Interviewing for a Job When You Have an Anxiety Disorder

157
157

You become obsessed with finding the right job. You have a long list of criteria it has to match just so your anxiety won’t be a problem with doing the job.

You refuse to let the negative thoughts cloud your head and push the “what ifs” out. As long as you find the right job, you know you will be fine.

You finally find one that matches your impossibly long list of criteria and you didn’t think it would be possible.

You click “apply” and fill out the application. You adjust your cover letter and resume to fit the position and once you click submit, you pray.

After what seems like you’ve submitted hundreds of applications (in reality it’s probably only 10), you finally get a call regarding a job interview. You drop everything to make sure you can be there and start planning what you will wear, what time you will have to leave to get there on time and search the company’s website for what it stands for. You make sure it’s an equal opportunities employer and that they won’t judge you if you have anxiety.

The day comes and you get ready, all the while watching the clock. You force yourself to eat something and get in the car and go.

You double and triple check the location, making sure you at the right building, correct floor and that the organization’s name is correct like on the email confirmation you got.

Once you have it sorted out, you find a place to sit because you are 30 minutes early. This is too early, but you wanted to be sure you found the right place and would have extra time in case you got lost — despite printing out directions and using a GPS to get you there.

You make sure you have the correct information and in order to pronounce everything right, you cling to the email printout like it’s a lifeline and will provide you with support during the interview.

You make sure to walk into the building exactly 15 minutes early because by now you have worked out that 15 minutes is an acceptable time to arrive. You decide 30 minutes looks too eager and you don’t want to make the interviewer feel rushed or like they have to see you right away.

You say your name and that you are there to be interviewed for a position, all while trying to keep it together inside despite wanting to run out the door.

You take a seat where you’ve been directed and look around the room. You practice your breathing exercises, question what you are wearing and wonder if your makeup is OK. You check if your phone is on silent for the 15th time and wonder if it would be OK to check Facebook.

You get called into a room. it’s bright and airy and the interviewer looks friendly enough, but you can never be sure.

You wait for the first routine question because you have done this all before.

“So tell us about yourself,” the interviewer says.

You wonder if they would judge you if you mention you have anxiety, but decide to keep your mouth shut for now. So you instead tell them a rehearsed spiel about how you have two sisters, two cats, live at home, have a blog, love to bake and volunteer for a mental health organization that is very close to your heart (without mentioning it’s because you have anxiety). You mention you chose this field because of work experience you did when you were 17 and the rest is history.

The interview continues on with more standard questions. All the while you question if you said the right thing and wonder how you are coming across.

You consider maybe mentioning your anxiety if it comes up, but it doesn’t. You realize they don’t suspect a thing. Maybe, just maybe, you can hold off telling them until you have the job as they did say they were an equal opportunities employer.

You let your hands under the table fiddle with your rings and bracelets to keep your anxiety from getting in the way and figure anything is better than biting your nails in front of the interviewer.

Then the dreaded question comes.

“Do you have anything to ask us?”

You sit and think for a while, wondering if you should tell them about your anxiety before finally saying, “I have anxiety. It’s under control and I am on medication for it, but how will you support me if I start to struggle in this job?”

The interviewer smiles at you and starts to ramble how it’s not a problem and they will support you as long as you do the work and can handle it all.

The interview eventually finishes up and you walk out of there feeling lighter and hopeful that this job will be the one.

Then the waiting game starts. You take your phone with you everywhere and make sure it is always charged. You tell your family and friends how you are hopeful this is finally the job for you and your unemployment might finally end soon.

Your phone rings and you recognize the number. You answer it, but with just a few words, your world starts to crumble.

“I’m so sorry you didn’t get the job,” the voice  on the other end of the line says.

Your dreams of what you could have been fade away until you can’t help feeling like a failure. You ask for feedback and get told while your interview technique was good, you just weren’t quite the right fit for the job. You let the tears fall and realize there is a better job out there for you and you just haven’t found it yet.

The next day you start the process all over again.

Follow this journey on Erin’s Antics.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via opolja.

157
157
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

A Letter to My Teacher About My Struggles You Might Not See

241
241

Dear Teacher,

Yes, I read the homework last night. Twice. I can’t bring myself to ever not read it. My anxiety takes over and I panic wondering if you will ask if I read it or if you will give us a pop quiz. You never ask and there is never a quiz, but I had to read every mark on the 20 pages of reading. I had to reread sentences and words so I wouldn’t disappoint you. It makes me look responsible and smart, but I feel terrible when I lose sleep over missing a comma on page 194.

No, I’m not cheating. I need to sit like this because the other students’ movements and noises distract me. I wish I could tell you, but I’m too nervous you will think less of me.

