This blog post, from Anxiety Adventures stood out to me today, from all the blogs I have read this morning. It is a very tricky issue seemingly for many of us with social anxiety.
I don’t particularly remember any of my parents avoiding using either mine, or my sibling’s names, if they did, I can’t remember that, I seem to remember both using our names several times. Although as I said in one of those links, mum does seem to have problems addressing people by name outside of the family.
As I was thinking of how to put together this post, I could feel my anxiety building, as I was thinking of examples to give, of how the use of names can be terrifying in some cases. Which may sound silly to some people, but it is genuinely scarey for some of us to use names, or when we hear, or even, sometimes, read our own names.
I don’t remember this being an issue at primary school, which may have more to do with memory than anything else, but it was certainly something I remember being an issue on several occasions in secondary school.
The most vivid example I can think of, related to this in secondary school was when the class teachers were taking the register. I had worked out early on where I was in the register, and tried to mentally prepare myself for when my name was going to be called out, I remember the feeling of anxiety very well, the absolute dread of my name being called, then having to reply with “yes sir”, or “yes miss”. And after that felt even worse in a way because I felt everyone was looking at me when I replied. I didn’t want anyone looking at me, I didn’t even want people to use my name. I remember feeling my heart pounding really quickly after i’d replied and glancing round quickly to see where everyone was looking. Hoping no one was looking at me.
Another vivid memory I have was when nicknames were being used. In general I wasn’t using people’s names anyway by secondary school. So I was certainly not going to be using nicknames! They were way to personal, and stepped over a line into a sort of familiarity I was not comfortable with.
My nickname people used was a variation on my last name, it wasn’t bad, wasn’t anything really, but just as when people used my real name, when people used my nickname I felt startled, and my heart pumping.
These days, when I have to go out I feel similar when anyone shouts out my name, or I should say shouts out for people with the same first name as myself. I always look around, even when I don’t recognise their voice. My heart beats faster and I feel tense and panicky.
Even if I walk past someone who uses that first name in conversation, it startles me. I automatically think they are talking about me, even though during rational times I understand they probably aren’t, and there are lots of people with the same first name as myself. Still at those moments, my mind doesn’t want to be rational, it wants to create some meaning from the bits and pieces it has overheard. The mind tries to fill in the gaps, creating even more panic.
The trigger for this issue does seem to have been secondary school, from what I can remember, it was the first time I can remember feeling that way about the use of names. I also remember feeling similar in my first job, when the receptionist at that place used to occasionally call my name over the tannoy system, if I was in the middle of doing something, it shocked me. When my boss shouted for me I felt similar. I also hated using people’s names in places that I worked, several times there would be misunderstandings because people didn’t know who I was talking to.
I think in my own case, this seems to have been triggered by the bullying starting from secondary school, and made worse by my first bosses bullying after leaving school.
There are all sorts of interlinked issues with this, of identity, familiarity, embarrassment, etc…. which the Anxiety Adventures blog post states very well. There is paranoia attached in my case also, and heightened suspiciousness, and alertness stemming from this.
It is certainly an issue.