Like so many people, I’ve adopted the work-from-home life. It’s been great to just roll out of bed, make some decaf coffee, and sit down at my computer. I have more time for the things that matter, and I spend less time going to places I don’t want to go. I can work outside when the weather is nice, and if I have to work late for some reason, I can just throw an easy dinner in the oven.
It sounds like the life for a socially awkward introvert with an anxiety disorder, and for the most part, it’s pretty great. But no situation is perfect, and sometimes there are things I miss, or, perhaps more aptly, find less worse about a workplace.
My biggest struggle is the fact that 90% of communication at my job is via Slack or email. Again, that seems like the dream, but text-only communication opens the door for a lot of ambiguity. Anxiety, unfortunately, feeds off ambiguity. I find myself reading too much into feedback, or even just regular daily communication, that I wouldn’t read as much into in person.
When talking to someone in person, you get the benefit of voice, expression, and overall body language. In text, you just get the words, and maybe an emoji if you’re lucky. 😅 There’s not usually much you can glean from that. Something as simple as an “okay” from someone could range from positive to pretty dismissive, and if you have anxiety, you’re probably going to tend towards the dismissive end.
It’s so easy to assume the worst when you start getting into that mindset. I’m ashamed to admit the number of times I swore I was going to get fired because of some innocuous message I received that I just took the wrong way.
Another problem, and one that I’m still working on, is getting the hell out of the house. Yes, I work outside a lot of the time, but that doesn’t count. I mean, actually get out of the house and go somewhere. I’ve generally only gone out if a friend or family member drags me somewhere, or when I had to go to work. But, now that my commute involves putting on sweatpants and walking to the other side of my apartment, it’s a lot more of an effort to get out.
The thing is, I don’t really like going anywhere on my own. It’s part anxiety, for sure, but I also just don’t enjoy it. I’ll jump at the chance to meet up with a friend, but just going somewhere by myself just doesn’t appeal to me at all. So, it’s been a struggle to push through. I’d pack up my laptop and work at a café if we weren’t still in the midst of a pandemic, so I feel like my options are quite limited. As a result, I end up feeling pretty isolated.
That being said, I think I’d find it difficult to go back to working from an actual workplace. Despite the issues I’ve had with social anxiety, and having to push myself harder to get out and about, I’ve had so much less stress in my life. The only issues I’m facing now are ones that I can work past given enough time and effort. I can’t say the same about going into a physical workplace.
Just the act of being at my old job and going into work was overwhelming. I would get what I can only describe as sensory overload, constantly, for 40 hours a week, and it was so terribly draining. There were days I couldn’t handle the work because my anxiety was so bad. Now, I can work in whatever environment is most comfortable for me, and I’m not only more at ease, but I’m more productive.
I think in some way we’re all pressured to do things a certain way, even if it doesn’t necessarily play to our strengths or weaknesses. I’m not saying give up and let your anxiety take over, that’s never the solution. But if there’s one thing I’ve taken from this whole experience, it’s that maybe the key to fighting mental illness is finding what you need to survive, and then building on yourself from a place of strength so you can thrive.