“Third year already, hasn’t that gone fast?”

I’ve heard that line plenty of times this summer. Most Sundays at church every conversation with anyone over 40 plays out like this. And then comes the inevitable, “so what are you going to do after that?”

It’s not a new question, but the percentage of times it gets asked has gone up a lot (probably to almost 100%) now that I’m going into my last year of university.

My answer is always vague, because I still have anxieties about how to answer the question, and anxieties about the subject itself (that’s probably not good):  “something with publishing and editing”.

It’s just an area of life I want to sort out on my own, in my own time, with no questions asked. I’ve had anxieties around it for years and I nearly always betray some of it when people ask me about it.

But on the other hand, I can see that it’s just a natural path for small talk to follow. When people ask me what kind of work I want to do, there’s a social anxiety-induced voice in my head asking what do they think I’m capable of, and what if I sound too ambitious and then they look at me sceptically… and what if I don’t end up fulfilling my ambitions and then Jill Bloggs who asked me what I want to do when I grow up multiple times from 2008-2016 will see that I didn’t achieve that.

It’s not like I overthink things or anything.

Yesterday at church I had to laugh when Mrs H did the “Wow third year already” line and then followed it up with the bluntest form of this question that I’ve heard so far: “When are you going to start looking for jobs then?”

Context: Mrs H was my teacher when I was 12-15 years old at a small independent school run by this church (so a lot of the people there are my old teachers!) and was obsessed with using our “daily devotions” time to go around in a circle and ask each of us what career we aspired to on a near-weekly basis. She’s always been known for her blunt honesty which, at school, could be either entertaining or terrifying, depending on the situation!

 

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Being Open about Anxiety for the First Time with Parents: Pt 3

So Part 1 was contextual waffle and Part 2 was about telling my mum. Predictably, Part 3 will be about telling Dad.

Telling Dad started off awkward, progressing to mildly comedic, progressing to absolutely fine.

By the time I got round to talking to Dad, it had been two or three weeks since telling Mum. This was because at the end of the Christmas holidays, I hadn’t found a good opportunity to bring up the subject with him and reluctantly postponed it till my next visit home. So I came back for a weekend and it got to Sunday afternoon, a few hours before I would be getting on a train back to my university town again, and I still hadn’t attempted it. So I figured I’d have to give up looking for the perfect opportunity and just out with it. Continue reading “Being Open about Anxiety for the First Time with Parents: Pt 3”

Being Open about Anxiety for the First Time with Parents: Pt 1

I hinted that this post was coming here, so here we go.

Context: It occured to me that I had social anxiety for the first time when I was 16 because I was really disturbed by the amount of shyness I was experiencing and this got me doing some intense googling on the topic. The idea that my extreme shyness met enough criteria to be classified as something called “social anxiety disorder” and that this was classified as a “mental illness” was probably the aspect of this which bothered me most, and to some extent still does. I feel like I’ve been thinking and perhaps overthinking this topic ever since then (the fact I have a blog about it makes that kinda self evident doesn’t it?) but in the following five years I’ve made a big thing of not talking about it (with one or two slight exceptions). Not out of any feeling of shame Continue reading “Being Open about Anxiety for the First Time with Parents: Pt 1”

I saw Family at Christmas and it was Interesting

So we got invited to meet up with some extended family for what I realised was the first time in my life around Christmas/ New Year’s (let’s start the post on a melodramatic note, why not?).

I feel like I’m still adjusting to actually knowing these relatives. I only saw them a couple of times before Age 12 and in the nine years since then, I’ve only seen them very occasionally. After this age and especially after age 16 I was of course getting very socially awkward. I’ve had social anxiety around this lot in particularly quite badly, and that’s possibly because I’ve been so anxious for them to get a good impression of me. And they are a family of ten siblings while I’m awkward penguin only child.

Anyway, this is how it went.

We went first to my cousin C’s farmhouse where she lives with her husband and kids. At first the three of us were stood in her kitchen talking to her. My mum and C get along really well. To her and and the other relatives this side my Dad is regarded as an oddball (that’s the main reason I’m aware of for aforementioned fallouts) when in fact he has mild Asperger’s and an intellectual, quirky personality that just contrasts dramatically with their practical, straight-thinking personalities. And from their perspective, I must be the Continue reading “I saw Family at Christmas and it was Interesting”

Indecisive

As the title suggests, I’m feeling a little bit indecisive at the moment!

