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Monday, 31 July 2017

What it's like to have Anxiety when you're working.

Welcome back to A Jackals Voice.
I've covered this topic briefly before but today I'd like to go a little more in depth in regards to my own experiences. Whilst most, if not all, mental health conditions can have an effect on your career, I'll be focusing mainly on my own anxiety. I'll be talking about my work life prior to my current condition, along with what I do now in regards to blogging.

Before I became ill back in November last year, I worked as a barman in a local pub. Typically the pub was quite busy. Whether it was for food during the day or drinkers at night, we rarely had a dull day. I was both a waiter and a bartender, and so I would interact with the majority of our customers every day that I worked. This meant taking orders, making small talk etc. In any other scenario I would have avoided being in a crowded place such as that, but when I was at work I dealt with my condition quite well. Or rather I ignored it.

My anxiety had started to become a problem before I got my first job. I would steer well away from bars and restaurants if I had a choice, and if not, I'd likely be getting myself a little tipsy just to get past it. It wasn't a healthy way to cope but it worked. The reason I ended up as a bartender was purely out of a need for money and chance. A friend of the family had taken over an establishment and so I went to work there. It wasn't a busy place, but I think that's why I found it easier to adapt. By the time I'd started work at my pub of choice, I already had experience in stifling my anxiety.

                                        



The thing is, when I was at work I was focused. I could tune out most of my negative thoughts as long as I stayed busy. Weird as it may sound, my social anxiety was easier to handle on a busy day than on a quiet one. The quiet days meant I had nothing to focus on, and that's when it got hard. I would find the most trivial task I could just to keep myself working, be it moving barrels around in the cellar or scrubbing the marks off the stools. I think my co-workers knew this, and thankfully they just let me get on with it.

However, there were occasions when my anxiety flared on busy days. I am a creature of habit and if something went wrong when I wasn't expecting it too, I would lose it. The moment that happened, which wasn't often in hindsight, I was practically useless. My mind would go into panic and I would lose track of what I was supposed to be doing. One of the people I worked with used to say; 'Jack is flapping again'. As funny as it sounds they were right. I'd be stood behind the bar waving my arms around desperately trying to figure out what I was doing. Luckily, the staff were all very supportive and would often let me, or sometimes force me, to go outside and take a break.
I can't help but smile as I write this. Even though I'm writing about times that were pretty tough for me, I keep remembering how much I loved that job and the people there. They all knew I was a bit weird, but they accepted me anyway, and for that I am very grateful.

So far I have described a form of high-functioning anxiety. In some ways my condition made me a better worker, even if it was just a way to hold my anxiety back. Once I finished my shift I would always go out the back to have a drink alone and smoke. I suppose this was how I prepared to face my anxiety once I went back inside. I  would no longer have something to focus on, and so I didn't have control anymore.
It may sound odd, but this was how my anxiety manifested. To be honest, if you gathered five people with anxiety and asked them what it was like you'd get varied responses. Well, that's if they even showed up, I know I'd probably have turned that strange invite down back then. the point is, everyone experiences anxiety differently, meaning that Anxiety shouldn't be a label.

Back to the present I'm in a similar scenario. My anxiety has gotten significantly worse as a result of my current condition and I find it hard to go outside alone, even on the best of days. Then again, when I'm sat at my desk writing I'm at ease. I know what I'm doing and how I'm going to do it. It's like being at work again, except there's less people and I don't smell like beer and chips. Should I step outside though, I lose all sense of logic. My brain goes into overdrive and I'm certain I'm being watched and judged for the way I am. No matter how many times I think to myself that 'everything is fine', I just can't think straight.
It's almost ironic that I hate social stigma, yet I stigmatize myself.

                                           

That's me in a nutshell. Full disclosure, there have been times when my anxiety has flared for no determinable reason, but normally I have a trigger. Then again, as my current condition progresses my triggers are getting harder to determine, although even before this there were times that I couldn't explain myself.
I must stress that this is only an account of my experience with anxiety at work. Other people may experience things very differently than I do. The best thing to do is to look around or maybe ask a friend who you know struggles.

If you would like to read more on anxiety in the workplace I'd recommend having a look at these links;

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety-types/work-anxiety
7 Strategies for Dealing With Work Anxiety.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-equation/201002/anxious-work-is-it-me-or-damn-job
Some insight into how to cope and recognize anxiety in the workplace.

Over to you now. How does your condition effect your job? How do you work through it? Perhaps you have some unconventional ways to cope like me?
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Until next time, this has been,
A Jackals Voice.

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