a lot more – I’m seven miles from Newcastle now, which isn’t a doable distance if I want to get any shopping done once I get there! So I’ve been a lazy slug for the last few months, and this job has been a big jump in activity. As well as walking to and from work the job itself is quite physical, and to add to the shock to the system I wasn’t eating very well last week because of nerves over my counselling degree interview and a few digestive issues. When I weighed myself yesterday for the first time in a month or so it had dropped by a couple of pounds, so I must make sure to eat more to compensate for all of this rushing around! I’ll be no use to ladies in wheelchairs if my body cannibalises my already pathetically small biceps 😛

It’s not just the physical aspect of my job which tires me out – it’s the effort of staying “switched on” for six hours a day, making small talk and coercing residents into joining in with my plans, when I am used to spending most of my time alone. I’ve been thinking about this recently: my current job and my potential career as a counsellor both go very much against my personality in many ways. I find social interaction tiring and anxiety provoking, and I am also very easily over-stimulated. There are only a few people whose company I can tolerate for long periods of time – Jonathan, Jess, Fi, and my mum are probably the only people who I am able to relax with completely and not feel like I’m constantly battling to try and think of ways to keep the conversation going and/or prove that I’m not some kind of aloof, arrogant weirdo. People who I find easy to be with either have really great social skills themselves (so they sort of carry me along in the conversation!) or are similar to me in terms of personality and social difficulties – it’s always easier to get along with people who you have a lot in common with. I have to spend a long time with people before I feel really comfortable with them, which is a bit of a problem since it’s the initial phase of getting to know people that I find most difficult! Jonathan could tell you a funny story about how much I shocked him with my initial clumsy attempts to tell him how I felt… 😉

Over the years I’ve taught myself how to interact with people. I can keep conversations going, I have forced myself to learn how to tolerate silences without filling them with mindless babble to avoid the awkwardness, I can talk myself out of running away from new situations and people, I can deal with disargeements and confrontations (mostly) tactfully and effectively without running away or exploding, I can cope with the chatter my brain throws up around people probably thinking that I’m odd and stuck up. I am doing pretty well in my new job so far, I think – some of the residents are quite taken with me, although I believe this is probably just because I am young, have a nice smile and am willing to listen to them for hours on end! The staff I find harder to get on with, especially if there’s an expectation for me to be chatty. I have sat in the staff room in silence for half an hour on at least one occasion already, not knowing whether the other girl expects me to be friendly or to leave her alone. When I was at school I was that kid who seemed to believe she was above everyone else, when really I was just cripplingly shy and had no idea of how to talk to people. This isn’t as big a problem now, but I still get on much better with certain groups of people – those with mental health problems, other shy people, my elderly residents, many of whom are quite distressed a lot of the time, and so on. I’m much more stuck when it comes to “normal” people (and don’t tell me off for saying normal, I know there’s no such thing, it’s just a useful word!).

Although I find it hard, I am quite a sociable person. I find other people fascinating and I genuinely want to help others. I am good at acting the part of someone who is good at social situations, and it does come naturally when I’m in the middle of a discussion on mental health/general difficult life situations. I’ve always been that friend who people go to when they have a problem. So I do hope that I will make a good counsellor, and I know that the residents at work like me. It’s just exhausting having to concentrate so completely for such a large portion of my day. It’s easy to tell when I’m too tired or anxious to concentrate on socialising, because I start fidgeting or ticcing compulsively, I drift off into my own little world, I say things without thinking, or I just go silent and get upset when I can’t think of the next thing to say. I really don’t want that to happen at work, so I have to make sure I take care of my sleep and physical/mental health to avoid getting burnt out.

