“It’s difficult for people to understand how much work I have had to put into getting myself to a level where I can interact socially.”
I imagine people who have only recently met me see a chirpy and confident person. The truth is I was never like this until early this year. As long as I can remember I have suffered with social anxiety or social phobia if you like. All through childhood my parents thought I was just shy as I would hide behind them whenever they would talk to people whom I didn’t know. Little did they know I was in turmoil inside, in fact I would be petrified. It was so bad as a child that I would not sleep because of worrying about school the next day. I would ruminate about different social scenarios, and this would make me physically sick at times. When my father passed away whilst I was in high school I started to isolate myself as all the pity from teachers and peers made me ill. This led to me never going back to school, as my mum was bed ridden through grief, depression and arthritis she never even noticed until the threat of court action came through. It was when I came to do cognitive behavioral therapy last year that I learned how anxiety has affected my life so far. I knew if I was ever to engage with society I had to get myself to a level where the fear and panic is manageable. I genuinely thought I was agoraphobic at times as the thought of leaving my flat would cause me severe anxiety and panic attacks.
“Even simple tasks like going shopping and using public transport would be terrifying.”
It upsets me to think of all the things I have never done like celebrating my birthday in style. It’s hard to explain how the anxiety works, I suppose if you imagine what it feels like to be on a stage talking about yourself to an audience of people, with all the spotlights aimed at you, and then think how it feels to hear really devastating news such as a death of a family member, that gut wrenching, heart sinking feeling. Before CBT I would be this way most of the time. It was really bad when I lost my mum in 2009, and got worse when my relationship broke down and I became homeless. Not a good year by any means, I was treated for post traumatic stress disorder by my G.P as these events happened in a three month period. He prescribed me with diazepam and zopiclone and I was on them for a further seven years. My behavior would often offend people as I became very disengaged and would never speak or look people in the eye. I hope in time people with similar anxiety issues can talk about their own experiences with anxiety as I now can, as I find it helps me. I will never get rid of my anxiety and depression I know this now, but I have learned and am still learning better ways to cope with it. I no longer use substances and never thought I would be able to deal with life without them. Not having a good family support network led me to believe that I couldn’t. Everyday I expose myself to what were my worst fears, and I constantly test my automatic thoughts and beliefs. Where before I was just existing, I am now taking control of my anxiety and not letting it be responsible for how I think, feel and act. It is not easy by any means, but slowly I’m moving forwards now and acknowledging the progress I have made so far.