Mental health crisis – Experience and advice

A young woman or “village girl” from South Africa, as she sometimes refers to herself, Nosipho, reflects on a recent and intense personal experience of anxiety and despair, after being sent home from work, which had led to self-awareness about her difficulties. She puts her mental health difficulties in the context of her childhood experiences and writes to encourage others facing similar difficulties. The piece was first published on her site.


I am bringing you a heavy one today. We’re going to be unpacking issues surrounding mental health. A little disclaimer before we hop onto today’s chat: this piece is not in any way a cry for sympathy. I am also not going to be romanticizing mental health. I will be talking about my personal journey with/on mental health as a young black woman from the village. This is going to be a chatty space where I talk about my views and possibly/hopefully help someone who may unfortunately be dealing with the same struggles as I did or still do. I am not an expert in this field obviously. If you are looking for expert and professionally researched data, please try to find medical institutions that will help you. I also did a little research myself, but will be focusing more on my lived experiences with mental health.

Today’s topic is one of the most triggering things to write about, hence it took me so long to write about it. This might be hard to read as well, especially if you’re somebody who struggles with mental health related issues. I won’t even try to define mental health for you guys because it is such a wide spectrum, I wouldn’t even know where to start. Anxiety and depression fall under this wide spectrum and my experiences with mental health are mostly around those 2 disorders. For this conversation’s sake, I will just refer to anxiety as a reaction to life events. The type of anxiety that I deal with makes day to day duties uncomfortable and hard. It is this heavy obstacle that becomes a hinderance into performing the most basic of basic duties under the sun (at least for me). You worry about the small things that might happen if things go wrong. Your heart even pounds sometimes and you want to be alone to avoid things going wrong. The thought of getting through the day gives you great anxiety.

What triggered this chat for me is the incident that took place at night in my bedroom on the 26th of June 2021. My brother was not home that night, he was at a friend’s wedding. I am not employed right now but from May to June I was doing promotions for brands instore. I had a promotion gig that day at the mall and had to deal with rude and unkind store managers who essentially do not see promoters as human beings (I will get into that chat some other time). That day was terrible, I ended up not working. I was sent home after a long day of going up and down at the mall. When I got home, there was no one, which gave me enough liberty to cry as much as I wanted to. I cried longer than I should have, heavier than I have ever cried, until I felt physical pain on my spine, ngathi khona umthwalo engangiwuphethe osindayo (I said that the burden I was carrying was heavy). I am so embarrassed thinking about the fact that I’m putting this on the internet. My intention is to raise awareness and to tell my story so that it will not be constantly living in my head. My blog is an outlet that I use to heal and help myself.

The scary part about that experience is that for the first time in my life I wanted to harm myself. I have had suicidal thoughts in my life before but it has never been to a point that I want to act on them. I was feeling so much pain and wanted it to stop forever. I was feeling so suicidal and was so sure I wanted to end the pain. I got scared and immediately called my boyfriend who did not answer. I sent him an SMS telling him that I had a bad day and its messing with my mental health. He did not answer my SMS as well. I was alone and felt like there were voices in my head convincing me to kill myself straight away. I felt useless and pathetic. I was sobbing, alone and scared. I was able to get my brother on the phone and started crying as soon as he picked up. I told him I was thinking of hurting myself and I’m scared. I told him about my day and how it triggered terrible thoughts of self-harm. Every word I said was accompanied by a stream of tears. My brother sounded so worried and told me he’ll be home shortly. I was struggling to breath and just wanted to escape that feeling immediately.

I stayed in bed covering my face with a pillow shaking. My body was shaking and my heart pounding just like those dramatic scenes we see on the movies. I wanted to get up and go get water in the kitchen but was having physical pain that demanded my stillness. I needed a quick fix to soothe the pain away.

When I think about it now, I am convinced that it was a mild panic attack. I am so grateful to God that I did not have resources to end my life that day. I also feel like my fear was dominant over the suicidal thoughts. My boyfriend called moments later and we had the longest phone call we’ve ever had. He created a comfortable space for me to express myself. Even though I did not want to bother him with all the details of my mental health issues. Prior to that day, we were not in a good space because I was constantly picking fights with him. Revisiting this day makes me realize how patient he was with me through out that call. Our relationship was a bit rocky those days. We were fighting so much. I think opening myself up to him made him understand why I kept fighting him. Not to make this sound like a Romcom, but it was his phone call that helped soothe my pain away. I was also able to get up and drink water.

My brother came back home an hour later after our phone call and I immediately got out of bed to open the garage door for him. I was expecting him to fight with me and tell me uzofonela emalume amtshele ukuthi sengiyahlanya ekhanda, (he’ll call my uncle and tell him I’m crazy) or worst-case scenario, turn my mental health issue into a big religious speech. My brother is Christian and lives by Christian values. I was not expecting him to be that gentle and understanding. We had a very long chat while he was in his car and I was standing by his window. Very unconventional setting to be having my first mental health chat. I told him to keep it a secret and not tell anyone about my incident because I really did not want anyone thinking I am crazy or losing it. I think my brother might have told a friend of his about my suicidal mess because I got a lengthy text a few days later from him (brother’s friend). This is somebody who has become family to us, I didn’t mind him knowing. That lengthy text was so beautiful and made me smile.