Yes, I am listening. I hear every word you say, even if it doesn’t look like I do. My brain works fast. I can draw or fidget, hear every word you say, and still have room for my mind to accidentally wander away when you pause to answer a question. No, I am not looking at you, but I am still taking in more information than you can see.

Yes, I procrastinated my assignment—no really, teacher, I am sorry. I wanted to have it done for you on time without procrastination, but I spent hours researching this new interest of mine. I start reading and 10 articles later I realize three hours have passed and I panic to finish the homework I could have finessed by now. These interests are why every project or paper I do is on the same topic. One day, I will major in this topic and finally get my chance, but today is not that day, and I’m sorry.

Teacher, I know you never thought much about my quirks; after all, I was a good student and never had behavior problems.

But I did struggle.

I have graduated public education and only have one year left at my small college, where I have finally learned to advocate for myself. But I hope this letter helps you understand your current and future students who may struggle despite their high performance.

Sincerely,
A former student

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock image by fizkes

241
241
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
A woman wearing a hat looking back at a mountain

The Little Tricks I Use to Manage My Anxiety

169
169

Breathe.

OK. I am OK. A lot of people have panic attacks. My hands, feet and face will stop tingling as soon as I stop hyperventilating. My limbs will not fall off. My heart rate will return to normal as soon as I calm down. It will not be long before my lungs feel capable again. I am going to be OK.

According to The Kim Foundation, approximately 18.1 percent of Americans over the age of 18 in any given year will have an anxiety disorder. This is not a small percentage.

You are not the only one who has ever felt this way. There are others feeling it too, even right this minute, and you are never alone. There are resources you can reach out to, there are people to help you and this road is not a new one. It has been trodden before, will be trodden again, and though it may feel as if you are walking alone, there are thousands of other people walking it with you.

How do we calm down? It’s not simple, or easy. If it were, anxiety disorders would not exist. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, but I can tell you what works for me.

In through the nose, out through the mouth, count to 10 and slow everything right down.

You are tingling because you are breathing too quickly, slow it down, and it will stop. This is a temporary feeling. It will not last forever.

Remember that you are OK.

It may not feel like it, and no one is devaluing your experience, but you are OK. This will not kill you, or hurt you. You are going to be fine.

Distract yourself — however you need to distract yourself, do it.

Color, draw, play loud music, watch television, talk to someone, google bad jokes. Think of something else.

Be kind to yourself.

You do not need to feel guilty for having a panic attack. You are allowed to be your own best friend. Have something extra to eat, to make up for the energy you have lost, rehydrate if you have cried. Do not beat yourself up.

Look only as far into the future as you feel comfortable with.

If the future is going to frighten you, don’t think of it, if you think it will help, think of it plenty. Do whatever it is that you need to do to make yourself feel better.

This is OK. You are OK. Everything is going to be OK. If you cannot tell yourself as much just now, let me tell you.

It is OK.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Yuko Yamada

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES
169
169

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What My Anxiety Prison Feels Like

68
68

In a previous blog, I wrote how my anxiety is a prison of my mind. I linked the signs and symptoms of anxiety to being locked up. Let me allow you to take an excursion into my mind to see how my anxiety holds me captive in prison.

My anxiety prison has limited windows.

Anxiety possesses me in a dark space. It keeps me awake while others are slumbering at night. I can barely see any resolution for my situation. Sometimes, I can’t even accept my blessing of being “released” from prison. I’ve been using coping skills but my mind keeps telling me, I will not succeed.

My anxiety prison lacks privacy.

Anxiety puts me on “front street” in the presence of family, friends and colleagues. It shape shifts into a panic attack, extreme pessimism or lack of follow-through on tasks. It’s really tricky trying to disguise my lack of concentration, tension headaches, confusion, irritability and fatigue at work or in social settings. Even worse, I hypothesize everyone knows I’m anxious when they have no earthly idea when I am struggling. Unfortunately, this altered perception keeps me in confinement as well.

My anxiety prison lacks freedom.

The color teal represents anxiety. I guess my main concern is anxiety cannot just be one color. It can be a symptom of another physical or mental illness or it can stand alone. When my creativity and imagination run rampant, it’s hard to wear just teal, but because I have no other color options, I fall back, feel stuck and become discouraged. Then, I become afraid to take risks or do anything out of the ordinary. My right brain constantly asks my left brain for permission to use my gifts. Thus, when I cannot shift my right brain hemisphere, my prefrontal cortex does not reason nor produce logic. My intuition and ingenuity remain in a sensory state. My brain is on overload, but I am stuck. This leads to my challenges with paying attention and organizing myself. I can present as bored, uninterested or disengaged. So, when my anxiety takes my freedom, I can isolate, lose motivation and my hope.

