Although I have pretty much had social anxiety since I started school at the age of five and have many school reports which advised I should speak up more in class it was not until I left school when things started to go really bad. I went to college as I just copied my best friend and had no idea what else to do. My dad offered no advice whatsoever and I barely spoke to him. However in my first maths class I realised that nothing would be any better and began to feel desperate. I got in the class as quickly as I could and sat down so that I would not have any awkward moments having to sit next to strangers as all the desks were for two only and all 5 of the people I did now from my own school were in completely different classes. I remember every single seat filling up with of course me being left alone as usual as it had been for much of my school life. I left college after just two days and was unemployed for over a year before I got my first job. I always wondered if I had of sat next to one of my friends would that have given me the confidence to stay and then go to university afterwards or was I just delaying the inevitable?
I then got a job at a warehouse as my dad knew someone who worked there as they used to be in the police force together. Even so the bloke he knew said to me to not let him down after the interview and do a good job and it only really dawned on me later it was because I had been unemployed for over a year so I was being treated like I was a criminal. This was even more ridiculous considering some of the people I did work with over the next twenty years in the place as many I would not trust to change a light bulb or think they had the intelligence! I’ll never forget the old women who ran the general office and did some of my paperwork asking me why I had been unemployed for so long as if I had committed some heinous crime. This of course adds to the shame of unemployed and is a reason why many mentally ill people with long term unemployment commit suicide as its so hard to get work once out of the loop for while and so many employers have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for mental health issues. They dislike you for being unemployed too long and yet at the same time use that as an excuse to not hire you so you stay unemployed for even longer and then it just keeps getting worse! What a shock! In fact I read quite recently that the long term unemployed and criminals are the first to have their CV put in the waste basket and rejected or is that on dating sites? Probably both.
I did struggle in the job, not because it was hard of course as I was only picking and packing(photography equipment)but because of my anxiety. However I think working in a predominately male environment was preferable to mixed as my anxiety was unsurprisingly always worse with girls especially attractive girls and then I would act like a gibbering wreck (yes even more than normal). They made me a team leader quite quickly which meant I had some authority over a small group of people but after trying to cope with it for a few months I had to give up as not only was I not getting better but it was starting to make my anxiety even worse. In fact I was often more nervous that the new person I was supposed to be teaching what to do! I think it showed me that just putting yourself in a stressful situation day after day for months did not always work or get you used to it like exposure therapy dictates. At one point not long afterwards I think I came pretty close to a mental breakdown and I remember blushing uncontrollably for days as if my brain was in total freefall. Then not long after this the insomnia started although I also started to have chronic leg pain about this time too and got very little help from the doctors. Looking back I was in desperate need of help for mental problems but as I was still able to work nothing happened and I plodded on until my leg pain become so bad I was forced to change which actually had some positive results.