I don’t know which came first, me being socially awkward or the social anxiety. I have an early memory, I was maybe 6 or 7 and the girls in the class wouldn’t let me join in their game. It was a stupid role play type game called Tilly. I remember it in great detail. I had to be the Teddy bear that sat in the corner. I wasn’t allowed to be anything else. So I just used to sit there. Day after day. Eventually I had enough of that and learned that playing football and bulldogs with the boys was more fun anyway. I’ve always found boys easier company (except dating but we will get on to that in a bit).
When I was about 5 I think it was I remember going for a wee in the school toilets. A couple of girls who were in there made fun of me because I was loud peeing. I very rarely if ever passed water in a school break time again. I’d always go during the lessons. This affected me well into adulthood. In fact I still can’t always wee easily in a public toilet. How insane is that?!
I also clearly remember the first time I blushed. I was in year 4 of primary school. We were painting something. I leaned over to get the water pot to rinse my brush and I gave an almighty ripping fart! Well of course everyone laughed and made fun but from that day on blushing became the bane of my life.
Speaking in front of a group still remains one of my worst things to do in life as far as my anxiety is concerned but when I was younger it completely killed me. I would look at other classmates and wonder how they did it. How can they just stand there and talk like everything is ok in the world, and of course it was for them. But for me I wished for the ground to open up and swallow me whole. I still do. I have learned somewhat to become an actress when i have to do it. Pretend in my mind I am someone else. Later on job interviews have always been really tough for me too.
Then I came to the age that I could drink alcohol. I found that it filled me with a confidence. I was another person then. Someone everyone liked and had no worries. The problem with that is that you can’t stay continually drunk and the day after a session I would feel more anxious than ever. I never ever drank every day but I would binge drink a lot on the weekends. Feeling like a Queen but the next day feeling hideously anxious and barely able to leave the house some times.
Dating was a disaster. I absolutely hated dating. In fact I lost count of how many dates I sabotaged subconsciously so I didn’t have to go on another date. Some people called me fussy but I honestly couldn’t take the pressure of dating, wondering if someone liked me, trying to be what I thought they would like. Constantly second guessing what would happen. Replaying conversations in my mind. If I thought I had said something wrong I would obsess over it for hours and sometimes days or weeks. I just wanted to skip that whole awkward getting to know each other phase and get to the being comfortable with each other part but I just couldn’t tolerate that beginning bit. Rather than get ditched because obviously who would want to be with someone like me I got in there first and sacked them.
I had a couple of really bad relationships. One was abusive and another was with a narcissist. Through this I felt like my personality got chip chipped away at and by the age of 31 I was getting serious episodes of depression and anxiety. I had regular panic attacks but you wouldn’t have guessed. I’ve always been really good at hiding that part of myself from others.
So what does it feel like? It can be all consuming. If I have to give a presentation in work I will worry about it until I have to do it. When I’m giving it I often stutter and can feel myself perspiring. My chest feels tight and my heart is beating in my throat. I feel sick and not just a little bit. I have a feeling of impending doom. It’s so ridiculous I know. Afterwards I will replay the whole thing in my mind berating myself for anything I may have done wrong. That’s the worst thing I have to deal with.
For years I avoided supermarket shopping by getting home delivery. In fact the only reason I don’t do that anymore is because I can’t afford it. I actually hate shopping. I’d rather pull my fingernails off. Really. I think I may be an empath because when I am around too many people I find it overwhelming but that’s a separate post I think
The very worst time for me was following the birth of my second son. I thought I knew what depression and anxiety was. Wrong. I’d had a pretty good taster to be honest but this was a whole other level of madness. BUT through this horrible dark period I did get to have a course of Cognitive behavioural therapy. I can honestly say it has really helped. I still don’t like giving presentations, meeting new people, going to meetings where I don’t know people very well and shopping but I have learned some techniques to manage the anxiety somewhat. I’ll share them below.
First what I call emergency tools
- Carry extra strong mint gum. When you feel the anxiety coming on pop one in. Sometimes the stron flavour can shock you back.
- Carry a crystal or smooth stone in your pocket. When you feel the anxiety coming hold it, squeeze it, feel it. It can be quite soothing some how.
- Look around you for blue objects. Blue is a soothing and calming. It’s a distraction technique.
- Look for 5 things to bring yourself back to your senses. Something you can see, hear, taste, smell, touch. Repeat as needed. It’s grounding.
Longer term strategies
- Learn about automatic thinking.
- Treat your worries like a court case. Look for the evidence. If there no evidence of what you are anxious about then why worry.
- Follow the steps on the worry tree.
- Schedule ‘worry time’ if there is something you know you are going to worry about only try not to allow yourself to obsess over it.
- Find a good balance in your life of acheivement tasks and ones that ar enjoyable. I find keeping a schedule helps me. Planners are really handy for this too.
I know I don’t seem like a person who has social anxiety but talking to a huge group of people through a keyboard isn’t so scary for me as say talking to 6 unfamiliar people in real life. I have a blogging event to attend on Sunday and I already feel sick and nervous and don’t want to go. I will use all my tools to get me there.
I hope this post has given you some insight about how I am affected by social anxiety. If it’s something that affects you and you would like to chat feel free to message me on my Instagram page. I hope you will find some of my tools useful.
- Don’t forget to let me know in the comments what things help you.
Love and peace xxx