This suicidal mess forced me to take a 1-month social media break. I had to take a break and deal with myself outside of social media. I deleted WhatsApp and Facebook and spoke to my closest circle. I spent that time introspecting. I am on a journey of educating myself on mental health now. I am in a period where I am questioning every response and why I find myself reacting a certain way. My response always dials back to my childhood. I have figured that I am someone who tries to portrait an image that I am doing well or have my shit together. It is not even about being fraudulent, it is simply because I do not want to feel like I am failing. Maybe it is also because I am a black woman and I grew up wanting to be strong like the women around me. I have seen my mom hurting a million times but concealing it and kept the show going like she wasn’t crying herself to sleep every night. From observing the way that she lived her life, I would say she was anxious about certain things, but I cannot really say she suffered from mental health related issues. She was troubled a lot but I was too young to determine what was wrong. As black women, we are obsessed with being strong all the time. I am obsessed with looking strong. I definitely picked that up from my mother. She would say things like “into uma ungenayo ungahambe uhlupha abantu linda uze uythole nawe. Funda ukulinda” (something if you don’t have it don’t go bothering people wait until you find it too. Learn to wait). I am pretty sure that was her way of teaching me independence or waiting my turn, but I see that along the way of life, I have used her words to stop myself from seeking help. I am really obsessed with people thinking I have it together while I do not. I actually do want to have my things together. Having it together is what I think about every day and dream about every night. I try to do my best every day to eventually get there. I really lack the ability to allow myself to be weak sometimes. The way I react to a lot of things always boils down to the way I was raised.

I was born and raised in a village just outside Empangeni called Ntambanana. I have told this story a million times and do not want to keep boring you guys with the same boring “i was so poor” speech, but I was born into a pretty disadvantaged community/home. As a child, I was obviously not aware of those circumstances that much. I was around people of the same “tax bracket” if you will. A lot of people around the community were subjected to the same struggles. We all had less. I did not have a lot of neighbors who had it good financially, therefore did not really have something different to compare my reality to. Having less did not affect me at all as a little girl, I still played outside with friends, ate whatever meal we had that day and lived like a normal happy child. It was not the most perfect/magical childhood but my parents really did their part in raising me. I really cannot pinpoint a part of my childhood where I could say I experienced heavy anxiety, until when I was 13.

When I was 13, I stayed with people who weren’t my biological parents or relatives. They were people who were looking for shelter and my mom allowed them in. It was a grown couple from around the area that needed a new place to stay immediately. My mom allowed them to stay because she needed someone to stay with us while she goes to work. She left for work in a different city, leaving my brother and I with these people she did not know pretty well herself. I am certain that had she known the kind of people she had left us with, she wouldn’t even think twice about staying. I guess she trusted them to be our guardians. We were treated so badly by this couple. They really made me feel unloved as a kid. I was not treated like a kid and a lot of wrong things happened around that period of my life. I was starved and went through the worst emotional abuse. My brother even killed their puppy at some point (he was wrong and feels really bad about it now). I cannot say all of the things they did out of respect for their image. I really do not want to dwell on those horrible times a lot but I find it fitting to mention that those where the times where I suffered intense anxiety and overwhelming thoughts as a child. I consider that time my earliest memory experiencing mental health issues. At that time, I was not aware what that overwhelming feeling was.

I am an emotional mess right now as I jog my memory back to those days, thinking about how this couple would deny us meals. I’m reminded of this other day when my brother and I were so hungry we had to gather strength to go ask for food, at least a plate to share. We were by the passage area pushing each other to go knock in the room. That picture is still clear as day in my heard and it brings back excruciating memories. I felt so unworthy of love in that very moment. I was angry at my mom who was gone, angry at the couple and at life. I was always apologizing to this couple. I was always scared to go back home from school. It was a daunting experience. I was always told I was bad or wrong. Every time I got back home from school; I would be so scared because I knew that my home environment is toxic. You also wondered what are you going to be shouted at about next. It was not normal child reprimanding methods. That couple hated us. I started being mean at school and started bullying others to find comfort and confidence that was crushed back at home. It is so twisted how many “friends” you get when you are a bully. Bullies always have a lot of “friends”. Those who went to my primary will remember our group. I feel terrible right now for trying to find solace in hurting others. The problems I had at home made me such an anxious teenager. I hated myself. I did not have anyone to talk to, I kept it moving and the anxiety grew with me.

I am not holistically blaming this couple for my mental health struggles but simply calling them out as one of the prime characters who contributed to the story. My parents were responsible for instilling love and life into me as a little girl, not strangers. I am not holistically blaming the couple because it was not their duty to nurture me and make sure I grow up to blossom and be confident. That does not mean they had the right to treat us the way that they did though. I was made to feel all sorts of ugly things and that was cruel. I was a child.

