Last week I let you in a little bit with food. This week I want to talk about social anxiety and how common it is, yet it still is tricky to talk about.
I kind of never wanted to talk about it, but I find that sharing helps others share with me and get help. I recognised that I truly had a nuisance with anxiety in 2016, albeit when we backtracked it, it was more like circa 2008. Last year I had an episode that still makes me cringe at for happening, in a car park…during the rain…going to a festive event…filled with nice people (more or less). I had a panic attack. I had recently heard of and read about them, so when I lost control in my car I quickly figured out what my body was doing. It took nearly 30 minutes to come back to myself and straighten up before I could put on my game face for a few hours. I don’t recall telling anyone about it until my pretty awesome CBT therapist.
Social anxiety said by a professional
People with social anxiety disorder fear and avoid the scrutiny of others. The concern in such situations is that the individual will say or do something that will result in embarrassment or humiliation. These concerns can be so pronounced that
the individual shuns most interpersonal encounters, or endures such situations only with intense discomfort. Stein, 2008.
I first lightly talked about it around Christmas 2016 and a few people were shocked since I always seem like an extroverted introvert-which I’m not. I then posted it online, which got more friends talking to me about their own situations. At first, I thought there were way too many appearingly normal people that find this phobia (which it’s sometimes called) difficult to deal with. Then I thanked them for sharing with me because it’s not easy to message someone about your insecurities, nor is it easy to publicly say it online within your blocked friendship circles (my profile is private, you can’t find me). I think that week is when I realised how big yet quiet this thing was. I couldn’t pray it out, I couldn’t cry it out, nothing was happening and it took several turns in 2017.
There are many articles online and personal stories of others that discuss the symptoms and treatments, so I’m just going to talk about my experience in short that led me to go for therapy.
I had done a lot of spiritual soul searching, I stopped talking when I got home (as an English language teacher that’s weird), I told my boss about not fitting in and not talking, I didn’t want to call people or maintain friendships, my relationship was prety much non-existent at this point so there was no “partner in crime” to push me, I tried making friends but in those groups it stressed me out and caused me to think worryingly about myself, I went to other places alone and turned away from crowds, hanging out with all of my colleagues was a dread and more. I was in an isolated place where I isolated myself more and heard my thoughts too loudly. When I moved back to England the same happened, with a few more panic attacks at night, argument avoidance, the portrayal of happiness on social media but crying about being physically alone in rooms of people, withdrawing myself discreetly from church groups, avoiding loved ones, hurting myself for feeling bad about disappearing to make myself better and more.
This was my reality and I got fed up because I knew I had to do more with my life. I made some calls, got connections and ended up talking to an Asian man that’s a therapist in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and it’s helped ever since the 4th session. We talk about some hurtful stuff, some challenges we set for me to do and review at our next appointment, plus my feelings and walk through different examples of instances and how they could reworked. It was the best decision I made, even though what pushed me to it was terrible.
I always want to get better. Therapy was one step in sifting through thoughts and helping me in specific social contexts where I fail and internally scream at and sometimes physically shake. It was a good step for me and I would love more people to find it within themselves to seek positive help. I love God but therapy was needed at this point. I pushed myself to it for my own reasons, I don’t judge those who do it or don’t because we’re all unique out here.
Final words on this, to never be spoken of again until I finalise top lessons learnt from therapy. FRIENDS:
- be a friend and shut up.
- don’t formulise a long piece of wording and paragraphs when they talk
- don’t be the church person who says just pray about it, because if we’ve been in church our life then trust me we have mentioned it to God and for whatever His reasoning is we still be struggling with it!
- ask how you can help them presently and in the future
- when you’re out and about, don’t bring it up unless they do
- if you’re that close, then find out when they initially tell you how you can best support them in the contexts they struggle with most (don’t word it like that though and make mental notes of their answer)
- we ain’t diseased. Still invite us out even if we say no. Don’t expect much, since you highly likely know it’ll be a NO.
- if we come to you, keep it between us two.
Sharing struggles ain’t easy. Social anxiety can be crippling. I have another story that in short had me shaking and crying one night because I couldn’t confront someone. My real life friends reading this will be floored to know that. But I’m very context specific, only a handful of people I cannot confront and they don’t include my parents. The heating is also on and it’s making me drowsy, so good night and sleep well my dears!