How Social Anxiety Is Changing My Life

One of the biggest themes of 2017 in my life is my social anxiety and how it has changed my life. It is my “great unknown” in my life, and I have trouble figuring out my anxiety triggers because they are so vast. I feel like I am in a fog with my anxiety.

I have tried to face my anxiety throughout the year, and it hasn’t really gone great at times. Even now I am struggling with the reality that I may have to limit the number of times I leave my house on any given day.

I wanted to reflect on 2017 and to try and see how my social anxiety has changed my life, and if possible identify some of the thoughts and behaviors associated with my social anxiety. That is after all one of the points of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

I was thinking today when was the last time that I saw a movie in the theaters? It took me a while. It was Star Wars Episode Seven, which came out in December of 2015. Then I got kinda depressed. I love watching movies but one of my biggest fears is having a panic attack in the middle of a packed theater.

My social anxiety started reaching new levels that I stopped watching movies in the movie theater because it is too hard to be around people in the dark for the length of a movie. I remember the last movie I saw having to take a couple Ativan during the movie just to survive. I am not sure if I consciously made the decision to stop seeing movies, or if it just started to happen.

I just know I kept saying no to invites to go see a movie with​ my friends and family stopped asking me to go.

I have tried in the past to go out and do things outside my comfort zone, but its never something I was good at doing. Last month I went to a live comedy show that featured Jo Koy and while I had a good time, I spent half of the time in total panic. It took several Ativan to get through that show. That has been a theme of late taking Ativan to get through a panic attack. I remember losing control and feeling outside my body. I laughed when I could but I was in real pain most of the night.

It was a relief to finally find myself home that night.

So what happens that causes my anxiety in this type of situation? It starts out before I actually leave my house. I start to think about all the bad times that I have let my anxiety take control of me in social situations and how I lost control. It’s always a real thing in my mind. Those were some of the worst experiences in my life and anxiety mixing with a panic attack is the worst. I lose myself and getting back in control in public, well it’s almost impossible at times.

CBT has taught me to change my thoughts and behaviors by analyzing what is causing my thoughts and find ways in the moment to change the thoughts to positive ones. I come up with an alternate thought that center around if the thought that is causing me anxiety could actually happen.

It was working for me during the summer and into late fall. I was able to leave my house almost every day and go places. I still avoided going to the theater or places that felt wrong, but I could leave my hours for a few hours and my night time anxiety was almost non-existent . Then the winter time hit, my depression began to take over, and my anxiety was not far behind. It seems to be a theme this winter.

I used to think my seasonal element of my diagnosis of Bipolar One was limited to depression but I have noticed a pattern of anxiety as well.

Lately , I go to my favorite coffee shop to study and write but my time is limited to 3-4 hours before my anxiety kicks in. I usually end up leaving which makes me sad. I feel its the safest place for me besides in my own home, but that is far from healthy behavior. One of the things I want to work on before the end of the year is in those moments where I can’t take being in public any longer, I turn to CBT to try and change those thoughts.

Its the worst feeling when my anxiety thoughts take over my body. I feel outside myself in those situations. My mind races and I feel an endless cycle of not being able to catch my breath. I can’t sit still and yet I want nothing but to be laying down. As my panic rises my thoughts consume my every second. It feels never ending and in that moment I feel as if I could die.

That never happens, I am still here writing this blog, but you can’t tell me that I am not going to die, I wouldn’t believe it. Not in that moment. I have freaked out my family a lot this week with my panic attacks.

Social anxiety has changed me a lot. I go to less places because of my fears, and I know there is room to work on it. But, I am also not the most social person. I have talked about being an introvert a few times on my blog, and I feel the most comfortable in my own skin in the places where I have spent the most time writing. It is no wonder that I have less of a chance of a panic attack at home or my favorite coffee shop.

But I need to question that thought, is it valid?

Have years of believing that feeling great alone is a good thing? It is something to ponder because if I think about it, I have created a life for myself where I feel the best alone, and yet most of my worst panic attacks happen when I am alone. I doubt I would have ever realized this without my blog.

That is where I am at. I will most likely take this blog into my memoir The Bipolar Writer and expand and analyze this topic more in hopes to better understand who I am as person.

Anxiety has really controlled me this year, but I can fight this once and for all.

Always keep fighting.