My childhood traumas are one of the biggest factors of my mental health. I am doing a lot of unlearning and restructuring my self-identity right now. I think it is important to raise kids with love and instill a strong sense of confidence in them. That thing sticks. Kids grasp things that we teach them and ride with them for the rest of their lives. I really want to give my children a healthy childhood so they will not have to be broken like me. I want them to know that they are worthy of love from birth.

I am teaching myself that I am worthy of love. I am 25 years old and I have to wake up every day and labor on that part of myself that lacked as a child. As a teenager in high school, I fully became aware of my mental health issue. I became socially awkward and struggled with self-esteem greatly. I was always worried and that gave me sharp pain around my shoulders. Everybody gets anxious in high school. it is very normal to have anxiety in high school, but it should not last forever. That is when you know you have a problem, when anxiety takes forever to subside. I started suffering from social anxiety. I struggled with walking alone inside the mall or asking for change etaxini. The most basic things. Uba namahloni lawa asabekayo, (He is ashamed of these terrible things). When you tell people about it, they always say it is all in your head. You are thinking too much about it, teach yourself to snap out of it.

You eventually dismiss your own thought and snap out of it for a while until it revisits you again. Mental health issues are meant to be dealt with from the source. Temporal measures can only take you so far. I remember back in 2010 when I visited my cousin in Cape Town. My other cousins from Durban were also visiting and we shared the same bed room. I was so uncomfortable getting naked in front of them. I would go into the bathroom and shower, lotion and get dressed there. They never saw me naked because I started getting heavy body dysmorphic thoughts about myself. They were always asking why do I always hide and I just smiled and said “Lutho”. Lutho was my answer to a lot of things. I was just shy at 14 years old. I never had a backbone and would always say yes to everyone, even if that yes meant a no to myself. I never had my own opinions at all. When you have no backbone, you become a scapegoat. My cousin recently showed me videos of us singing and dancing in Cape Town during that vacation and I was so sad to see 14-year-old me with zero confidence. You could see that I was just following the others and not enjoying myself.

I had the craziest social anxiety that wanted me to skip school to avoid crowd. I always wanted to skip school. My Facebook memories remind me all the time how much I wanted to stay home. I hated school. I started labeling myself as an introvert who liked diaries. I wrote daily entries and dismissed the thoughts of possibly having a mental health related issue. I associated my depression with normal teenage puberty confusion. I also come from a community that calls depressed people crazy and doesn’t understand that mental health is more common than we think. A lot of people are suffering from these issues but cannot talk about them openly because of the stigma around mental health in our black communities. I have seen a lot of health campaigns around my community hall but never seen them talk about mental health issues. This is proof that mental health issues are not taken seriously in the black community. We are taught to bottle things up until we cannot take it anymore. I really do not want to be on the statistics of suicide. I do not want to be the next number. Which is why I will keep talking about what bothers me even if it makes me look like a crazy woman. No one wants to educate us on these matters. Same matters that affect us the most. I am willing to continue talking about mental health and help myself the best way I know how to. Possibly help others as well. This is only the beginning. Damn, I need a hug so badly right now because I am crying like an idiot in front of my computer.

When I was 17, I was pretty good at sucking my depression up. I lost my mom that year and that contributed into my depression. As one does when they lose parents, I was always sad and crying that year. I knew then , (“that the time has come when I need help”). More than ever, I needed to deal with my mental health issues that year. Everyone gets anxious guys, don’t get me wrong. Especially after losing a parent. It is normal to be sad and cry every day. With my anxiety, I did not see life past the passing of my mom. That is when I knew I had depression that has crossed the line of normal and needed medical attention. I was obviously not in a position to get any medical attention. I sucked it up and kept it moving. I have always packed depression and anxiety in the bottom shelf of my mind as an item to deal with later on when I grow up. Fast forward to present day, I am in a relationship right now and really feel like a burden sometimes. Anxiety and depression always whisper to me that I am not good enough to date because I do not have a job, I am ugly, I am not as smart and I am boring. Trust me, there has been times in my life where I just did not want to date any more because I do not want to stress the next person. Some mornings I wake up and feel like I am letting my partner down. I hate inconveniencing people; it makes me feel uncomfortable. I am lucky to be with somebody who is supportive of my journey, wants me to win and helps me with my mental health journey. When you are suffering from mental health related issues, you struggle with things as little as texting back. This is the most basic duty to perform right? But it gets pretty overwhelming to receive a lot of messages all at once. Ideally, I would love to text back immediately, but I cannot bring myself to do it.

