Professional · Social Anxiety · Work Relationships

Not feelin’ it

I had this experience about a week ago where I had the opportunity to spend some time socializing with my officemates in the breakroom. It was someone’s birthday, there was cake, and everyone took a break from inhaling lunch in front of laptops or in cars to converge on the breakroom and eat together. The office provided cake – sounds like a lovely way to spend a few minutes, right? Free food, yay! I arrived at the office after everyone had already relocated to the breakroom and, after grabbing my can of soup, I dutifully started toward the breakroom. The sounds of group laughter and voices erupted from the room as I approached it. At the sound of the group’s joy I stopped and thought about how I wanted to spend the next 20 minutes of my life. I decided to turn around and walk back to my office. I stayed in my office for the next 30 minutes until the lunch party broke up and then I pretended I had just gotten back from a meeting. Yeah, I know, it was really a mature way to handle the situation. I wished the birthday person a happy birthday and went to the breakroom to heat up my soup, which I ate in blissful silence. I don’t know what held me back from entering that breakroom and joining in the fun. I feel like I SHOULD have done it to be polite. All of the people who work in my office are polite and, for the most part, pleasant to be around. But, last week, wild horses could not have dragged me into that room.

I’ve been working with my door closed lately, which is abnormal for our office. We leave our doors open so that we can say hi to each person who enters/leaves the office. Did I mention my door is closest to the exit so I spend a good part of my day saying hi/bye and responding to nice or funny comments from my coworkers? Frankly it is distracting and I live in mild fear of hearing footsteps walking down the hall toward my office because I know I’m about to have to make a choice between purposefully ignoring someone (generally thought of as rude) or interrupting my workflow to interact with that person as they stride by. Interacting with so many people, even if the interaction only lasts a few seconds, gets to be exhausting. I’m sure the people in my office think I’m anti-social but some days I just don’t have the energy for all of that and I have to close my door.

For the past several weeks I have felt a little…raw. Like I need to be very conscious and purposeful about my choice of surroundings. I’ve been listening to softer music, cutting back on my exposure to violent media, avoiding crowded and loud situations, etc. I’m not sure where my need to do this is stemming from. There have been some big personal things that have happened over the past couple of months so perhaps it is a reaction to those. Whatever it is, I hope I can get a grip on it soon. My supervisor is going to notice if I continue to be anti-social and it doesn’t look good for supervisors to skip group work functions – we’re typically expected to be there with bells on and a cheerful word about how much we love the company. Ugh.