So I’m grumpy and tired this evening, and most of the anxiety is due to my counselling degree interview last week. I just want to know what the course leaders have decided about the next three years of my life! I would be confident getting in on the strength of my academic work, but whether they decide to take a risk on someone who has already dropped out of university three times is another matter entirely. Four times if you count dropping out of one uni twice. And I dropped out of my A levels the first time around too. But if the counselling tutors don’t believe that people can recover from mental health problems, why would they bother being counsellors?! Still, it seems 50:50 whether I get in or not to me. I have my fingers, toes and individual strands of hair crossed, but I feel sick every time I think about it. I hope they don’t take too long to get their decisions out to us…

*******

Help a naturally awkward person feel better about herself: do you ever feel like talking to people is really hard work? Are there some groups of people you are more comfortable with? Has that changed throughout your life? I swear in my case it’s innate and not down to low self esteem – it’s just the way I was born. Shy, without tact and with an unswerving ability to accidentally come across as being arrogant, when really I’m a difficult combination of pedantic and desperate to be liked 😛 awesome. I know, I don’t sound like a people person, do I? But I really am. I am going to spend the next three years while I’m training pushing my boundaries until I am the most natural conversationalist ever. Work is already helping a lot!

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9 responses to “Grumpy, anxious and tired

  1. YES! Talking to people is really hard work for me too. Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them that, because there are certain situations (like at work) that I have learnt to play a role. New people are difficult for me, as are any “social situations” – I can feel comfortable with a group of people at work but once we’re “socialising” I get all uncomfortable and unsure of myself and just don’t know what to say. I also fear coming across as aloof and arrogant when I’m not able to ‘do’ easy conversation… which just increases the self-monitoring and critical internal monologue.

    Hope you start to feel a bit better soon! Starting a new job is always a tiring experience so don’t be hard on yourself – just try to look after yourself as well as you can.

    x x x

  2. I’m sorry you were tired, anxious and grumpy when you wrote this Katie… I do hope you feel better after a good night’s sleep.

    Well I’m sure you know what my response is… I could have written the above myself. I find social situations really exhausting. I like people; I’m interested in people; I care about people; I like having friends; I want to be liked… But interacting face-to-face is not only exhausting for me; it is anxiety-provoking and overstimulating. I was socially crap as a child, and have got better through practice; but it takes effort. I know that for me this is because I find people difficult to ‘read’. I’m not ‘wired’ that way and have had to learn to do it intellectually (as opposed to relying upon intuition). Also, I find looking at people’s faces overwhelming. (As a kid I found faces frightening). But, the important thing is that with practice I have got better at it. I do believe that practice is important, and that’s why I have been pushing my boundaries. But it IS tiring.

    In terms of groups of people: that still overwhelms me, so I remain a somewhat introverted, non party goer.

    You are a lovely person Katie, and I’m sure that you’ll make a great counsellor. You have so much knowledge and when I met you face-to-face you seemed perfectly fine 🙂

  3. And, by the way, I should add that for you, your social anxiety/fatigue (etc.) is most likely attributable to you having had an ED for so long in the past. EDs exclude people socially, and it takes time and effort to re-integrate oneself socially in recovery. I don’t think you have the same co-morbid difficulties that I have. You will be fine!

    • Hey Cathy

      Wasn’t sure where to put this but Katie mentioned it might be okay for me to message you on FB because you’ve read my blog but weren’t sure whether to comment? I’ll ‘friend request’ you and then perhaps you can let me know 🙂

