Yesterday at work I found myself in a nice discussion with a coworker who I really like. I felt myself starting to feel “talking anxiety”- where I freeze and go blank or panic during a conversation.
But I got through it pretty well, and thought it would benefit to share with you. Talking anxiety has been one of my main social anxiety symptoms for years. Funny I’ve never really brought it up here- well today’s a good a day as any! …
I find myself re-experiencing talking anxiety at work because I am still feeling my way around there and learning who the people are- who feels safe and who is nice, etc.
I’ve been at my job almost a year now and I am happy to report that I feel comfortable around most of the people I work with. Even better, there are a lot of nice people who I really like- and who I think like me. (I am ever so hopeful that one day I will consider some of these ladies my real life friends.)
So one of the girls who I really like has been having some trouble with her 22 year old daughter. One day at lunch she was talking about it and I felt so bad for her.
When I saw her the next time I asked her how everything was going with her daughter and she seemed happy that I brought it up. Since then I have been just checking in with her and asking if everything is ok.
This was all completely natural by the way. I didn’t have an agenda like “Oh this is good practice for my social anxiety- let me see if I can find Susie today and ask her about her daughter.”
While I didn’t do that consciously, it actually was good exposure practice for me.
I have had anxiety about talking to people in conversation all the way back to my college years when it was at its worst. I remember being so anxious and tongue tied and only being able to blurt out a sentence or two in the midst of a social conversation.
It was a very lonely and frustrating way to live. I drank heavily in those days to take the edge off – because at the time that was the only thing I knew to do that helped. It felt like once I had a little liquid courage I could be the natural, outgoing person I was before I had social anxiety.
(I don’t drink to take the edge off my anxiety anymore and I would never suggest anyone doing that. It only creates more problems.)
So back to Susie and our conversation…
Yesterday after I brought a patient to Susie’s unit I saw her sitting at a desk doing some charting and I went over and sat down and just said, “So how’s everything going?”
She seemed very happy to see me. “Oh I was hoping I’d see you today!..Blah blah blah…(filling me in about her daughter’s situation)…
This was the conversation that got me anxious. I was listening very intently to what she was telling me and it was natural and spontaneous.
And then… somewhere in the back of my mind the talking anxiety or conversation anxiety started to creep in…
I was very aware that I could let my thoughts go down that anxious path and start to freak out or have a panic attack on the spot.
I noticed how I was starting to fidget in my chair.
On some level that only someone who is anxious can understand I started having this internal dialogue. It went something like this:
What if I make a fool of myself in front of her?… What if I panic?… The nearest bathroom is right around the corner…. We have been talking for almost 10 minutes…. I cant keep track of all the details…. She lost me a long time ago…. She is jumping all over the place….
And then my Good Voice of Reason started to kick in (thank God!):
Ok, you can handle this… Do NOT go into the bad thoughts. You are fine. Stop fidgeting… Relax your muscles and breathe slowly..Just listen, this is a human being who is hurting… Just be there for her…. it’s not a big deal… She isn’t judging you…. She wants you to listen…You can do it…
At about the 15 minute mark I did have to excuse myslef, I had to get back to my unit. It was fine- I wasn’t as smooth as when the conversation started because I did have that twinge of anxious thought- and it left me feeling a little unnerved. But I was able to sit and listen and be there for her and be a part of that conversation.
I made my not so graceful exit and went back to my unit. I made sure not to beat myself up about having talking anxiety. This was progress after all!
Susie is someone I really like and could see being friends with. Whether it happens or not isn’t the issue. But sometimes when I really like someone, I do feel even more awkward around them. I think I felt a little bit of that.
It’s all wrapped up in my hard knocks experiences of dealing with anxiety and friends over the years.
So score one for me. I had anxiety while talking to Susie, but I stayed in the conversation and didn’t run for the hills.
Is talking anxiety one your social anxiety symptoms? How do you handle it?
This experience prompted me to do some searching and in the next post I will share some important tips for Anxiety about Talking…
I wish you peace,