The Christian Union at my uni have meetings twice a week. The Tuesday one is the bigger meeting for people from all over campus and the Thursday one is a small group Bible study just for people in your particular college. I’m settling into the small groups one on a Thursday fairly alright but today is Tuesday and I am lacking the motivation to go to the larger meeting.

It’s the seventh week at university now and I’ve been to the first 2 Tuesday meetings, neither of which was especially traumatic in the social side of things. The first was just an introductory thing where a large percentage of us didn’t know each other. At the second one, I floundered a bit when everyone was just mingling but then a few second years came up and kindly started conversation with me. I sat with them for the talkie bit because I couldn’t see anyone else I knew, and they didn’t seem to mind. Afterwards I got talking to a girl who is also on two of my courses and in one of my seminars, and we had a good conversation.

Then I missed a few of the larger meetings because of my workload, but I managed to get to a few of the Thursday small groups, where there’s about 10-15 of us. So that’s all good.

Basically, the more I think about it the less I want to force myself to go to the larger meeting because I’m scared of not having anyone to talk to at the beginning or anyone to sit with. That sounds really petty but I don’t want to be seen as that girl who stands in the corner with her phone while everyone else socialises.

There are at least 3 or 4 people I feel confident talking to but I haven’t mastered the art of going up to someone I know when they are already talking to several people I don’t know and successfully joining in with the group conversation. I tried this the other week when there were just 2 people, one I did know and her friend who I didn’t know. It started off ok but then a third year joined the conversation and because I was quieter than the other two she started well-meaningly trying to talk to me, separate from the others. So I was there trying to figure out what they were talking about and join in, when she’d suddenly ask me what I was studying or something. It was sabotaging all my concentration on attempting to fit in. Then as things were going on like this, horror of horrors, she asked me “Do you know them?” gesturing towards the other two (who were none the wiser). She thought I was a total stranger just third-wheeling and not saying anything! I think my feeling of “I cannot believe you just said that” was evident on my face when I replied “Yes” because she didn’t say owt else after that.

In my defence it was early in the morning and my brain was way too slow to be chatty.

All that aside, I am leaning towards not going to the large meetings as I’m likely to just embarrass myself if I’m feeling stressed about it the whole time. I think it’s achievement enough that I’m more or less fitting in at the weekly small event, so maybe I should just let myself be proud of that. Thoughts would be appreciated though 🙂

To Be Open or not to be Open?

Recently I’m turning over in my mind the question of being open about my social anxiety with other people. Telling anecdotes about “that awkward moment when” seems to be a new craze and naturally I’ve got plenty of them up my sleeve. But admitting to people that what you’ve got isn’t just shyness but an actual condition is a whole other ball game. I keep imagining possible situations and what people might say if I was open about it. The idea of it is strangely appealing, yet not quite appealing enough just yet. I imagine many would be very understanding about it, others might get kind of preachy, some sceptical, and others might think I’m attention-seeking.

Is it worth it? Does opening up bring relief or is it best not to tell the whole world? Should you just save it for trusted friends? Or would it be good to raise more awareness for issues like this that not everyone knows exist? I saw some stats somewhere that S.A.D is the third most common mental health problem after depression and alcoholism. If so, we could have all met someone that has this and never known.

If somebody could give me a witty or insightful reply to the question, “So are you usually quite a shy person then?” that’d be great. Saying, “Oh I have social anxiety and I always get tongue-tied when I meet new people,” seems rather a severe bomb to drop on someone you’ve only just met. What do you say?? I usually end up apologetically saying “Kind of, sorry” or “Not always,” but this is a conversation killer and makes me sound like an uninteresting and/or dumb person, which is hardly the first impression I want to give.

Then again, I’m not sure why these people think “Are you always this shy?” is a socially acceptable thing to say. What kind of answer do they expect? Pointing out a stranger or acquaintance’s apparent personality defect simply isn’t kind, even if said with good intentions, and it’s certainly not going to break the ice.

I know that this blog is so new that nobody’s really reading yet, but if by some small chance anyone is, I’d love it if anyone has any suggestions or answers to leave a comment.