J.E. Skye

If You Can, Please Support My Blog

The Bipolar Writer and this blog will be going through some major changes over the next couple of months. I am looking to expand what this blog does on a daily basis. I am asking for any donations from my fellow bloggers to pay for equipment (a laptop) to help with the issues with my current computer. Great things are coming and any little bit helps. Have a happy holiday season and a merry Christmas.

$1.00

Photo Credit: Matt Benson

 

30 Replies to “How Social Anxiety Is Changing My Life”

  1. So sorry to hear your anxiety’s been getting worse. 😦 I battle anxiety too, and it does seem to have gotten worse lately. Wonder if it’s a seasonal thing for me, too. Anyway, thanks for sharing – it takes guts to share struggles like this. Keep writing and keep hanging in there! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is one of the first times that I have actually wrote about and started to look back on other years especially last year. It’s an interesting thing to think about because anxiety is always tougher in the winter time. Thank you for your kind words Kate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi there, Have you ever looked into group therapy for social anxiety? I attended one every week for the last two years, and it has made a difference.
    You may want to check out what I’ve been writing this week. All about mindfulness, and different techniques. I’m just trying to give you ideas of how to talk yourself off the ledge so to speak.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Has CBT been worth the time and effort? I feel like it could be helpful for my own social anxiety, but I am nervous about committing to it and having to do “homework” that makes me socially uncomfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CBT did help. A lot. It made life easier that is for sure. But you have to stick with it. My problem is when my anxiety gets bad, I forgot everything I have learned in my CBT journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey James. Sorry to hear you going through this. My panic attacks are much more subdued, so I haven’t been through this same level of anxiety. But what happened to me through one at a grocery store trip was that I kept looking for “helpers”. I mean, yeah, there are all of those things you are supposed to do during a panic attack, but damn, can I think of it when the panic is already there? Nope, too little training on my part, been on this for about a year only. So for whatever reason I kept looking at people while picking up my items and getting the hell out. I kept looking, and thinking: “would that person help me, if I fell down to the floor?”. Everyone in my imagination would. And no I would not tell them I am having a panic attack, I’d say I had chest pain, and I imagined how they’d take me to the ER, and I’d be OK. It made me look at people and try to imagine the best in them, how even the rugged and grumpy looking would put down their baskets and try to call for help. So this is my thing when it happens and I can’t think of the real useful thoughts… I think of something that falls into context more easily, and if I can’t take it, I will go down if I have to, and I will take my chances on letting myself be helped.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this, and I can relate to your story. It’s so hard to control yourself in the panic attack. I hate because I am very much the type of person who needs to be in control. Your story makes feel better. I have a doctors appointment tomorrow and I am looking into other ways to combat my anxiety. Thank you again for sharing a piece of your own experience with me.

      Like

  5. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Thank you for opening up to us and letting us inside the vulnerable part of your heart/mind.
    You are beyond strong. I don’t know you, but I believe in you.
    Best wishes, always.
    -Bianca

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great article, I did CBT one-on-one with a clinical Psychologist and found I understood the theory perfectly. Sometimes it’s hard to implement though. I also found ACT very beneficial as most of the time when I feel depressed, anxious or panicked there is no reason.
    Good luck – following!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very hard to implement and you have to stay on top of it almost daily. But the mindfulness breathing has been really good to me, so I am hopeful that I can get back on track with my anxiety.

      Like

  7. Sounds like you’re working hard to tackle your own social anxieties, and it’s a good thing that you’re noticing these triggers that you’re experiencing, because being in touch with the self, is the first step to solving any mental illness that we’re diagnosed with, and just keep on working on it little by little every day, and if on days you feel like you can’t change a thing, that’s okay, because by going from day to day, you’re already, achieving a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing and for your kind words of encouragement. I think that is where I fail when it comes to anxiety. On the days where I can’t change what is happening to me I lost hope in the whole process.

      Like

  8. This is a great post. I have been dealing with social anxiety all week and I don’t know how to fix it, and it takes all my energy to get out of the house and to work (which is why I have taken 3 days off this week). It’s a very hard time of year, especially with the pressures we get from others, who do not understand what we battle everyday, is almost paralyzing. I create what I “think will be” in my head before I even get into the office. I worry about what others think of me. I know it’s all crazy talk in my head, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I feel your pain. I am with you on your journey. I hope we can all find an answer – or at least gentleness and kindness – as we move through this. Stay as strong as you can, and know we all love what you have to say…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey. It’s never easy is it? Hopefully you get your social anxiety under control and you find ways to be a part of society. I am working on a few things in my own life right now and if they work, I will be sure to share them with my blog followers.

