Struggling alone – studying and anxiety

Lori describes her difficulties with social interaction and integration, pressures of study and efforts to support herself. The piece was first published on her site.


Life continues to be a rollercoaster, as I navigate online Masters coursework alongside my trauma recovery, continuing to do life in lockdown amidst the global pandemic (hi yes still here), and trying hard to interrupt my doom-scrolling of geo-political instability and the increasingly banal levels of corruption evident among Australia’s political elite. It sounds like I’ve tried to construct a complex sentence but in reality this is a cross section of my brain at this moment. It’s exhausting.

My mental health has taken a turn. I’m experiencing intense social anxiety that is ever-present, making it difficult for me to do anything without being triggered. Talking to neighbours, buying a coffee, uni classes (on zoom), group assignments, messaging friends, communicating with networks, teachers, former colleagues. I even felt worried my therapist hated me, which led to a very fruitful session exploring the therapeutic relationship. There’s my everyday interactive space where I feel stuck with a mean voice in my head pointing out all the ways everyone is judging me and how much they loathe me, that there’s something inherently weird and awkward and repulsive about my presence, that I’m an awful person. This changes the way I present to people, and I can tell they sense it and it is awkward. It leaves me feeling so deeply ashamed and alone. Then there’s the forays into memory when I’m idle, thinking of all the times I’ve humiliated myself, exposed my hideousness, ruined my reputation for good.

I’m not yet giving in to it fully, which is different and new for me. It’s strange. In the past, this level of social anxiety would have me spiralling into despair and I would lose control of my emotional responses and have to deal with the fallout. I would take the mean voice seriously. Now I question that voice, and I have a bit more ground under me. But it is still there. It is still mean. It still hurts. It’s awful, and exhausting, and makes connecting with other people excruciatingly difficult. In lockdown, when everything is on zoom and messenger, it’s magnified and I have all the more opportunities to interpret ordinary communication as attacks, rejection and humiliation. A part of me still thinks it is true, and is despairing, but there seems to be another part who is holding strong, observing it all. So I’m just hanging on, feeling pretty alone and sad, trying to keep caring for myself and loving myself, even if only a little.

This didn’t end up how I thought it would. I could go into so much more detail, but exhaustion wins tonight.

Lori,, Aug 26, 2021

Author: Workers' Archive

Covering sensitivity at work and beyond on my website:

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