Texting back bugs me more than it should. I have lost friends over it because they always thought I was just casually ignoring them. They found it so hard to believe that my mental health problem really messes with my head. Let me break this down for you. So, if I leave a text without a reply for too long, I get scared to respond because in my head its already too late to respond and the next person doesn’t want to hear from me anymore. I always struggle between should I respond or it’s too late? I end up not responding at all because I get physical pain from trying to crack that code. I understand that texting is more casual than it is important, but it really bugs me. Connecting to people becomes so hard when you are suffering from mental health. Being present and available for others becomes a great chore. When I text back, I want it to be meaningful. I want a perfectly curated response. I really want people to be pleased with our chats. Sometimes I do not have enough of myself to share and it is not easy to explain that without offending people you love. People will say things like “no just say that you are lazy to text”. They do not understand that it is the anxiety working in my system more than it is laziness. They minimize it to nothing but I am not crazy. The physical pain I feel from not texting back is not made up. I hate it too. It is not because I lack morals. I want to match the energy when I text back. My close family and friends know to call me when I do not answer texts. They call me and we talk. Mental health will want you to be uncomfortable in spaces you should be okay in. There is really no reason to feel weird about texting back, honestly. Simple communication becomes difficult.

Anxiety is such a mind fuck; It will try to keep you away from the people that you love. I feel weird around my friends, brother and all the closest people around me when I’m depressed. I start feeling unlove. That is how you know that anxiety is a fraud, these people love me no matter what and there is no reason to feel weird about it. Sometimes I wake up super late because I do not want to face the world. When I am having a bad day, my curtains would stay closed all day in my room. That is an indication that I am not grand. I stay in my room more than necessary. I am on a journey to help myself out of that. I have new survival skills right now. If I feel very low, I call the people I love in the morning and have a chat. Even for a minute. I called Thobeka the other day and we spoke for no longer than a minute and that brought me so much joy to hear her voice. I try not to drown into my sorrow in the mornings now. If I detect a bad energy field that morning, I try to open my curtains to bring in light and get rid of old ways of dealing with my mental health. I know you guys will get annoyed at me for saying this, but you would be surprised what a little exercise could do for you and your mental health. Jogging and skipping really give me great joy. I am not the most consistent hun when it comes to that,
but I know for a fact that those two activities help me curb my mental health issues.

As a person who suffers from anxiety, you often have self-destructive conversations with yourself that will impact your life. I remember having a presentation in class last year and feeling my heart pounding even after the presentation. My entire week was ruined and I kept hoping for no more presentation. It is important to teach yourself some great coping skills. Anxiety is not made up. Abantu abazenzisi, (People are not hypocrites). We call people moody without even knowing what they are dealing with within themselves. Mental health chats are so scarce in our black spaces and that makes me sad. This is a real pandemic and if left untreated or unattended, people even kill themselves. It is a real problem and needs real attention.

People suck it out and ignore their mental health issues. Sometimes they end up becoming bullies on social media like I was back in primary school. They run to temporal measures that later harm them. The same people who shame us for talking about mental health are the same people who share posts like “depression is real” when someone takes their own lives. I feel like it is important for us to educate ourselves before we make people feel bad about certain conditions and bring more awareness to prevail. A wave of support goes a long way.

Anxiety is more common than we think. A lot of people around us suffer from it. We just do not want to deal with it because of the stigmas around it. I got so much comfort when I saw an interview of Michael Phelps taking about this mental health journey. He was talking about how glad he is that he did not take his own life. He is a big star and listening to him open up about mental health inspired me to do so too. I always say this on my blog, vulnerability is strength. I do not want to be a victim of mental health. I will wake up every day of my life to fight it and protect the relationships I have with the people around me. Mental health can really fuck up good relationships and prevent you
from having a full life.

There is nothing cute about having depression and self-harming thoughts. If you are going through that, please find means to help yourself. If you are on medical aid, try to find out if therapy is an option for you. I am so sorry you have to go through such a dark space. I know how it feels like to sit alone and crave for eternal peace. I know how it feels like to have your thought process channel death. Please seek for help. You are loved. Tap into your belief system is you are able to. If you believe in God, tap into that energy field. Find scriptures to keep you afloat like 1st Peter 5;7 which tells us to cast our anxieties to the lord. Pour some love within yourself more than you do to others sometimes. Say yes to yourself and choose yourself. It is okay to let others down to take care of your mental health. You are not alone, trust me. There are millions of people struggling with the same mental issues. You are not crazy and this is treatable. Whatever route you choose, do not be mean. Do not hate on others, try to find help. I am one step into fixing my mental health issues because I am no longer in denial about them. Awareness is the first step. I am also aware that all the mental health issues I have are mostly influenced by all that transpired in my childhood. I am living in the present and I am gradually teaching myself to take it easy and be gentle. I am aware that I cannot go back and undo all that transpired in my childhood.

I have a beautiful circle of people that love me and truly want to see me win I will not always get it right and will not always feel strong enough to fight, but I am determined to pull myself up after every emotional slump. I am loved greatly by my brother and he is so loud about it. He has always been loud about it even when people thought it was weird to be so close and joined by the hip with your sister. His love reminds me the love of God. Unconditional and unchanging. My cousins and my friends are like my sisters and best friends. I do not want to let all of the people that love me down.

