Firstly, I think a bit of background info is required for this story. I come from a family of anxious people. My brother being, in fact, the founder of this website. So anxiety is no stranger to me. For me it often rears its ugly head when I'm going through some period of change in my life.
Some memorable times of crisis include: moving out to go to university, travelling and during my first job as a qualified nurse to name but a few. So when I decided to move to Munich to be with my partner it was no surprise that anxiety decided to pay me another visit.
A FRESH START
At first I had a control over it, I recognised why it was happening and that gave me a feeling of power. However, after a year of living in Munich I decided that even though my German was no way up to it, I should definitely leave the temporary job I'd got in a kindergarten to work as a nurse again. This was a step I knew I had to take at some point so I felt that I should just hurry up and get it over and done with.
Unfortunately I managed to get myself a job on a ward with a bunch of highly hostile nurses topped off with the boss from hell. This was my first professional job in Germany so I just thought that it was all down to cultural differences and perhaps the Germans were just not very nice to each other at work.
I did my very best to pull myself together but after a few weeks I couldn't eat anymore and I found myself in floods of tears every morning at 6am. I was in a constant state of high alert, worrying I had missed something or messed something up at work, terrified my boss would be cross with me and my colleagues would ignore me.
Looking back I know that had I walked into a place like this in the UK, I wouldn't have stayed longer than a day. But I was just grateful someone had given me a job with my terrible German skills and I thought no one else would take me!
THE POWER OF A PRETZEL
One summer evening after work I met up with my partner's friends in a beer garden. Beer gardens in Munich are absolutely packed to the brim if it's a nice summer's evening and this day was no exception. I had had yet another tough day at work and felt particularly horrible. I told my partner I just couldn't face going but he insisted it would make me feel better and distract me. I know he meant well and as someone who has never had high anxiety levels, he didn't understand how bad I was feeling. So I went along thinking that he probably had a point.
We arrived at the packed beer garden, it felt to me loud and chaotic and not at all the environment I wanted to be in. I took a deep breath and told myself to pull it together. Normal people would see this as a great thing to do after work with their friends; basking in the sun, sipping a beer and having a picnic. What was wrong with me?!
So we found our friends and sat down. I was being very quiet as I thought the moment I said anything or make eye contact with a kind face I would start crying. Then someone asked me "Ellen, would you like a pretzel" and well, that was it. This tipped me over the edge. I got up suddenly knocking over someone's beer and ran away with tears streaming down my cheeks. But it was a packed garden and there was nowhere to hide so I just stood in the middle of all the crowded tables like a mad women crying hysterically unable to catch my breath, I just couldn't control it.
A grown women crying in the middle of the public is not a normal sight so you can imagine the looks I was getting. My partner then caught up with me and seeing the state I was in gave me a hug and said we would go home. I asked him to apologise to his friends for me because I was just too embarrassed to face them myself. We went home and it took me another two years to get up the confidence to leave that job.
I'm now pleased to report I work in a new hospital in a brilliant supportive team and since starting there anxiety has not paid me a visit!
WHAT I LEARNT FROM THIS EXPERIENCE:
Sometimes if you are having a really pants anxiety day, it's okay to hide from the world until you feel like you can face it again. That does not make you weak, it means you realise when you need to give yourself a break to build up the strength to get better again.
Sometimes people who don't understand anxiety need to see how badly it's impacting you before they take it seriously. So it's ok to show your emotions.
That not all working environments in Germany are filled with terrible bosses and colleagues!
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