Sometimes my anxiety can transition into depression. I can remain in isolation for days to weeks. I feel lonely. It takes something from me, just sitting in the dark. It’s really cold. I just want someone to reach out to me. I can see a very small window. It does provide a glimpse of light, but this window is not big enough for me to grasp the bigger picture—my ultimate purpose in life.

While in the hole, there are guards who check on me regularly. These people notice my effort, resilience and strength. No, they do not have the authority to release me. I must rescue myself. However, they persistently emphasize the fighter within me. They encourage proper exercise and nutrition, risk-taking, literature therapy and following through with goals and dreams. Oddly, the guards see my aspiration even in my darkest moments.

Anxiety is a prison in my mind. When I get arrested and detained, there is no bail. I must endure it. Deal with it. Fight it. Rewrite it. And finally, accept it as a “beautiful nightmare.”

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Luke_Franzen.

68
68
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

6 Self-Care Ideas for When the Outside World Is Too Much

91
91

I don’t know about you, but lately, the world seems really overwhelming. Between politics and tragedies, it is hard not to get sucked into the negativity that surrounds us. As a culture, we tend to focus on the negative over positive. I think it gives us more to talk about, but it also hinders our emotions and can deeply affect our mental health.

I, like a lot of people around the world, have experienced bouts of anxiety and depression lately. As a highly sensitive person, I feel my own pain intensity and others’ pains too. Sometimes I am at a loss for what to do. One thing I know I need more of during these challenging times is self-care. I’ve listed a few self-care practices I am working on integrating into my life. I am spending less time online and in front of a screen.

1. Log off Facebook. 

I will scroll through Facebook throughout the day and see images from protests and the latest disheartening political action and be totally overwhelmed. It is not healthy to be exposed to depressing, sad news throughout the day. It can affect your mental health in a negative way and leave you feeling hopeless. For the next month, I am going to sign out of Facebook each weekend and do a 48-hour Facebook detox. I am not able to delete my Facebook as my job and work involve Facebook, but taking little breaks is permitted.

2. Make your home a peaceful, safe place.

I recently moved into a new apartment. I am working on making it a homey space with candles, Himalayan rock lamps, cozy blankets, diffusing essential oils and home cooked meals. It is important for me to have a home I want to come to after a long stressful day to unwind and relax.

3. Channel your inner child.

What did you enjoy as a child? Did you love splashing in puddles? Playing in the snow? Building things with your hands? Coloring? Painting? Whatever you loved as a child, take the time to do it as an adult. We only spend a small fraction of our life as children. Tap into what made you happy during one of the simplest times of your life. I loved coloring as a kid. Sitting down, focusing on the picture in front of me, only thinking about the next color to choose was always a fun time! Luckily, “adult” coloring has become a thing, and I have a few meditation coloring books I enjoy coloring in.

4. Read, cook or play with your companion animal if you have one.

Do something that doesn’t involve switching on your phone, TV or computer. I was feeling anxious the other day after work and instead of scrolling through social media or flipping on the TV, I made cookies and played with my dog. It may have only been about 45 minutes, but it was 45 minutes I was able to care for myself (baking is one of my favorite self-care things to do!) and spend time with my furbaby who I don’t get to see during the day.

5. Set boundaries.

I’ve had many conversations over the past six months about politics with friends and family. Since then, when I am feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to continue talking about a certain subject, I say, “I am not going to talk about this anymore.” That’s it, and if they do not respect my wishes and continue to talk about the issue at hand, I walk away.

6. Go outside.

For me, going outside to take a walk is the ultimate way to destress. When walking, I am focusing on the step in front of me, taking in the seasonal smells and watching my dog interact with the world around her.

During times of stress and anxiety, it is important to take extra care of yourself.

Follow this journey on Voices of Anxiety.

Thinkstock photo by jacoblund

91
91
TOPICS
, , Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

6 Unexpected Consequences of Taking Medication for Anxiety

6k
6k

I started taking medication for anxiety and mild depression a little more than two weeks ago, and because two weeks was the recommended “adjustment period” my psychiatrist gave me, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my “new normal” — a normal which was supposed to be anxiety-less, or at least anxiety-reduced. From where I am now, results have been mixed.

This was not a decision I took lightly. As someone who likes to tell others there’s no shame in taking medication, classically I couldn’t take my own advice. But bad days started to outnumber good days. I would have negative thoughts — including passive suicidal thoughts — running through my head at work and before bed. Anxiety attacks, uncomfortable back pain and stomach aches — the works. At the end of the day I would be overwhelmed and anxious for the next day to start. So I discussed it with my therapist and became more open to the idea of trying medication.

