Life has been amazingly awesome so far. I love, LOVE, the job. Each day, I get to interact with new people and work with a different psychiatric diagnosis. Ever tried to play Pictionary with actively psychotic individuals? So fun! I recommend trying it at least once.
I also got to do art therapy with this group which was also amazing. Although a lot of them are really out of touch with reality (I had a client turn into a Leprechaun right in the middle of my group), when it comes to art and music they have talent. We had so much fun doing art. I came home from work hands stained with paint and glitter and I was in heaven. There are so many more things I want to try with them and I can’t wait to do it.
One of my biggest challenges at work is being social with everyone, especially new people. I’m not a natural extrovert so it’s been challenging trying to channel how I think an extrovert should behave. How bubbly should I be? Do I have to be talkative, make jokes? Do I have to be the life of the party? Do I have to say “hi” every time I see someone? Do I always have to make eye contact and initiate conversation? Do I have to always enjoy being around people?
I’ve always been a little off in the social area. When my mom would take my sister and I out to meet friends of hers or go to church I was usually the one hiding behind my mother. My sister on the other hand was always ready to meet anyone new. She loved the spotlight, whereas I preferred being behind the curtains. This shyness followed me through school til about now.
I have improved a lot. When I was younger, my fail safe was to try not to make eye contact. I spent a lot of time with my eyes on my shoes, sketch pad or book. Libraries, hiking trails and music stores were my sanctuaries because I could hide. I figured if no one could see your eyes, they would have a harder time trying to talk to you. The downside to this is that you just come off as weird, stuck up, standoffish, etc, and it tends to hurt you in the friend area. I’ve gotten better; now I just smile , say “hello”when I bump into new people and look for the nearest exit.
However, there are times that people can not be avoided, and those times usually occur in the hallway or elevator. It’s gotten that the elevator and hallways are the places that I dread, haha. When you are shy and unsure of how to interact with new people that you meet this often leads to many awkward moments and conversations:
On the elevator:
Behavioral Health Tech: ” Hey, so you are new here right? I’ve never seen you here before”
Me: “Yep. I ve been here about two weeks. I do the recreation programs.”
BHT: Oh cool, so you’re the fun person…”
Me: “Yep…Oh look, a client!” (frantically starts pushing the open door button and scampers off)
I’ve always been slow to warm up to others and totally be myself around them. I still have this problem with friends that I’ve known for a while. A lot of my friends that I may read this and think: ” What the heck are you talking about? You’ re the nuttiest person I know!” I may be a nut now, but it probably took you awhile to crack this nut. Once I know a person and feel comfortable with them, yeah…I’m a ball of crazy. The more comfortable I am with you, the crazier the ride gets. Be proud if you’ve seen my crazy inhibited side: this means I trust you… a lot.
What amazes me is that I have friends who can meet new people and start conversations with people like it’s nothing. I very much envy those friends. How on earth do they do it? How are you not terrified?
Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I love working with people, especially my psychiatric clients and making their lives better. If I didn’t, I’d probably be an accountant. I just don’t need to be around people all the time. I’m okay with being alone. In fact, I prefer it. I have friends who thrive on hanging out with lots of people, whereas my idea of a good time is exploring a new hiking trail alone with music screaming from my headphones. Just the thought of going for a solo hike or run just brings a smile to my face. I’ll probably go do that after this is written.
You’d think that once you leave your adolescent years behind you, the shyness leaves as well. Sadly, that is not the case for me. I’m still awkward when it comes to meeting new people and interacting with them. How do you tell others that you are shy? Do you just come right out and tell them?
Although it’s the most challenging, the best part of this job is that it forces me to lead groups and interact with people every day. Everyday I learn how to let down my guard, trust myself, others and come out of my shell. It’s definitely been interesting tackling one of your weaknesses on a daily basis. By the end of the week, I am so exhausted from playing an extrovert that I can barely make complete sentences. I usually just come home and stare at the wall trying to remember how to walk because I’ve been so social. But, I am happy and that is all that matters.