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8 Things No One Tells You About Working With Anxiety

Anxiety is your Everest, and by simply getting through the day you're getting closer to the summit.

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1. Making small talk is a literal hell.

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Jean-Paul Sartre was only half right when he said, "Hell is other people." For someone like me, hell is other people and a slow elevator ride. Hell is other people and a wait by the coffee machine. Hell is small talk.

It has nothing to do with being antisocial, or having no interest in others. It has everything to do with an overbearing voice in your head screaming things like "omg, this is so awkward", "lol, look how uncomfortable this is", and "say something cliché about the weather, I dare you."

If I could chose one superpower beyond the obvious choice of flight, without a question I'd choose the ability to make excellent small talk. Hell, I probably wouldn't stop many crimes, but I'd at least be able to make passing conversation with a criminal while they're robbing a bank or something – and for me, that'd be a victory.

2. Large groups of people are especially terrifying.


Every day can feel like your first day in a new school, as if you're trapped in some kind of horror movie version of Groundhog Day where you never quite feel fully comfortable around colleagues.

I tried to overcome my fear of groups on an office away day by joining the outside of a circle of people I'd never spoken to at work before. I stood there awkwardly nodding and laughing along with the group, trying to act as if I belonged. It took me a whole seven minutes to notice they were actually tourists who weren't even speaking English.

So if ever you feel bad about how you appear to a group, take solace in the fact they're probably not Spanish holidaymakers wondering why you've chosen to interrupt their drinks.

3. It can be seriously mentally exhausting.

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Just trying not to let your anxiety get on top of you can feel like an extra job itself: It's exhausting.

One small mistake and in the span of an hour I'm looking for a new job, worrying about not being able to find a new job, and panicking that I won't be able to afford my rent, which will result me in living on the streets of London. I can't survive on the streets of London, I'm from a small town in Wales; I can barely survive in the houses of London. So essentially that typo this morning has gotten me killed – today is not shaping up to be a good day. This kind of logic whirls its way around my mind almost 24/7, creating tragic stories worthy of a Lifetime movie.

Then there's the damn meds, with a list of side effects long enough to keep you busy until Frank Ocean drops a new album. Tiredness, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating are all part of the fun that comes with the very thing that's meant to be helping you. The fun never ends.

4. Anxiety can come with physical symptoms, not just mental.

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I pretty much spent the whole first week of my current job having panic attacks in the bathroom. I can only imagine my managers thought they'd hired someone with an undiagnosed bowel illness or a severe coke habit – I'm hoping on the latter.

And it's not just panic attacks that are visible to outside observers. I have the super annoying habit of shaking my leg uncontrollably when I'm anxious – I don't even realise I'm doing it until I've tap-danced half the Riverdance.

While sometimes it's possible to mask your inner turmoil with a smile, unfortunately there's not always a way to hide what's happening on the outside. Sometimes you've just got to do your dance, and hope not too many people notice.


5. You often find yourself avoiding social situations.

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When your anxiety is at its peak, the last thing you want to do is put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Prime example: After-work drinks.

"Am I even wanted here? I was just invited as a matter of courtesy, right? Oh god, I've not spoken in ages, what the fuck is everyone thinking about me? They're probably wondering what the hell am I doing here. Shit, I need to leave. OK, what's the most inconspicuous way I can get out of here? Maybe there's a bathroom window I can climb through." – Me, during every social outing.

As obvious as it sounds, the best thing you can do is put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Set yourself tasks. It can be something as small as saying hello to the receptionist without hanging your head. Progress is progress, and every moment of fear you conquer is a victory.

6. Self-doubt is your own worst enemy.

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Ninety per cent of the sentences out of my mouth start with an apology. Whereas most people, without giving it a second thought, start off the day with a "good morning", I fight back the urge to apologise for existing at a time when people might not have had two cups of coffee.

I don't think I've gone a week in my job without fearing I'll lose it at a moment's notice. I mean, I'm no shining example of what an employee should be, but I'm pretty sure deep down that I'm not genuinely the worst. Anxiety can make you feel like a total fraud.

No one puts as much pressure on you as you do. No one expects as much as you expect from yourself. You're your own worst critic, which would be fine if you were also your own biggest supporter.

7. There's not always a reason behind the anxiety.

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It's not easy to accept that you're not always in control of your anxiety, and that an attack can occur at any moment. Anxiety is like an unwanted houseguest who shows up to your place unexpected, hangs around watching The Big Bang Theory, and then fucks off with your rug for some reason. Anxiety is a dick.

I used to – and in the name of full disclosure, still sometimes do – beat myself up over my anxiety. It's normal, but wrong, to feel weak when a panic attack overcomes you during a meeting. It's logical, but not helpful, to feel fear when your heart feels like it's about to physically explode with dread. Anxiety follows no logic, so there's often no logical way of dealing with it.

Often the only thing you can do is wait for the moment to pass, and try and hold on to the fact that you've defeated this before, and you will defeat it again.

8. Setbacks are common.


It's how you deal with them that matters. For every three steps forward, there's always going to be one step back, but what's worth remembering is that by simply attempting to beat your anxiety, you're a goddamn fighter. What may seem like a minor achievement to others could be a monumental achievement to you. Anxiety is your Everest, and by simply getting through the day you're getting closer to the summit.

Always consult with your doctor about your personal health and wellness, including any recommendations you find online. BuzzFeed posts are for general informational purposes only, and cannot replace professional and individualised medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice.