My First Work Christmas Party

Let me recount my first work Christmas party experience:

I was eighteen and had been with the company for only a few weeks. Still, at this point, I’d not yet had my first drink (that would come two months later). The year’s preceding had been a largely ‘solo’ affair and my social anxiety was still near its peak.

Parties scared me.

I hadn’t been to many ‘adult’ parties; never any at which alcohol was the prominent feature of the night’s activities. This scared me too. Up until now I’d vowed not to drink. I thought it could be my thing. ‘Paul is the guy who doesn’t drink’. And though I didn’t drink on this particular night, the many thousands of dollars that have since vanished from my bank account after 10pm would attest to this no longer being the case… Oops.

The party was 1920s gangster themed; my costume was prepared with Mum’s help and consultation. Then, at 5:30pm that Friday afternoon, my manager came and picked me up. Together, we drove the 90 minutes to the evening’s venue to begin what was, and perhaps still is, the most uncomfortable night of my life.

I didn’t know anyone and those I did know were already hammered. This side of them I definitely didn’t know. I stood around awkwardly at the back of the room, sipping my lemonade and dissecting my canape, waiting for the moment my lift home was also ready to leave. This could not come quickly enough.

I remember, at one point, talking to a girl. Though she was probably drunk. And my conversation skills left a lot to be desired. Within seconds I was left to wander the room alone again as I searched for something that made me look occupied. But there was little for me to do aside from approach the bar and ask for that first drink; what would likely become the first of many.

I debated the situation at length… Then, sixteen seconds later, I approached the bar. Buuuuut was ten minutes too late. It had closed. Fuck! It was my only escape…

Seven hours later (not really, it was probably only twenty minutes) my lift came and tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was ready to leave. I paused, pretending as if I wanted to stay and enjoy the party some more, before hurriedly following him out.

I cannot describe to you my sense of relief.

– – –

I’ve been to many more work Christmas parties since that first awkward night. And as I have evolved from the socially anxious teenager into the confident young man that I’d like to see myself as today, I have come to enjoy them to a certain degree; though of course not without a bit of help from the ‘Captain’ to loosen the joints…

Tonight, I attend another. My first with this company. Part of me still feels anxious to meet so many new people at once. And yet, when I compare the feelings now to those seven years ago, I realise how much progress has been made.

Anxiety still plays an enormous role in my life; it is something I contend with every day. Sometimes it feels as if it is only getting worse; its daily influence blinds me from seeing the progress I have been steadily making over the past decade. And whilst there are those who encourage the mantra ‘don’t look back’, I find it helpful; helpful to peer back in time to observe the evolution in self; to notice how far I come even if it feels like I still have so far to go.



Reflections: Inside A Day Of Depression

It is late. It is dark. You know that you should try and go to sleep. But you can’t. You just stare at this same spot on the wall. You don’t even realise that you are. You’ve no idea how much time has passed. You just keep staring.

Eventually you wake up. You didn’t even know that you’d fallen asleep. Then, for a moment, surely no longer, everything seems okay. Everything feels better. The anxiety that kept you up last night for so long has subsided and that spot on the wall has lost all of its intrigue. Strange.

But of course this feeling of freedom doesn’t last for very long until you begin to remember all of those worries. All of those stresses. All of those regrets and all of those desires that still seem so far out of reach. If only…

Your heart rate starts to pick up again. The adrenaline floods your body once more. Not least, the sick feeling in your stomach comes back with a vengeance and quickly spirals out of control.

You roll over to one side and clasp your pillow. You press your eye lids together hoping the sandman will sweep you back into the freeing realms of the dreamland you’ve come to love so much. You toss and turn before opening your eyes and realising three hours have passed. How?

Once again that brief moment of calm is short-lived; this process repeating itself for much of the day. But this only makes things worse, of course.

It’s now 2pm. Perhaps later. You need to go to the toilet. It seems the only reason compelling enough to get out of bed. Sure, you are thirsty too, hungry as well, but these desires can wait. Maybe until your housemates have either left or gone to bed? But that remains many hours away.

Begrudgingly you swing your legs to the side of the bed and place your feet on the floor. You’re half way there. With every remaining ounce of energy in your body you stand. Now what?

You look around the room, it’s still dark, though you sense the weather outside is blissful. Not a cloud in the sky. Twenty-five degrees. Surely, a perfect beach day. Would it be helpful to open your blinds and confirm such predictions? Or perhaps this would only reinforce the guilt that now accompanies your day spent in bed?

Ultimately you succumb to the necessity. And as expected it is a sea of blue with a calming breeze to take the bite out of the sun’s loving kiss. You wish you had found the strength those three hours previous to get outside and enjoy such a pristine day. A feeling of regret comes over your body. A feeling of, ‘If only I were stronger’.

You sigh deeply and drag yourself to the bathroom. You hunch over the sink, turn on the tap and sigh once more, only deeper this time. You cup your hands and splash your face with water. As it runs from the tip your nose to the basin below you look up to meet the eyes staring back at you. You stare back and hope that this familiar face reveals to you what it is you must now do.

You wait. For a minute or two. You splash your face again but still no great revelations. You take another deep breath and resign yourself to the need to keep moving. You continue to prepare yourself for a ‘day on the outside’ though today, nothing seems harder.

In what is likely to have been an hour, you are dressed at last and ready to face the world. You grab the essentials – keys, phone, wallet – and walk out in the fresh air. You slip into your car, turn on the ignition and take one final breath; a breath so deep that you feel your back crack and even the smallest of ligaments in your rib-cage stretch out.

You check your mirrors and prepare to pull out. The only question that remains is, ‘Where to now?’