I have friends from online that I interact with and deeply appreciate their kindness. As much as social media can be a dark space, you’d be surprised how helpful the kindness we get from social media is. Spread kindness and good vibes if you are able to. Try not to use social media to pull others down to feel good about yourself. Identify the problem behind your mean ways online. If you are being too negative online, best believe you are harming someone. People are obsessed with being mean like it is the new cool. Kindness goes a long way. A lot of kind words from online saved me during my sad days. I understand that the internet is a place to joke around, a place where we share memes and be sarcastic. It should not however be a field where we tear others down and call it a joke. Know when to draw the line with your jokes. I am always laughing on the internet, but that does not mean I am grand. Certain things still bug me. I try not to consume content that might harm me or trigger suicidal thoughts. I try to laugh and not dwell on the mean side of the internet. I want to make it a ritual to tap out of social media every once in a while.

In closing, if you are dealing with issues surrounding mental health, please go seek for help. Do not self-diagnose, make sure to educate yourself about your condition and do not allow people to tell you uyazenzisa ngoba usuke usuwedwa, (you are pretending because you are alone) in your bedroom with those dark and destructive thoughts. If you are around people who choose not to believe mental health issues, I am deeply sorry that you have to go through that. Abantu ngeke bakwenzele lutho, bazoku posta mase ushonile bethi, (People will not do anything for you, they will post and you will die), mental health is real. Help yourself right now. Heal yourself right now. See someone and talk to someone. Identify your triggers and get to know your habits. Do not be hard on yourself. Get to know what habits are damaging you. Do not be in denial or place your mental health issues in the bottom shelve for later like I did. What if later is too late? Lento yethu yokuba depressed kangaka sibancane izoqedwa yithi noma ibhebhekithiswe yithi, (Our being so depressed at a young age will be eliminated by us or aggravated by us). Take care of yourself by doing things that move your heart. Go outside and try to be around the people that love you. I love listening to music when I am not well. I have this song by Simmy titled we were here. I love listening to that song. It makes me so happy. I also love looking at the sky turn peach during sunset hours finding a new book, magazine, all those little things contribute to my joy. Do more of what make you happy. Pour more on that. I believe in myself to be the change. I believe in all the youth to be the change.

Thank you so much for reading, man. What a blessing it is to find a community of friends on WordPress.You guys are amazing. Let us continue this conversation on the comments below. Let us be kind to each other. I love you so much guys.

Nosipho Pour Truelove Mbuyazi.


Interacting with other people – customer service & approval

The writer reflects on working in a health store, customer social interaction and managing the desire for external approval. It was first published on her site.

Hi. Its been a few days (or weeks) I always want to write about what I feel is relevant in my life, I feel like that will give me the best insights, and at the moment its meeting new people.

I recently started a new job, around two weeks ago. I work in a health store over the summer. My task is to greet the customers, give them a good experience and then either give them guidance or show them to whatever they are on a hunt for. Its really rewarding because its a lot of problemsolving and i get to practise what i know and have learned the past years.

Most people that come in know what they want but some people are just lost. Its interesting though, how interactions with other people go. There is the small talk. The very brief exchange of phrases for the shallow relationships. Its almost like a dance. It’s understood, what the situation is. I say something, they say whats expected. The barrier. The authority. It feels unnatural. I feel fake. Because I feel like a phony. Im just little me, standing here and playing grown up. I cant say whatever I want. There is a script and rules to the situation. It’s a game of power. Even though its not that serious..

I don’t like that working too much in customer service makes you probably evolve to someone you´re not around other people. That’s why my goal is to work one to one. Be self-employed. Ive gone from call center jobs where EVERYTHING is scripted and forced, to sitting at a grocery store as a cashier to now, less interactions quantitatively speaking, but still face to face encounters with people. It feels better, but still not quite right.

Ive thought a lot about that, why I feel unnatural and fake. its all just a feeling I have. Or a belief. Working in sales and customer service doesn’t really go with the idea that I think of myself as shy. I limit myself there. It doesn’t go together with the idea of how ive been an majority of my life so this sales version of myself feels foreign. And I can fake it, but its not me, its like playing pretend. But since ive done it now for a few years its starting to feel a bit easier. Does that make it natural? Is it just something that becomes a part of myself as time goes on? Fake it until you make it sort of thing?

It’s a strange thing, because having social anxiety for a majority of my life has made me think that I am a person who is fearful of other people and am there for reserved socially until I have trust with the person and then I open up. That feels like me. That’s how I have evolved to be socially. But its not a trait, I have to remind myself. Its just a habit. Difference between trait and habit? I think one comes before the other. Maybe habits become a trait. A habit that repeats itself day after day. Year after year. Then you catch it, notice it and realize; it doesn’t serve me. Its not benefiting me. The opposite actually. Its limiting myself and my goals I now have. And, as youre unhappy with a trait then you have the power to break that habit. I can change whatever Im not happy with. I need to realize that. Im not a prisoner in my mind. I can actually change whatever the heck I want.

Anyway, the concept of conversation is so intriguing to me. To share your view of the world with anothers version of the world. Intersect those worlds. Expanding. I find people and connections so interesting. I want to understand people and learn about others and therefor myself. How we are all connected..

