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

Post by littlebluedove on Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:30 pm

Enail, I like your advice about thinking of possible non personal reasons why people are mean to me. I admit that I don't have much compassion for them unless they say something like, "I'm just having a bad day. I'm sorry I took it on you." Maybe I'm not as nice as I should be, but since I'm not acting on my feelings, I think it's okay to not have a perfect emotional reaction to them.

K-J, doing something that other people can't affect sounds good, and I'm glad it helped you. I checked out a couple of introductory physical science books. I tend to spend a lot of time on people related stuff, whether social skills like on Doctor Nerdlove's blog or soft sciences like psychology, so I think that spending a little time on something very removed from people will be good for me.

Hielario, while in most cases I've been passive and weak in response to those kinds of people, I admit that there have been a few times when I've gotten angry enough to give them a piece of my mind. When I did that, they would escalate even further. These kinds of people are very determined to win and have the last word. Giving them shit made things even worse for me than when I let them push me around.

Werel, I wouldn't trust an impatient person to kindly show me how to do something. I've read some stuff since I made that post on the Ask a Manger site, about career advice. She says that in some cases, people who struggle at a job are not a good fit for the job/the job not a good fit for them. Since I struggle a lot with practical/physically oriented stuff, but feel more in my element with intellectual and emotional stuff, I suspect that I might be better off trying to contribute to society in intellectual and emotional ways. For example, I started a blog on which I've been sharing lessons that I've learned about social skills, mental health, etc, broken up with some lighter stuff, like reviews and analysis of books etc. I started a Meetup group to help people with their social skills. I have no idea if either of my projects will actually be useful to anyone, since it's very tough for me to get attention on my blog, and very few people have been coming to my Meetup - and those that have say that they don't know what they want to work on with their social skills and mostly talk about off topic things, like cooking and engineering, not social situations, even when I try to steer it back to that. Not that I expect to spend the whole hour and a half at each of my events talking about social skills - talking about other things is still relevant, in my opinion, since it's practice - but I'd like there to be at least a little more focus.

Maybe in the future, I'll make threads to ask for advice to make these projects more effective. Unfortunately, just like how people have said on Doctor Nerdlove's blog that you can do the right things and still not find a partner, even if I do all the right things trying to help others, I still might not have a positive effect on anyone. One upside to my projects is that I have the authority with them to, if anyone mistreats me or someone else there, say "That's not cool" and if it gets too bad, to ban them. Being in control has made me feel so much safer that I'm not sure if I ever want to volunteer/work/etc for something that I haven't created again. However, since I'm interested in criminal justice, I'm thinking about volunteering as a mentor at the juvenile detention center, which would put me in a supportive role instead of struggling to manuever a big, heavy rack or something like I talked about in my post. Even then, the kids might dislike me or something, so there's no guarantee that I'd make any difference there, either. I want so badly to help others, not in a white knight way but that I think we all on this planet help each other and I want to pull my share, way. I feel so invisible to society, not just as a potential friend or partner, but even as someone who has anything worthy to contribute, even for free. It's such a grim feeling.

I'm sorry that some of the homeless people you've encountered take their stress out on you.

I couldn't get the grocery delivery sites to work, so will continue to work on physically grocery shopping. I'm starting to get a sense that working on my depression and anxiety in general will affect my difficulties with grocery shopping. The main sources of my depression and anxiety have been wondering if I'll ever have a social life (i.e if anyone will ever like me enough to want to regularly catch up over coffee or a small group come over to play board games) and if I'll ever be able to help others in a way that hits the spot for them, I've been devoting my entire life to researching about these things hours upon hours day after day to try to fix these things, but I am so emotionally exhausted and my life has fallen apart (i.e my apartment is now filthy) because I've been neglecting myself and my life to be hell bent on trying to fix these problems. I just want to be valued and contribute things seen as valuable to humanity on both a personal and vocational (at the very least, with my projects) level.

These are deep issues and this post has covered multiple things, so it's okay if these things don't get addressed here, but if nothing else, at least it has given me another outlet to blow off some steam while I wait for my next therapy appointment. Thanks everyone.

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

Post by Enail on Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:15 pm

The blog and meetup both sound like really cool ideas! And it's great that you're getting a sense of ways of participating/contributing that work better for you. So congratulations on both those things!

It's true that even if you do the right things trying to help others, you could still not have an effect on anyone, but it's also true that you could do things that have a positive effect on others and never know about it. A few times when I've found out that something I did made a difference to someone, it's been something that I wouldn't have expected or have realized had an impact on anyone without some coincidence of happening to hear about it, and some of the things someone else has done that have stuck with me the most, I doubt they've ever realized it meant something to someone. I'm not sure if that's encouraging or discouraging, but it's a thing, anyway Wink

If all this stuff you're doing having a negative impact on your life, that sounds like you need to dial it back to a more sustainable level. Don't forget that you'll be better able to help others or contribute to the world in the long run if you're looked after too than you will if you neglect yourself for others. And just that you deserve your own care and kindness just as much as anyone else does. It's a marathon, not a sprint, you don't have to master all the social skills you want to and do all the projects/activities you want to all at once!
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Re: Advice for Debilitating Fear of People Who Treat Me Unkindly

Post by littlebluedove on Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:26 pm

I'll take that as encouragement, lol.

That's a good point. I can do something like schedule the social skill/helping others research to from x to y time per day so that it doesn't take over my life anymore.

Thanks!

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