I am learning a lot at my internship, but not just in general. I am learning a lot about myself. I have my own demons, illness, etc., but I am now learning more than I thought possible. Recently, I had two panic attacks during outreach programs. Yes, I’m putting this out there for the world to see because my hope is that it reaches those who suffer from anxiety/anxiety disorders.
I was never diagnosed with an anxiety disorder because I don’t have one (simple as that). Everyone experiences anxiety/panic/fear at one point in life. This does NOT mean you have a disorder. I was, however, diagnosed with pervasive depressive disorder years ago & anxiety can be a symptom. I know me best (I hope) & definitely have my “fears” in certain situations, but never thought it would effect my professional life.
I not only provide therapy services to college students, but I am in charge of mental health outreach programming such as tabling & presentations. I know that I absolutely hate huge crowds of people. I am generally fine when someone is with me, but I tend to put my RBF (resting bitch face) on when I’m in a public place filled with people (it’s a defense mechanism & just my general resting face LOL). I instantly become negative on the inside because I don’t want to be touched, talked to, or even looked at.
I share this ^^^^^ to share this next piece of info….I had two panic attacks while tabling. People think I’m very social, out-going, confident, and intelligent, but deep down I’m scared shitless of groups of people. The first day I ever held an outreach table I texted my husband the whole time, didn’t talk to those who came by, & eventually ran to the bathroom to cry!!! Three weeks passed by & it wasn’t too bad, but instead of staying there the whole 1.5 hours I left after 45 minutes. Now, being in my field of study and understanding mental health, I know that exposure therapy is a good way to gradually introduce people to their phobias. I figured the more I do this the better and more confident I’ll become.
I held a table in a new area with less people. I forced myself (even though I was sicker than hell on top of it all) to walk up to students with information packets & give 2 minute presentations on the counseling center, domestic violence, & depression. I handed out 10 packets. Being in this field, I also know that small steps are the best way to approach things so 10 packets was a good goal to get myself out there.
I held a table in my usual area. Before & during my set-up, I was mentally preparing myself and imagining how I’d approach people and lure them in with cookies and candy (that sounds creepy but I assure you there was no van involved HAHAHA). I felt confident. The moment I sat down I shook uncontrollably, stared at the wall, felt awkward, & wanted to cry. Luckily, the new renovated building opened today (unbeknownst to me) so everyone literally left the area I was set up in. I took this opportunity to pack my things and hightailed it back to my office. I cried.
I called my husband, panicking, couldn’t breathe, felt worthless, shaking, and sobbing uncontrollably…
Why share this personal story?
…because I may be intelligent, seem confident, & look like I have my shit together BUT I’m human. I too have flaws, illnesses, insecurities, fears, etc. My clients are not the only ones who suffer. Hell, I’m learning more about myself through my clients. I can relate to every single client I’ve seen so far and always leave my office smiling/laughing to myself because I know I’m not alone.
I am all about outreach! I’m super upset that I’m such an anxious mess with large crowds BUT I plan to use this as a learning experience & to better myself. This will NOT set me back. It’s going to take work (baby steps), but I will be able to do tabling with confidence & less fear by the end of my internship experience. I know it.