There was this one woman who was very reserved as she walked in to the store the other day. She was talking a bit to herself and getting things from shelves, knowing very well what she needed. Me, standing behind the counter, pushing down my ego at her dismissing my attempts at reaching out if she needed help. I take it personal, I always do, their response to me. I pick up immediately if they are friendly or not and it sets my mood even though i try to hide it. If they are talkative or if they dismiss my attempts. Im soooo desperate for outward approval, I know this, yet it is hard in a profession like customer service not to be. You need to give the customer a good impression, fish for their likes. Youre hired for literally getting their approval..

Yet, this woman, not wanting help kept walking around by herself.. she then asked me one small thing. I didn’t know the response and then she dismissed me again. Didn’t deem my presence to be of worth (sidenote;THIS is what my ego thought at the moment! Important!

Hahah obviously its impossible for me to know what she actually thought) After she´d paid for her things and we´d engaged in some small talk I asked her one question to hopefully leave her with a good impression. She surprisingly took the bait and opened up and started talking about hundreds of things. She was a very interesting lady. She spoke about spirituality, meditation, how she worked with healing crystals and how she saw angels etc.

We talked maybe for fifteen minutes (or more like, she talked haha) and as the conversation went by I chimed in to say something, wanting to give my input or share something from my life, she didn’t give it much energy. She said something very small, like a word or a hum, then continued on with something else. And, I noticed afterwards as I retold this story to my boyfriend that my desperate feelings of getting approval, especially from someone that doesn’t “care” steams from my daddy issues. It felt veeeeery similar to how I feel when im talking to him. I tell him something and he doesn’t even let me finish before asking a new question. He just asks something because he is supposed to as a dad – now he has done his part in acting interested. It makes me feel unimportant and even more desperate to get him to care, say something good or funny enough.

I always thought of my dad as narcissistic, in a search for an explanation because my ego couldn’t possibly accept that my own dad doesn’t care for real about me, but it doesn’t really matter. I always felt that way concerning him. And this woman left me with that very same feeling. I also realized afterwards that maybe this woman wasn’t interested in my life, she was so fulfilled in hers that she doesn’t have interest in little me and my story. She only wanted to share her experience. And that’s not from some hateful place, its just, some people are like that. Either, they have difficulty connecting with other people or they don’t feel the need.

The thing was, from that experience with the scattered lady I noticed so much. That lady doesn’t owe me anything. Yes, its nice to be polite to strangers sure but im just a store clerk. She has her life and I have mine. She doesn’t owe me shit. Some people get more out of wordly exchanges and maybe that’s when someone is on someone elses level but this woman felt so “above” me, if I can phrase myself like that, on a spiritual level, that maybe she didn’t feel like my words gave her much. And that sort of stung at the moment but reflecting afterwards im like, huh. Im self-entilted. And lol that feels obvious but it’s a good reality check.

People have their life and problems and no one is obliged to reciprocate to whatever you’re feeling. My feeling towards this lady was “wow, tell me your secrets” but her intention could have been “okay I need to stop by this store for a quick moment and get the things I want” This feels ridiculous now, writing about it. Hahhahaha of course its like that. A stranger. But you get caught up in emotions and being entitled, feeling that things surround about you. It was just a good reminder that, hey, no one owes you anything. Because when you have a habit of needing to get everyone elses approval, its not something you always reflect on. That youre unimportant to other people. Naturally. You cant be of importance to everyone. And don’t get me wrong, the conversation we had (or she) was lovely in the end. She told me a lot of things that left me thinking but it just was onesided and the whole thing made me think about conversating.

I value conversation and connection with people so much. Also why I feel so fake when having small talk with customers. I don’t want to have conversations about the weather or the news. I want them to tell me their secrets. Their struggles. Stuff they don’t want to tell anyone. Like, why? Hahaha. Why on earth do I want that? I think, maybe if I get peoples trust I can trust them. I can be myself. If I can manipulate this random person to like me so they expose their real self maybe I can be myself. No games. And this, controlling and manipulating my surroundings to be myself is just.. sigh..

I need trust in myself. If I have that, nothing else matters I wont feel desperate and look for it outwards. I have it inside myself. Easier said then done though.. (ofcourse, connecting with other people will still always be really important to me, I crave to evolve and connect with others, but maybe it wont be in the same – chasing everyone elses approval type of way) It’s a working process. My relationship to myself is definitely improving this year and that’s more than I can say for past years. Past years been a different focus, so I think im on my way to really getting to know myself and learning to have my back. Its always good for me to reflect on my meeting with people and learn from it. ❤

by Luna, Luna Mil, July 25, 2021

Flowers over a fence – let me know if you know their name! (S.Ali)

Working at a theme park as a socially anxious introvert

Forget-me-not – Myosotis (Creative Commons)

In the piece below, Juppie, a woman in her 20s, from Juppies Antics, writes about her experiences of working at a theme park in the Netherlands and managing introversion and social anxiety symptoms. Her account considers the rewards of working in a public-facing role in the tourism/visitor attraction sector, as well as the challenges.

