Tag Archives: social anxiety

Anxiety Talk: Being a Comforting Voice

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As someone living with a mental illness, specifically anxiety, I’m often in the position of having to be comforted or reassured by others. It’s something I try hard to be mindful of. I don’t want to generalize, as everyone deals with anxiety in their own way. But I’ve found that it’s very easy to for me to make difficult conversations about myself, my feelings, and what’s going on in my head. It’s never intentional, of course. But when you’re used to being so open with someone, it almost comes natural. That’s something I really dislike about myself. No one should put others in the position of having to be comforting and reassuring all the time. Having anxiety doesn’t excuse that.

With that in mind, these last few years I’ve really tried to work on my own listening skills, and being that comforting person for the people in my life when called upon. That’s not always easy because of the social aspect of my anxiety. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, it’s good to think about it.

So where am I going with all this? A few days ago, I was put in a position to comfort someone. This is how it went…

My day-to-day job, my “joe job,” involves a drive-thru. A few days ago, the girl I have running the drive-thru asks me if we can call the police. Naturally, that’s a question that makes you snap to attention.

I find a woman pulled up to the window crying, claiming the man in the car behind her has been following her, and verbally threatened her. For whatever reason (no judgment), she feels like she can’t call the police on her own. So she’d like us to do it.

I dial the police non-emergency number. As I’m doing so, the man who’s supposedly following her drives away. So whatever immediate danger is has passed. Still, I hand her my phone, and the dispatcher tells her to come inside with us while she waits for an officer to arrive.

So the woman, let’s call her Jill, comes inside and sits down. Jill is roughly my age. Early 30s, maybe late 20s. She’s not in hysterics, but she’s clearly upset. Understandably so. I don’t want to leave her alone. Not just in case this man comes back, but just out of general courtesy. No one should have to be alone after a traumatic experience like that. Unless they want to be.

We’re sitting at a table together. Jill is crying. And I’m in a position I’m not necessarily comfortable in. Not because she’s upset, but because I don’t usually do well in one-to-one situations. I’m much better in groups. When it’s just me and one other person I stress about awkward silences, keeping the conversation going, not saying anything dumb, etc.

But there we are. Together. In that moment…

Unintentionally, my body is crooked slightly toward the door so I can see if the police officer is coming. I don’t mean to do it. But it’s a product of my anxiety. I always need to have a way out.

I get Jill a drink of water and some tissues. (Paper towels, actually.) We review some of the details of what has just happened. I ask her where she was headed. She says she was on her way to babysit for a friend. She calls said friend, during which I mess around on my phone a little bit. I check on my co-workers.

When I come back, I struggle for something to talk about. I figure it’s not a good idea to dwell too much on what’s just happened, right? She’s already upset, after all. We start talking about my job and work environment a little bit. It seems to ease her a bit.

Jill decides to call her mom. Because sometimes you just need to talk to mom. I go back and check on my co-workers again. It seems like the cop is taking an awful long time to get here.

So I bring up how long she’d been driving beforehand and where she’s from. That leads us into where my wife and I are from, what my day-to-day commute looks like. We actually end up comparing notes on Chicago and Milwaukee, as that was more or less the journey my wife and I took when we moved.

The cop finally walks in. I excuse myself, but stand close by in case they need me. The officer talks to Jill, then escorts her back to her car. I have a quick talk with the officer when she comes back,  then she’s on her way.

I cringe when I think back on my interaction with Jill. It was actually fairly difficult for me to dictate what happened. Not because either of us did anything wrong. It’s just so easy to think back and pick my side of it apart. I should have said this here, or that there, etc.

Still, it feels good to have been there for somebody. To have put myself in that position. In theory, I could have just gone back to my job and let her wait by herself.

Lately I’ve been on a big Fred Rogers kick. I’m sure at least part of that stems from seeing the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? documentary. But I just finished reading the new biography by Maxwell King. I’m now in the middle of I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan. There’s also another documentary, Mister Rogers and Me, on Amazon Prime. One of the prevalent themes that seems to run through all of these is how Fred Rogers had the amazing ability to be totally present and in the moment with everyone he talked to. That’s the kind of thing that seems super easy. But it’s not. Especially in today’s world.

I don’t think I was completely present in that moment with Jill. I don’t know that I’m completely comfortable being present in the moment with anyone, outside a very select few. But I’m working on it.

In the end, working on it is really all we can do. That’s how we improve.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com!

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Anxiety Talk: Adderall and Social Anxiety

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There was a point in my life where I thought I was past having to deal with social anxiety. That it was a hurdle in my mental health journey that I’d simply overcome. Turns out, not so much. One thing I’ve learned about myself this year is that my social fears and discomforts are pieces of a larger puzzle. One big ol’ mental illness puzzle. Oh, what fun.

Things have been a little emotional at the Siebert house this past year. Tensions have been high at times. Naturally, that stirs up my anxiety. So I’ve had to sort of get myself reacquainted with my social anxiety. Start acknowledging it and recognizing it again.

As a result of these changes, my medication has fluctuated. One such medication is Adderall, which I take for Attention Deficit Disorder. Supposedly, some doctors prescribe Adderall to help with social anxiety. If you’ve been on Adderall, you can probably guess why. I generally do feel more “up” when I take it.

Normally I restrict myself to half a pill, amount 10 milligrams, a day. If I take the full 20 milligram pill, it can actually make my anxiety worse. This is especially bad on a work day. But I had a decent amount of time to kill before going in today, so I went ahead and took the full 20.

I went to get my car worked on. I had my laptop with me, and I pecked away at it in the lobby until they were done. Mind you, I’m feeling pretty productive. That’s what 20 milligrams will do for you.

So at one point, the girl working the front desk calls me up to talk about my car. She gives me a bunch of info, and I instinctively say, “Thank you, miss.” A moment or two later, she thanks me for calling her miss instead of ma’am. She adds that while she’s from the south, where that word more commonly used, at 30 years old she’s not quite ready to be a ma’am yet.

Then something happens.

I’m not good with small talk. I attribute that to my social anxiety. I’m always nervous about slipping up and saying something offensive, embarrassing, or worse, awkward. So I usually just nod and “Yep” my way through interactions like this. Minimum input equals minimum potential for embarrassment or awkwardness.

But here, for some reason, I say: “What part of the south are you from?” I engage. I ask a question, which prompts a response, and the interaction continues.

She says she’s from Texas. She jokes it’s the “good south.” I tell her I have a stepfather from Georgia. The interaction ends as she says my car will be ready soon. We separate.

Little moments like that? They’re huge victories for people with social anxiety. That woman probably has several interactions like that a day. Small connections. But maybe not so small, really. After all, I’m still thinking about it hours later. And would it even have happened without the Adderall? Probably not. I probably would have nodded through it like always.

I can see how people get addicted to Adderall. There are times when it’s in my system that I feel like a completely different person. A friendly person. An inquisitive person. Maybe a more successful person.

Sometimes I wonder if the guy I become when I take Adderall is even me at all. Like it’s a Nutty Professor situation. Regular Rob is bland and dull, and Adderall Rob is somehow smooth, charming and funny. In other words, My best possible self. And who wouldn’t want to be their best possible self all the time?

But we know where that road leads

Still, I’m grateful my doctor introduced me to it. I’m grateful for the extra little moments I get because of Adderall. I suppose it’s just a matter of moderation and perspective. Because Adderall Rob is me. But so is Anxious Rob. Depressed Rob. Creative Rob. Happy Rob. They’re all me. Human beings are complicated like that.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com!