After months of avoiding, I finally made an appointment.

Even driving to the psychiatrist’s, I starting beating myself up for “wasting time.” I should have been working. I was fine. I didn’t need this (see also: I didn’t deserve this). I was mad at myself for being “so weak,” for disrupting my day for nothing.

But of course, when the nurse practitioner asked me how I was, I immediately burst into tears. And if you can cry and babble for 30 minutes straight when someone asks you how you are, that might be a sign you could use more support.

So here I am. I wanted to share some honest takeaways from my journey so far. Because while yes, you could say I’m literally “less anxious,” the experience has been as surprisingly underwhelming (spoiler: I’m still the same person!) as it has been rewarding.

For context: I’m taking a pretty low dose of an SSRI. Medication is not right for everyone, and not everyone will react to medication in the same way. Definitely talk to your doctor before starting or stopping medication.

Here are some of the unexpected things that happened when I started taking medication to manage anxiety.

1. At first, the silence in my brain was uncomfortable. 

I didn’t realize my brain had once been an echo chamber until there was silence. The new stillness was eery, like walking the streets of an empty city. I remember on the first day actually trying to produce a thought that might start echoing — but it stood, individually, on its own, without multiplying. Without the constant noise rattling around in my head, I wasn’t sure how to think. This left me feeling spacey and uncomfortable.

More recently, I’ve appreciated this silence. I deal with a lot of repetitive, negative thoughts (“I’m a bad person,” “I want to kill myself,” etc.), and now, it’s been much easier to let them pass through without letting them take over.

2. I felt “lazy,” which I later learned is called feeling “relaxed.”

Without the bully of anxiety bossing me around all day, I started to feel… lazy. Instead of waking up and instantly jumping out of bed so I could perform the “perfect” morning routine, I stayed a little longer. When I got home from work, instead of thinking, “What am I doing next?” “What am I doing next” I watched YouTube videos with my boyfriend. I talked to my roommate on the couch. Free from my shackles, I felt like I was rebelling — doing the opposite of what my anxious brain would urge me to do. You’re demanding I meditate in the morning? Fuck that — I’m sleeping as late as I can. Oh, I have to stay at work 30 more minutes or else everything will fall apart? Nope, I’m leaving now.

I learned being “lazy” was actually me feeling relaxed. I’m not used to feeling content with doing nothing or rejecting the way my brain tells me how I have to do things, so it’s a strange new thing to get to enjoy.

3. My anxious energy turned into crankiness. 

I’m not typically a cranky person, but when the energy inside me wasn’t being used to think mean thoughts about myself, it turned towards other people. Namely, people closest to me. OK, it was really just my boyfriend. But still, this sudden short-fuse was one of the more surprising side effects. I found myself starting arguments over nothing and getting irritated at small things. I didn’t like it, but it felt like the energy had no where else to go.

This has actually been decreasing as time goes on, and I’ve found exercise has been a great way of getting rid of that extra “energy.”

4. It eased practically all of my physical symptoms.

My anxiety lives in the back of my neck, so my upper back hurt basically all the time. Yoga would help, but it was always temporary relief. My body would tense up again as soon as I reentered the world. Since I’ve been taking this medication, the tension in my body has eased up a bit, and I’m no longer in so much pain.

5. I actually appreciate feeling stressed now.

This is something I’m not sure everyone understands, but when anxiety dominates and escalates any ounce of internal conflict, it’s actually pretty nice to feel pure stress, untainted with extra anxiety. It’s like I can actually manage things that stress me out without melting into a puddle of my own self-hate. I remember joking with my therapist, “I’m still stressed, but at least my brain isn’t telling me to kill myself!” Because while situational stress is part of being human, it’s easier to face without the extra, unnecessary anxiety.

6. Medication doesn’t make me happier – I will make me happier.

Here’s the thing: although my anxiety is mean, she’s well-intentioned. Like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum because she can’t communicate what she wants, it was more about how my anxiety chose to express itself, not what she was trying to tell me. Now with more control in my hands, I can ask my anxiety to “use its words.” Because I do like meditating in the morning. I do like working and pushing myself to be productive. These things themselves are inherently bad, and the energy of my anxiety is a part of what makes me, me. So my challenge now is relearning how to do things casually. How to navigate a day without my anxiety pulling the strings. It’s a little scary, and I haven’t nailed it yet, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to try.

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Peterfactors



6 Unexpected Consequences of Taking Medication for Anxiety
6k
6k
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.