I love working at a theme park. Every time my position is elsewhere; controlling the rides, welcoming visitors at the entrance, selling ice cream and drinks… There are various things to do, which makes it so much fun to work there. And when the kids are smiling and waving at me, my heart melts. There’s no other side job I’d rather do!

The only obstacle I have to face, however, is my social anxiety.  

Note: I’ve never been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. The psychologist I had a year ago did treat me for related symptoms. Therefore I’d rather identify myself as an introvert with social anxiety symptoms. It’s just easier to call it social anxiety right now, instead of always saying that loooong title.

Social anxiety on the job

From the beginning, I knew there aren’t any other side jobs available for me in which I don’t have to interact with people. And the truth is, it was a conscious decision. The anxiety becomes less every time I work a few days a week at the theme park. It becomes easier to talk to strangers.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling anymore. For each position I know exactly what to do, like I almost have an entire script in my head. But of course, not every visitor, ride or machine is the same; I have to improvise!

Last week I controlled the swing ride. The ride was completely full, but before I started two kids wanted to get out. The mother came, grabbed her kids, and before she left the wooden platform, she stepped on a weak wooden board. You can already guess what happened. She didn’t fall through, fortunately (there are poles under the platform keeping it steady); it was more of an “oops” for her. She walked away unharmed.

Of course I had never experienced such a situation. I had to call the supervisor, wait for him to tell me what to do, be stressed about what I had to do next, see how the people in the ride were responding to the situation, figuring out how to tell them they had to leave… As a result of all these factors making me anxious, I forgot to ask the mother how she was doing. My boss wasn’t too happy about that, which I can totally understand.

Many other things stress me out. Sometimes I feel like Janet from The Good Place. Some days I have to switch rides every half hour; from :00 to :30 I control the train, and from :30 to :00 I control the swing ride, for example. So when people don’t notice I leave one ride to go to the next, and those same people go to the same next ride, they all of a sudden meet me again. It’s like I’m everywhere, just like Janet (it’s more funny than it is scary )!

Using the walkie-talkie can be a struggle because every colleague can hear me through that. People asking me things I don’t know can worry me. Asking for a lunch break (at 15:00) can make me nervous.

How I make it work

I feel myself being drained by the hour. Still, it’s like I turn on my enthusiastic side completely, especially in the beginning. When visitors aren’t nearby, I make sure to recharge a bit. Sometimes colleagues walk up to me to chat, but usually, I can be alone. I always look forward to taking a break – also alone – and I plan to have a least one day free in between the workdays. My colleagues are also pretty understanding I think; you have to be at least a bit of a geek to work at such a theme park!

Biking to the park and back home by myself helps too. I can just listen to the music and not think too much about all the things that went wrong (according to me). When I get home to my parents or Saapjen, I can count on them to listen to my experiences. If I’m alone after work, I reach out to them online or hope my housemate is there. We aren’t close so I don’t share everything with her, but it’s nice she allows me to vent! When I’m done sharing my stories, I relax completely. I never plan anything with friends on workday evenings. I’m done pretty late anyway, but I’m like a zombie afterwards!

Do you sometimes struggle with social interactions during work? How do you cope with that? Let me know!

Lots of warm hugs,


by Juppie, Juppies Antics, June 30, 2021

Returning to a retail job and feelings of social vulnerability after the UK pandemic lockdown – interview from England

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum), Gerald Brazell, Flickr

A young woman living on the south coast of England shared some experiences of returning to working in a bookshop on April 12, 2021, as part of the phased re-opening of the country from a partial lockdown. She talks about difficulties with anxiety, depression, home life and early experiences.

Returning to work after 4 months in lock-down came as a shock. Everyone who had been shut away must have felt it, but when teamed with social anxiety and depression, it had an additional edge. However, perhaps surprisingly, the readjustment period was relatively quick. After only a couple of 9-5 days in the shop, it felt like I’d never been away, but not necessarily in a good way; not in the welcome-return-to-old-company sort of way. The joys of being back in public for me were weak at best, and the familiarity was that of an ache so persistent you come to forget its impact after a while. Its absence is alien. It becomes a painful part of you.

At first, it felt overwhelming to be faced with people again, and to have no choice but to deal with queries and issues as they arose, to look people in the eye, to attempt to effectively communicate, get the right tone and intonation, right expression, all through the barrier of a mask. Lock-down had acted as a cocoon, creating a situation in which you didn’t have to socialise or communicate, and you didn’t have to feel guilty or weird about not doing so. Suddenly, I had to be in public again, with no escape. No more enforced solitude. It was back to the reality of life with anxiety, and the tensions associated with this environment rapidly returned.

I had forgotten what it felt like to be talked down to. While tucked away inside, strangers really hadn’t had the opportunity to make me feel worthless for my position of status, and without even realising it, my self worth had risen through not being subjected to what is run-of-the-mill in customer service. It is considered part of the job to have customers angry about the benign, to be aggressive when you don’t have what they want, to treat you with casual contempt, to bark at you and demand things from you, a general rudeness that insidiously seeps into your everyday.

