Ive always believed that stress is a silent killer, and that my social anxiety creates much more stress than is necessary. Compared to an average, non-SA, person, I have always felt that I torture myself with thoughts and feelings that the average person doesnt have to deal with. Hence, when it comes to my physical health, there may be cause for concern.
This would not have been something that I would have worried about in my teens or twenties, but now that Im approaching middle age, its always there in the back of my mind.
In fact, I left my corporate job for that exact reason. I was under way too much self-induced stress and it was killing me. The actual job of having to juggle a dozen things at once was a different kind of stress – I could handle that without much trouble. However, the anxiety caused by interacting with people created much more turmoil and eventually lead to my resignation.
Days before I actually quit, I had a chat with one good friend and my brother on separate occasions. I could have sworn that they got together and came up with the same response before we chatted. It was bizarre how they both told me that everyone had stress and its all in how we deal with it. I wanted to explain to them that the stress I was feeling really had nothing to do with the actual job duties. It was anxiety that few of us experience and hard for the rest of society to understand.
In my corporate job, I would come home at the end of the day feeling as though I had worked 16 hours instead of 8. My mind numb, I would be exhausted. I doubt if non-SAers could ever understand.
The closest I can come to adequately describing what a day was like for me is to compare it to running a marathon. We all start out at the beginning, except that I am expected to run laps around the pack of runners as we all race towards the finish. If any of you have seen Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood, youll know what I mean.
In order to accomplish the same goals as a normal person, I have to work 10 times as hard. This has got to have consequences at some point; if not now, then surely down the road.
What exactly causes all this extra stress? Well, again, its exactly what social anxiety disorder is all about. Its the extra mental chore of processing seemingly meaningless external input. Do they hate me? Im so stupid. Why did I say that? Why cant I be normal? Are they talking about me? Im going to screw up.
It takes a lot more resources to process all that. And then theres the constant worrying about the possibility of participating in meetings, seminars, or training courses. I would worry weeks in advance about an upcoming event like that.
In leaving my job, I believe I extended my life somewhat. I know thats a bold statement, but Im convinced that the level of stress and anxiety I felt in my previous position would have eventually destroyed me.
The job I have now is the exact opposite. I still work hard, but all that extra anxiety is not there. I work with an amazing group, and my boss is one-of-a-kind. Yes, the pay is low, but Ill trade that any day for a chance to stay healthy and hang around a little while longer.