      xxx

  4. I completely relate to the difficulties in socialising. Literally felt like I was reading about myself!

    I used to think I was quite good at ‘being me’ and casual around others (if that makes an ion of sense), and to a large extent when I was younger I was. However after my ‘issues’ (I shan’t blither on about the fine details lest you smother yourself and/or nearby loved ones with boredom) I’ve found it really hard to socialise for long periods of time without feeling incredibly anxious and ”frazzled’. There are a select few people who I do feel natural around (though i can’t pinpoint exactly why, I just go with the vibes and feelings in my waters!), but mostly I find interaction exhausting. I’m fine up until a point, then it’s like something switches in my brain and I can’t focus on conversations, my brain scrambles for things to say, and generally I feel like there’s a roaring in my ears and all my nerve endings are standing on edge. Not fun! After doing a shift at work (I’m a barmaid part-time) I feel utterly knackered, which I put down solely to the effort of just ‘being’ with people. Like you though, I find people and how they interact really interesting, and people have told me that when I’m ‘on’ (i.e. not to the overstimulation point) I seem really confident and charming, so when I suddenly go quiet and weird it looks like I’m being an absolute arse. So in sum, yes I sympathise! I used to get angry with myself about it (‘be normal you fool!’ etc, etc), but now I just accept that it’s how I am. I’m either ‘on’ or ‘off’ :).

    Sorry for the mahussive comment and rambley words. I just wanted to express with gusto that yes I totally understand! Also, as a long time lurker (first time commenter, I’m extremely bashful!) I would like to commend you on such an excellent blog and thankyou profusely for your wisdomous entries :). Seriously, reading your blog has helped me on so many levels that I fear my oddly worded comment won’t fully justify the gratitude I feel, but I’ll say thankyou anyway. Thankyou! Rest assured you will make a fantastic counsellor, and I really hope your course works out for you.

    Lottie xo

  5. Just as when you moved up here, you’re being far too hard on yourself and not realising exactly how much you’ve taken on. Not only are you doing a full time job, it’s a demanding job that most people would struggle to cope with and even find possibly borderline traumatic in terms of contributing to depressive thought processes. I think you have a higher level of social functioning than you give yourself credit for, because many people find the elderly and people in states of dementia difficult to communicate with, let alone take care of and organise activities for.

    Do I find it difficult to talk to people? YES! I’m the same as Ursus in my vehemence about social chit-chat (and now I have amused myself by writing ‘shit-chat’ by accident, which coincidentally it often is :P) being a nightmare. People at Uni thought about me exactly how you perceive yourself to come across: arrogant, aloof, stuck-up, where as deep down I too am desperate to be liked, a people-pleaser and desperately shy. I go off into my own little world when things become too overwhelming: it’s like a shut-down defence mechanism. I’ve done it on a minor level one or two times when we’ve been out but you always pull me round again 🙂 You should see a full on ‘Jess meltdown’ when I’m hyperventilating, stammering and/or repeating the same sentence like a broken record.

    In short: you’re not alone but don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

    xxx

  6. Yes! Talking to people is something I find really difficult. I think it’s a combination of social anxiety and an innate lack of understanding of other people. My mind is usually so jammed up with ‘omg, I should be speaking!’ that I can’t think of a single thing to say. I got on much better with my ex once we talked about silences, and realised that the only reason we both disliked them was that we were so worried the other disliked them! I think I’m finally starting to learn to cope with people a bit better though, which is a good feeling.  I agree that taking care of your health and sleep etc helps a lot.
    Anyway, I think that you’ll make an amazing counsellor! You always leave such good comments on people’s blogs. I know that I’ve found them really helpful.
    I hope you feel better soon. I, too, found that working ‘proper’ hours to be hard work, but it’s worth it to be doing something you love.

  7. interesting one! I can’t chip in really on the finding interaction stressful front cause well, you’ve met me and often I need to tone down not ramp up my socialising 😉
    however. what I would say is that you should definitely appreciate your own social style as well as becoming more confident as you go through this job. I don’t think it’s so much that there are ‘awkward people’ and ‘social butterflies’ but rather that different people play different roles in a group. for example I may be the one who starts chatting and stimulating conversation/building a rapport with people etc but I’m worse at other things like knowing how to back off when someone is quiet and interact with people who don’t like the constant flow of jokes and ‘banter’ like me. equally some people will be better in small groups and some in large..etc etc. basically, we all have a place, I think 🙂

  8. Pingback: In which I learn to use a new word | Giant Fossilized Armadillo

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