Social judgement was another sensation that had faded into obscurity over lockdown. How you presented yourself, what clothes you wore and how much they were worth, your posture and gait, your accent and your delivery, your vocabulary and projection. It had been so long since these elements came into play that, for a while, I forgot that mine were not ‘right’, and that peoples’ response to your mere existence could dehumanise so subtly yet so completely.

To be socially dismissed on sight was something I had come to forget the sensation of, and there was a strange resignation towards returning to such a dynamic. In this world, there are those who have the position and the authority to diminish others who exist on a different plain. They are the apex predators, and society offers no way of escaping this social hierarchy and no way of protecting yourself when you are the gazelle, your worth extending only as far as how you can serve them.

Of course, for the most part, people don’t intentionally set out to implicitly degrade or devalue, and for a lot of people these micro-expressions and aggressions are water off a ducks back. It is only when you read every movement of the brow, aversion of eyes, tightness of voice – a hypersensitivity that comes with anxiety – that they begin to choke a fragile sense of self like ivy on an oak. Society is not designed for us, people who drive through a storm with the windows open, no protective barrier between ourselves and the battering elements. We have no choice but to subdue the persistent onslaught that is everyday life with medication, both prescribed and self-prescribed. But this is no cause for complaint; as we are reminded everyday… that’s life.


I’ve found that looking after things other than yourself, be it plants or animals, can make it much easier to experience feelings of love, compassion and caring, which can so often get lost when focusing solely on yourself, when you don’t necessarily want to treat yourself with love. Self-care is something I’ve struggled with, often even feeling selfish to take time to look after myself mentally or physically. Plants and pets are dependent on you for their survival, to grow and thrive, and it is rewarding not only making other living things happy, but as they give a lot back.

Plants cheer up the environment, making it feel full of life when it might otherwise feel bleak or stale, but they also improve air quality (especially peace lilies, which remove toxins from the air). A lot of plants don’t need much tending to be happy, so they can be a great place to start if wanting to cultivate that ability to care for something outside of yourself. Also, seeing a beautiful plant wilt if you leave it without water for too long, and perk up once watered, is a great reminder of how little can really improve life in a major way. Gardening is great for mindfulness, being calming and grounding, but for those who don’t have an outside space like me, house plants are a perfect way to still connect with nature every now and then.

Animals rely on you to deal with all their needs, from feeding to grooming to walking, and they are the one thing that will push me to go outside or get up in the mornings when anxiety is really hitting, because their quality of life depends on me. Not only are they motivating to do the things I sometimes dread, but they offer a great deal of support. They are sensitive to your moods and will comfort you when you are low. They also cause me a lot of joy and are constantly making me smile; without the dogs, exercise, laughter, nurturing, and physical closeness would all be very difficult to make myself do.

I have always loved nature and animals. Somehow, they seem more significant than a lot of the things in this world. Animals are uncomplicated, and nature just gets on with it. They are the perfect reminded of what actually matters in life, when it’s flooded with anxiety and fear.

Arts and crafts have always been a good way to centre and soothe myself when I’m stressed. Crafts like knitting have actually been proven to reduce stress. The repetition and focus on the tactile activity at hand is perfect for people who have anxiety or are restless and need to find something to focus on. I also find it hard to just watch TV and relax, so having something to ‘do’ helps me to feel like I’m doing something productive.

Live music is one of the few events where I don’t experience high levels of anxiety in a public space, which is ironic considering it’s crowded and noisy which are two elements I typically avoid. It’s the fact that when you’re in the audience, no one is looking at you, and you’re not expected to talk or socialise; it’s all about watching the band and a shared appreciation of their music. The noise and immersion has actually become something I love, as it takes me out of my own mind for a couple of hours, and acts as a release from all the pent-up fear and stress.

Sometimes people will try and engage or get you to dance, but the mood always seems to be good humoured. It’s not something I would have considered as being good for those with social anxiety, but it has been a great help for me, and could be a good step towards facing intense situations without the expectation put on you to talk or perform.


I suffered from Selective Mutism, so I was talkative around a very small family unit or close friends, but completely mute in any situation that was unfamiliar or threatening. I was then homeschooled between the ages of 11-16, so it’s difficult to say how much character developed over this time.

I do experience some of the effects of Selective Mutism. It is known as a children’s disorder, as people supposedly ‘grow out of it’. I think people just learn to adapt with it and ‘present’ as normal. Often, if I feel like I can’t make my voice heard, I will feel my throat tighten and I was emotionally shut down and zone out.

I would describe selective mutism as a physical manifestation of your anxious thoughts. The tension causes your throat to constrict to the point where you feel like you physically can’t speak. It’s debilitating, and completely shapes the way you experience the world, much like looking in through glass. People learn to tune you out and you become virtually invisible. Homeschooling was a last resort. I wouldn’t say it was hugely positive, but I don’t know where the alternative would have lead me.

AA, 2021