Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

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Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by littlebluedove on Sat May 12, 2018 11:59 pm

I have a fear of dealing with mistreatment that severely interferes with my life. The most pressing issue right now is that I avoid going grocery shopping in part because people have mistreated me at the store and on the bus to or from the store.

Some recent examples:

- Someone in the store parking lot called me "porky." I'm fat and hate getting insulted about my weight.
- A cashier drummed her fingers when I fumbled with a yogurt.
- A bus driver got angry that I brought my rolling cart with groceries in it on the bus, even though they're allowed and I'm not the only person who does this.

The anxiety is bad enough that most of the time, I'm literally starving. Occasionally, I'll get a break from starving, usually from spending a bunch of money ordering Pizza Hut or a nearby fancy restaurant, since those customer service people have been consistently nice to me and it's not as exhausting as grocery shopping. However, that means that most of my disability check goes to takeout, but it's so expensive that it's still not enough to keep me from not having long periods of starvation. Throughout my whole life, I've suffered starvation for various reasons, like the times I was homeless, or the lack of money in my family growing up, or when I was in assisted living and multiple people, including myself didn't feel well fed enough there, and the staff didn't care. This time, it's mainly because I fear getting bullied.

I've been unable to hold down a job, even volunteering, because I've been unable to deal with bullies. Some examples:

- When I moved potatoes from one container to another at a free farmers market for low income people, someone pushed me out of the way and started taking over my job. I was hurt and humiliated. I figured that I must be too slow to be useful. I left without saying anything to anybody.

- I was at my assigned workstation at a thrift store warehouse sorting books. Two coworkers came over and said, "You'e in our way. Sit down so that we can get our jobs done." I complied. I got tired of waiting to get my spot back and was self conscious about being seen as an obstacle, so I left without saying anything to anybody.

- A staff member at a mental health clubhouse told another volunteer and I to work together to move a clothing rack. I was clumsy with it. She refused to keep working with me and took off with the rack. I was humiliated and left without saying anything to anybody.

I just started seeing a therapist, but she almost immediately left and will be gone for a total of over a month. I tried making an appointment with a substitute, but she said the day of that she had to do something else. I tried an online therapy site, but that therapist never answered my question about how to deal with my fear of bullies. My regular therapist said, "These peoples' behavior is a reflection of them, not you," which has helped a bit, but I've been wondering if there are anymore insights, coping skills etc. that can bring further relief to my anxiety about this issue.

This fear has allowed bullies to ruin my ability to keep myself fed, ruined my ability to work or volunteer, contributing to me going on disability, and ruined me financially.

How do I keep mean people from ruining my life anymore? My therapist says that I'm sensitive, which makes unkindness very painful for me. I have a lifelong history of various forms of abuse and bullying from multiple sides, which I think adds to my sensitivity because the amount of stuff that I've endured makes me feel deeply poisoned emotionally.

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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by littlebluedove on Sun May 13, 2018 2:13 am

The anxiety got bad enough that I called a helpline (I wasn't suicidal, just miserable). I was concerned about time, since a lot of people call, so I just asked about my grocery shopping anxiety. She said to shift my thoughts from the bullies to what I'm there for, the food I'm buying.

She had an interesting suggestion of bringing a music device to listen to while shopping. I haven't gotten much into music yet, but I still think that it could help soothe me at least a little bit. I'm not even sure what people use these days, maybe Ipods? I'll do some research.

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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by littlebluedove on Sun May 13, 2018 2:17 am

Maybe getting more into music would help me socially, since from what limited social experience I have so far, it seems to come up a lot. One of the few groups that I know of so far, Celtic Woman, will perform nearby soon. Hopefully, I can still get tickets.