      Like

  9. Anxiety is really tough. It’s something that, when it’s really bad, feels like it’s controlling my life. I had a bad day today. I’ve been trying to get a blood test to see what’s going on with my physical health deteriorating so fast and two pathologists have now screwed up so I haven’t been able to have it. It means that I’ve been off my meds for a few days and it feels like I’m going mad, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you with the Atvian. It sounds so difficult, and I’m so proud of you for continuing to function at all, as I am barely functioning at the moment.

    In terms of movies, in particular, I was very much an introvert in mid-high school. I really struggled with my interactions with others my own age due to some very bad cases of bullying which caused me to move school, and which ended up causing me to move school again. I was an easy kid to pick on. One of my main coping mechanisms would to be to go somewhere that nobody else knew me by myself. I would tell myself it didn’t matter if I was sick or if I stuttered when I talked because I would never encounter those same people again. The place I went to most often was a cinema. Maybe that is a technique that is worth a try? Wait until you have energy though. I’m not sure if you are like me, but it always takes me at least 24 hours to recover from severe panic attacks and start having energy to do stuff again. My thoughts, as always, are with you. Thank you for continuing to have the strength to share your journey with us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It means the world to me the more I get to know you as a friend. When he time comes to start writing others like you and I on my blog I would like you to be one of the first I interview. Thank you for always being there for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful and tragic all at once James. But the fact that you keep pressing, refusing to let your anxiety win, that is amazing and proof of you yourself. Sending you good vibes xo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. When I stopped using drugs, specifically meth, I became extremely anxious and got to the point that I could not leave the house or go outside, even to the mailbox. This extreme reaction lasted for months. My mother, a very smart woman talked me into taking small steps to get me out of the house and gradually she asked me to go further. Eventually, I was able to apply for a job and pass the interview and get hired. I think that anxiety is just a form of fear. It looks like you are determined to overcome. I’m sure that you will be successful. Praying for that for you. Don’t give up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this amazing story with me. Your story gives me hope because you got through some of the worst parts of your life and made it through. I am working on getting through my own anxiety on the other side.

      Like

  12. I totally understand. I went through a period of this last year. I would get into my car to go somewhere (grocery store, doctor, church, a family function) and by the time I reached the end of my driveway (1/4 mile long) my fear would feel overwhelming to me. By the time I reached the end of the road (2 1/2 miles from my house) I wouldn’t be able to breathe, shaking that felt like my insides were coming out of my body, physically sick, and crying so hard that it was impossible to drive any further. I’d have to turn around and come home.

    I understand where you are coming from. I still have issues like this at times. In the last year I’ve labeled myself as a “home body”. Home is my comfort zone. I got to the point that I decided I had to tackle this. I would make the trip to the end of the road for several days and come home. Then I ventured out to the closest store for a few times. Then a little further away. If I made it all the way, great. If I didn’t, tomorrow was another day. It’s ok to push yourself a little outside of your comfort zone, but don’t make yourself completely miserable either. Talk with your mental health support team – they should have advice to help you as well. (I did that also. He made me list the things I feared most when being away from home. And then we worked to tackle each of those to know that they were irrational fears.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I have done that as well, I get a mile or two from home and then turn around because my panic has risen to a high level.

      I like the approach a little at a time. I sorta all or nothing type person but it wouldn’t hurt to change my approach a little.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m kinda the same. I think that’s why I picked points that were a specific place I had to go to. It’s not easy and I still struggle with it at times. But just gotta keep trying. (Oh and by the way I think the last time I went to a movie was in July 2007 – in a theater in Mexico and only because they had air conditioning)

        Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s lovely James, how you pour yourself out in this post. Yet so painful to hear what you struggle with. Anxiety is something I know far to well myself, and I’m glad to hear you are getting he help you need. Your strength shines through in your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since writing this piece I have done things in the right direction. Adjustments on meds. Meditation more in the morning and night. I am even looking into a service dog for anxiety. It helps to share my life here on my blog.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s