I decided that this will be a first in a series of blogs about my social anxiety. After going to a live show for the first time in a year and a half I thought this would work as a series.
Anxiety comes in different forms depending on the person who is dealing at any given time. I have written on the subject of anxiety before, and I have written a poem on the subject. But, today I want to go in depth of my own struggle: Social Anxiety.
I can trace my social anxiety to my teenage years, and more specifically when I was a freshman in high school. Before high school, I had a decent amount of friends. When high school came around that changed. I had what people call “friends,” but they were always just at school, and I never hung out with these people outside of school. It became an isolation thing that I couldn’t control. A part of me is very introvert, but the other part of it was my social anxiety. There are times that thoughts cross my mind of what could have been if I knew what I know now about anxiety now, but I digress.
As an adult, my social anxiety has only gotten worse. I have people in my life that I consider family, and maybe a few friends, but it’s a very small group of friends. My social anxiety gets so bad at times especially when coupled with depression, that I have gone weeks, months, and even years of not leaving my house. The thoughts that overcome me in social situations have always haunted me and I can never really totally let them go no matter how well I can manage now.
To try and tackle to issue of social anxiety I have tried so many different things that have helped, but most of the time its temporary solutions. Listening and focusing on my breathing when I am in a social situation has been helpful. Also, taking an Ativan right before a major social situation has been effective for me.
When I have met new people, it is almost instantaneous that I start to feel self-conscious about the situation. I can feel the judgments washing over me even when these thoughts are unfounded. I prefer to stay within myself because I’m an introvert. These feelings can make me feel inadequate or embarrassed because I feel that I can’t function in any normal social situation.
At times, I will make plans and then as the event comes closer, I will find any reason to get out of the situation. This happened this very weekend and it is what prompted me to write this blog post so that I can gain some perspective on why my social anxiety does this to me.
So far, I have been having catastrophizing thoughts about the event that will happen tonight (I have had tickets for the Jo Koy comedy show for months at my local theater.) My thoughts have ranged from thinking have a panic attack being in a room full of so many strangers, to what will those people think if I suddenly have a panic attack? Can I enjoy myself when I will immediately feel self-conscious about the situation? Will I have enough Ativan given the situation is so many strangers? And ultimately can I enjoy myself?
It’s a lot to think about, as my social anxiety always does this to me. I know at some level these thoughts are worst-case scenarios and I will most likely enjoy a much-needed night out. I have worked so hard just to get out of my house for a couple hours a day lately, but it’s always in places that are safe like coffee shops. It worries me to be in a packed theater with so many people. The last time I went to a movie theater was well over a year ago, and I barely made it through the movie.
It will be a challenge for me, but I think that it will be important to see this event through to the end no matter the thoughts. I have canceled on so many plans recently I need to stick with it this time. How will I go about this? I can use my breathing techniques before the show starts and in the beginning, I can use what I have learned so far in CBT to change my thoughts and to analyze these thoughts that I can find the meaning being, and have my Ativan and water on me always because for me those two things make me feel better.
I would love to hear your take on social anxiety and anxiety in general. Are there tips that you use to get through something like this?
Photo Credit Joshua Earle