Truth Is Tuesday

This post was inspired by various bloggers who have theme days such as “It’s Okay Thursday” and “Fill In The Blank Friday”. As a nod to that concept, I present to you “Truth Is Tuesday”!

It is simple, you just complete the sentence “Truth is….” and expand on that statement.

It could be absolutely anything! For example, “Truth is…I despise doing laundry”, or “Truth is…I once lived in my car”, or “Truth is….I secretly desire to move overseas”. Get the idea? Great!

So lets get this rollin’! I’ll start….

Truth is….

I have paralyzing social anxiety when it comes to riding the public bus

followed by the fear of being some place new all myself.

Public transportation is without a doubt the most intimidating thing in the world for me right now.

A little background – I find, especially as I’ve gotten older, an increase in my “fear” of things or rather my level of anxiety in regard to certain activities. For instance, telephones. Not a huge fan.

I’m going to be completely honest here. A baring of the soul if you will…

It started in junior high and only got worse as the years passed. I would get so anxious when I had to call some place to make an appointment or to ask a question about a service. I also hated to answer the phone. I was always afraid of who it might be, that they might ask a question I wouldn’t know the answer to, etc. As the popularity of email grew I was able to avoid a lot of the activities that would previously leave an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sadly, this avoidance behavior did not help my telephone fears, in fact I think it made it worse.

However, when I was hired to work at Timber Lake Playhouse the summer before college, I had to quickly get past that because we were constantly answering calls for ticket reservations and calling patrons, etc. Not sure if it was because I was in a work situation but somehow I felt more comfortable and confident. I have found that whenever I am doing something like this in work related environment that although I still am anxious I am able to face my fears because I have a job to do, people are depending on me, and I have less of a choice to avoid the activity that is making me uncomfortable. I am still working on being comfortable with all things telephone on a personal level and although I usually bribe Mr.C into calling places (ie: the bank, our apartment manager, for pizza) he pushes me and makes me do the calling sometimes. And when I get off the phone, and nothing disastrous has happened to me, my comfortability meter goes up a smidgen and he smiles knowing I’m one step closer….

Anyway, as with my telephone issue, my anxiety toward the bus stems from my anxiety about doing new things and fear of the unknown. My anxiety about this is a combination of both real and perceived dangers. Part of it is well founded with legitimate concerns about safety and security, sexual harassment, waiting for transit alone, etc. But the majority of it is just me being irrational. Like what happens if I get on and am going the wrong direction (talk to the driver, get off and get on the right bus) or if I get off at the wrong stop and get lost (go a store, ask for directions, get on a new bus, call for a taxi, etc). See all of these have simple answers in case the outcome is less than desirable. Sadly these easy remedies also tap into my fears of talking to strangers (lol yes the bus driver is a stranger in my warped mind!) and being lost in a place I don’t know, all alone.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this but will anyway in keeping with the spirit of this post…I am also anxious about the following:

…when you get on a bus, train, or plane and everyone stares at you will you find a seat or stand up.

At least that is what it feels like. I know this is not the case, most people could care less about what I’m doing. To quote from my Pscyh background I just have a bad case of the “Spotlight Effect Error” which is the tendency of an individual to overestimate the extent to which others are paying attention to the individual’s appearance and behavior. Basically, I believe that other people are paying closer attention to me than they really are. Sheesh…self-absorbed much?! Nevertheless, it plagues me.

…ticket-buying protocol.

This one is just absurd. But I am petrified of getting on the bus, putting in my money and getting my ticket. What if I don’t have the right amount of money, what if I do it wrong and hold up people behind me? See?! Silly. Yet it shakes me up.

…getting off at the right place.

We covered this already but the thought of getting off at the wrong place definitely makes me uneasy.

…having a panic attack.

I’ve only had one before and it was recent (during snorkeling) and I am worried that since my social anxiety has increased that so will my chances of having a panic attack. But since it has only happened once, I think the likelihood is slim and I know how to have the presence of mind to calm myself if it should happen so that sorta solves this worry.

Now on to the good news! But let me set the scene for you…

I am tired. I am disappointed in myself. I am sick of feeling sick and obsessing over the littlest things. People ride the bus every day. There are thousands of people downtown Minneapolis right now – including single women walking down the street by themselves. And they aren’t wracked with anxiety or so nervous they will avoid it at all costs. And I know they are not sobbing and feeling sick to their stomach at the mere thought of walking down the block and getting on the bus (in all seriousness, I’ve probably cried 3 times while writing this post).

I am on a quest to settle some of this social anxiety and bus-phobia.

Ultimately, I don’t have a choice either because this Friday, at 10:45am, I have a job interview. Downtown. And the Mr. is a work…with the car.

But a job interview!! Cue the virtual celebration! It’s for a position as a ticket associate at a new theatre downtown and I’m so excited!

And I’m only the usual amount of nervous for the job interview. That’s how I know that this whole bus fear is irrational and frankly getting tiresome.

Simply, I am anxious to ride the bus, so I avoid it, which means I don’t get around my own city on my own, which means I miss out on the opportunity to shop or explore museums during the week all because my social anxiety takes over and makes me wait for the weekend, for the the car, for adventures with Mr.C.

But I refuse to be controlled by this irrational fear. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what I am essentially afraid of, because for the most part I don’t even know myself. Hence irrational. Hence ridiculous.

And now I have a huge motivation to overcome this! I’ve got a job interview which is awesome for numerous reasons ($$, involvement in the theater scene, etc) and the only way to get there is by bus.

So I am preparing as best I can. I feel better when I explore all aspects of a situation and when I make sure to control for as many of them as I can. For example I will make sure to leave extra extra early, to have plenty of change and cash, bus schedule and map, multiple directions to and from the places I’m going, and to have safe places to go in case I get anxious (ie: the Target store on the corner). I have also watched the videos posted the Minneapolis Public Transit website that show how the ticketing system works. My phone will be fully charged and my pepper spray on hand. As an additional coping mechanism, I’ll bring my ipod (it’s great to wear – with the sound off – people don’t bother you then but you can still pay attention to what is going on around you). Being aware of one’s surroundings is key.

Doing all of this prep and having all of these items make up my safety net in case I get panicked or lost or any other scenario my fevered mind can come up with.

I will also be doing a trial run tomorrow. To “practice” riding the bus and to scout out the theater & my interview location. I’m still freaked out about it but have to do this. For myself, for my potential future job, and for Mr.C’s sanity (and yours, if you’ve actually made it through this whole post! ..props to you…).

So to all of this I say –

En garde Social Anxiety!  The time has come…

P.S. on a lighter note: if you are in need of a confidence boost give this song a listen and get on down with your bad self. you’re welcome.

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