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When Social Anxiety Strikes: An Apology to the Lady at the Doctor's Surgery

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This morning, I went to see my doctor to get some help with my anxiety and depression, which have been getting steadily worse for the last three months. My anxiety has crept up on me, getting to the stage that if things aren’t exactly how I expect them to be, I panic and need to extract myself from the situation as quickly as possible.

My husband and I arrived at the surgery a little early for my appointment and, as he needed to make an appointment for himself, I went ahead into the waiting area and chose a chair in the corner of the room. The waiting room was quite busy, which was already making me nervous, but I knew my husband wouldn’t be long so I tried not to worry.

Before my husband could join me, an older lady entered the room and made a beeline for the chair next to me. I was too nervous to say I was expecting my husband to join me, so I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even make eye contact. She started talking to me and my heart sank. She commented on how busy it was and I smiled politely and nodded. She said she hoped she wouldn’t still be there at lunchtime as there were so many people to be seen (it was 10:20). I smiled and nodded again. I was starting to panic. Why wasn’t my husband here yet to get me out of this situation? She continued talking, saying she always talked to people while she waited and hoped I didn’t mind. I could feel my heart racing. I just wanted to sit there quietly and try not to feel more anxious than I already did. “I’m sorry, will you excuse me,” I said, and left the waiting room as quickly as I could.

My husband, who was still speaking to the receptionist, looked surprised to see me back out by the front desk, tears starting to pour down my face. I explained the situation to the other receptionist, who kindly found me somewhere quiet to sit, away from the other patients, while I waited to see my doctor.

My doctor was kind and calm and took a lot of time to listen to me, while I explained what happened today and how things have been getting gradually worse. She offered me tissues, helped me to arrange blood tests and further appointments, suggested people I could speak to so that I can get counseling and prescribed me an antidepressant to help me get back on the right track.

I didn’t expect today to happen in quite the way it did. The lady was gone from the waiting room when I had finished speaking to my doctor, so in absence of being able to talk to her directly, I’d like to say this:

I’m very sorry I couldn’t speak to you today when all you were trying to do was be friendly. I needed my own space, both mentally and physically. I don’t know your situation, as you had no idea of mine. It’s quite possible that, since you were elderly, you don’t see many people and take the opportunity to speak to new people both to pass the time and to get the social interaction we all benefit from so much. I hope someone else, who didn’t feel like I did today, sat next to you afterward and you were able to chat away happily. I didn’t mean to be rude or to leave so abruptly, but today I just wasn’t myself.

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Thinkstock photo via KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Originally published: May 27, 2017
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