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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by Enail on Sun May 13, 2018 12:31 pm

That sounds incredibly tough, littlebluedove, I'm sorry you're dealing with that, and those people sound awful! This isn't something I've had experience with myself, but I've heard the music device suggestion from people with similar issues, or even podcasts/books. I've also heard that it can help to try and invent compassionate reasons why other people might be acting unkindly that have nothing to do with you (eg. "they're so impatient, maybe they're in a hurry to get home to look after a sick pet..."); I don't get anxious about people being mean but I do sometimes get really angry about it and get into a terrible mood, and I've found it helpful doing something similar but rather than compassionate reasons (feels too sappy for me), I think up ridiculous ones ("the old lady who shoved past me is probably racing to defuse a bomb before anyone else gets there...").

You might want to check out the Friends of Captain Awkward forum, I know there are at least a few people there dealing with similar issues, and there may even be a support thread on the topic. Their rules are quite different from here, and they're very strict about potentially offensive language and trigger warnings, so I'd suggest giving their rules a good read before jumping in.
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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by K-J on Tue May 15, 2018 12:30 pm

I'm very sorry to hear that.

I've been in a pit myself, not exactly the same, but maybe this applies somewhat.

It's good to square in a little part of the world to oneself. A thing which is only for you, something that's a bit challenging and can have it's own reward system, despite other people.
For me, it was a daily long walk. I didn't care about how it would measure in terms to other people or the concept of achievement in general. I shut all of that out, and for a while there, my life was that long daily walk.

I did it, I congratulated myself every time, and if I didn't go once or cut it too short, I just looked forward to try again tomorrow.
Eventually I made the walk longer, got better shoes for it, even got inspired to start wearing a backpack with weights (can be ok exercise so long as you strap it over the chest and stomach while walking with a good posture). The increased stamina was felt and made my mood more stable too.

I'm not saying you should do exactly what I did but that's my advice. Find something you can devote yourself to which is only yours and for you, without factoring other people in(for now).

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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by Hielario on Tue May 15, 2018 2:23 pm

littlebluedove, I have a question for you. What prevents you from giving back to them the shit they gave you? I'm sorry if this sounds a bit stupid, but I'm a little bit surprised by your reactions. Like you, I spent a lot of my life being constantly bullied and harassed, and it has affected me a lot as well (even, in a memorable ocassion, having to go the legal route because I was beginning to fear for my life), but my automatic response has always involved at least a portion of trying to fight back, when it seemed possible (Sometimes I just ran, too. there's a limit to what one can do against four or five)

But you don't get angry, you just... fall apart? Angry No
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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by Werel on Wed May 16, 2018 5:29 pm

Yikes, littlebluedove, I'm really sorry people have been unkind in those ways and that it's affecting you so negatively.

It sounds like one of the main things that sets off your anxiety, based on your examples, are expressions of impatience towards you, like when you see people as being annoyed that you're not efficient/quick/competent enough?

A lot of those situations sound like when people are either fairly anal and need to feel like they're in control of their part of a workflow (this type of person is epidemic, you're not the only one who has to deal with their shit!), or they've got a work routine down and they don't want to spend the energy to adjust it by bringing someone else into it. In those cases, especially in volunteering situations, you are well within reasonability to say "You seem to be in a hurry. I'm new, and don't have the workflow down yet, so go ahead and get this task done. But afterwards, could you show me how to do this task efficiently, like you do?" It butters their egos by positioning them as competent and knowledgeable, requests compassion for your position as a new person, and hopefully ends up with you learning a more efficient way to do the thing and improving your working relationship with the person, even a little bit.

That's not going to help in cases where people are just assholes, like the person calling you names in the parking lot. In those cases, yes, having headphones in can help a lot. Slightly different, but I live/work in a part of a city with many mentally unstable homeless folks who are not infrequently yelling obscenities or aimless threats. Hearing nice music in my ears instead of someone screaming incoherent racial epithets first thing in the morning is a huuuuuge bonus to my mental health. Podcasts work just as well for this. Just plug up your ears and carve out a little bit of psychic personal space for yourself while you're out in the world.

One more practical idea: have you looked into grocery delivery services? That might help with the order takeout vs. go to grocery store choice that's eating up so much of your money. Sites like instacart let you choose and pay for all your groceries online and then bring them to your house for a smallish fee.
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