A few days ago I watched the first part of a two part documentary on Agoraphobia. It featured a man who hadn’t left his house in six years, a woman too afraid of her panic to walk her eight year old daughter to school, and a pregnant General Practitioner who couldn’t stay in a house alone for more than four minutes but couldn’t walk past the parking lot of her apartment.
While each of them had in common their fear of having a panic attack in public, they had individual reasons for their panic. The GP couldn’t handle being alone outside or inside and motorways/highways were a serious trigger for her. She’d start shaking, crying, and spewing words a mile a minute.
With the man I most identified because he had some social anxiety. His was relatively mild compared to mine, but significantly impacted his level of agoraphobia. While he walked down the street with a psychiatrist, his eyes constantly searched the sidewalks across the street for people staring at him and he immediately assumed, as we all do with social anxiety, that something was wrong with him, that he looked weird or dressed weird or something. The psychiatrist took a very “exposure therapy” approach from the beginning, so I wasn’t surprised when he had the man lay in the middle of the sidewalk with him and force him to feel embarrassed over something real. They then sat on the curb and walked around while the psychiatrist started shouting gibberish into the air or just generally screeching right next to people.
Honestly, I was laughing my ass off.
Laughing my ass off while simultaneously thanking God I wasn’t the one having to go through that.
I think the method helped him. Would it have helped me? I don’t believe so; I’m a loud person when I want to be and I’ve laid in the middle of the sidewalk and I’ve shouted random things right in people’s faces. It hasn’t helped me conquer my social anxiety disorder.
I also identified with the third woman, the one with the child. Much of her panic was triggered by loud noises. When a bus passed by her and two psychologists, she hunched down with her hands over her ears and started shaking and panicking. As the bus left, she slowly returned to a base level. In a grocery store a worker made an announcement over the loud speaker and the woman went through the same process.
I’m not completely incapacitated by noises like her, but I rage if they’re near me (like the bus) or flinch and plug my ears if I’m in a grocery store. It’s why I wear ear phones everywhere. I think I’ve said this before.
Ha! Can I just point out the address for this picture was literally “Nicole-is-wearing-headphones-that-match-her-dress”. My God. Someone is a creative photographer.
Anyway, the man and the woman with the child both faced their fears exceptionally well and even though they cried and shook and went through the motions of panic during their outings, they took it and felt it and dealt with it. The GP however, did not. She refused to stay in the house for fifteen minutes by herself (she lasted 4 minutes and 30 seconds) and when it came time for all three of them to conquer an obstacle together and hop on a local train without any staff, she refused to get on. The other two were crying and shaking and reflecting on themselves and their fears while they sat on the train ride.
I admire them. I think the GP could have pushed herself harder. That’s not being harsh, that’s being truthful. You have to push yourself, even if it’s to a breaking point. I’ve been the same way, done the same maladaptive behavior, stayed in my house for months and months at a time, and I still do to some extent, but I keep trying. Some days I try harder than others, some days I don’t try at all.
She didn’t try at all at any point. I acknowledge the amount of effort she put into trying to try, but it wasn’t enough. I haven’t watched the second part, because I think it was a stupid idea to take all three of them into a whole new country without acknowledging there may be other mental reasons besides a classically conditioned fear behind their agoraphobia. I saw a preview of the second half where the psychiatrist admitted his work had backfired. It’s one criticism I have about exposure therapy: it’s good for some and really, really shitty for the majority of others.
I want to be like the other two. I can’t hide behind fears any longer, it’s tearing me down.
Today I got hired for that one job. I have to go in for a drug screen and to fill out some paper work this Friday. Training starts every weekend until March in which I’ll be getting a good 20+ hours each week.
I’m worried about the stress. I’m worried about my level of commitment and if I’ve made a mistake. Am I ready?
So I went for a contemplative bike ride. And met this crazy gal:
I named her Daisy. She didn’t want to be named and labeled like a human, so I told her I wouldn’t call her Daisy.
Not to her face, at least.
Daisy told me there’s no way to know if I’m ready or not. It’s a matter of action, not a matter of contemplation, and she says that’s how I trick myself into backing out of things. I’m a good thinker, she says, but not a good do-er, simply because I think too much. I think I share that problem with the GP woman from the documentary.
I like thinking, I’m a thinker, and all my logic points to being able to solve problems through thinking alone. The majority of the time that’s not possible.
Training will be stressful, I’ve already thought about that. Because this position requires I’m responsible for insane amounts of cash (I’m not talking hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands, I’m talking the big Mill), the pressure I’ll put on myself to be perfect and never make a mistake will be the equivalent of a primordial dwarf trying to lift three cars stacked on top of each other off their shoulders.
I’m a perfectionist. I hate and love this fact about myself. I love it because it means I do things right. I hate it because it means if I don’t do it right, even when I’m still learning, I’ll tear myself to shreds.
Hopefully the fact that I’m aware of it will help me ease the pressure.
I know it will get easier as the weeks pass. The more I learn, the more equipped I’ll be to handle situations that require I think on my feet.
The main thing I’m worried about is the fact that all the instructions are delivered orally. I’m going to be learning hands-on of course, but when they explain things it will be orally and it takes me a long time to process oral directions.
I don’t feel like that’s a good thing to tell my new employer.
I told them I prefer not to work with customer service but I didn’t tell them I have social anxiety disorder, depression, and rage issues. I figured that’s not a good first impression in this day and age.
Stress, stress, stress. It never stops. I don’t handle stress well. This job is either going to be yet another disaster, or the best decision I’ve ever made.