I have social and anxiety and avoidance.
This is something only close family know about me, but with more and more positive coverage on mental health I feel its something worth writing about.
There are many many ways social anxiety affects people who have it, some people can live relatively normal lives, something which I have been lucky enough to be able to do. Others can find it very debilitating and life limiting and in all honesty I have been through phases where I have been practically house bound as a result of the condition.
All I can do is talk about how it has effected and effects me personally and what I do to over come some of the more challenging aspects and hope that someone else may find comfort in the fact they are not alone and you can in fact lead a happy and content life despite the difficulties social anxiety imposes.
Social anxiety is something I have had since I can remember. How its affects me everyday is the constant replaying of situations or what I might say in my head. Take for example this very post. From the minute I decided to write it I have gone over what I might write about repeatedly. It’s like when you get a song stuck in your head that you can’t shift and it drives you bonkers. This is my every day. Anything where I have to interact in a way where I, in my head, may not be perceived in the way I hope (which lets face it is everything) will play over and over and over in my head countless times continuously. It drives me mad, but you simply can’t make it stop.
Socially I am absolutely fine with people I know well. People I don’t know well or strangers its a very different story.
When my son was born I was living in Scotland, 400 miles away from my family, no one close by for support other than my partner who worked 6 days a week. I did have friends but they all had their jobs and own families. The very thought of arranging something with them makes me feel embarrassed, like a burden or inconvenience to them even though I know logically this isn’t the case. Anyway I decided to push myself for the sake of my son and I went to a mother and toddler group. Something for most people would be a bit nerve wracking at first but not particularly difficult. Once I decided to go I played the route there, and walking in over and over and over for a week continuously. When I got there I sat outside for 10 minutes trying to pluck up the courage to walk in, when one of the other mums going in said ‘hi, are you coming in?’ at that point I had to. So in I went. With social anxiety I CAN NOT start a conversion with anyone I don’t know. I just cant. I sit there looking around trying not to make eye contact but smiling if I accidentally do. In my head I am screaming at myself to say hello to the lady sitting next to me, to ask her how old her baby is, in my head I am desperate to start that conversation, to look normal, to look confident. I physically can not make the words come out. On the odd occasion I can get the words out I am so quiet that no one hears me and my attempt goes unnoticed and I feel like a total idiot.
Then I get home and replay everything in my head over and over feeling like an idiot because I find it impossible to talk to people. It’s not all that bad as I can actually talk to people provided they approach me and start the conversation because at that point I can’t be rude and generally I am answering some sort of question. To be honest it’s often a relief at the time because they gave me the opportunity to not look like the weirdo sat in the corner not talking to anyone.
I don’t like unplanned visitors, I don’t like making phone calls to anyone I don’t know. I will never return and item even if it is faulty in case they don’t believe me, and I will never seek professional help because I feel stupid, what could they do anyway? They probably just think I am being silly and should just get on with it. I know that’s the SA talking but that’s what SA is, that’s how it makes you feel about everything.
After a particularly unpleasant experience almost a year ago, it got so bad that I stopped going to all groups, I didn’t leave the house unless I had an appointment or need to go to the shop. That’s the avoidance part, I avoided any situation that wasn’t absolutely necessary through fear. Fear of contact with people and looking like an idiot. This went on for 4 months, then we moved.
I have however been very lucky, I have been able to work and until I had children I worked full time generally in management. I have good friends that I made when I moved to Scotland (that’s a story for another time). I still don’t go to baby toddler groups and I am thankful that since I moved closer to my family I don’t have to because my children can socialise with their cousins. It takes away the guilt and relieves the pressure.
There are 3 things that help me in my every day:-
- Breathing. Simple enough yes, but I mean deep breathing a technique I learned from hypno-birthing (again a story for another day).
- Take the Risk. Just saying this at key moments to push myself that little bit more and it nearly always pays off.
- Crochet. Doing something with my hands (I’m a fidget) and mind is a wonderful distraction and probably one of the only things that can quite my thoughts for any period of time (apart from my children that is, but they go to bed at 7). Anything creative that requires attention to detail I find very therapeutic.
For bigger occasions when I find it very difficult I find Rescue Remedy to be very helpful, it calms me and helps me process things easier.
I am not sure if this will help anyone, at the very least I hope it raises awareness and highlights the fact that just because you can see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
I hope it does and that’s why I wrote about it (another thing I do, over justify and explain everything I do repeatedly, feeling I am constantly being judged). It is a complicated condition that is different for every individual who has it. To those that know me well you may not even be aware its an issue, I am one of the lucky ones.