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!