This post has been on my mind to write for a while now, mainly because I recently put a tweet up about feeling so anxious that I drove past a place three times before I plucked up the courage to stop and go in. I didn’t expect such a reaction to that tweet and it proves that I’m not alone in having social anxiety, so I thought I’d write about my experiences.
The social anxiety started for me when I had depression and a general anxiety disorder. I was at such a stage that I didn’t go out much at all, I remember standing in front of the cheese fridge in SuperValu shaking. When I got to the till I would ‘forget’ something so that I didn’t have to stand and wait. I also remember wanting Andy to come out with me, or bringing a notebook so that I could write if I felt very bad.
There were times when I would go to a place and not be able to get out of the car. I’d just take a look at the place or the people and drive home again. Or I’d go very early so that I could ‘settle’ myself before too many people arrived – this was working very well until I went to one event and I was told I was too early and to go away and come back – that triggered a panic attack. There was no rational reason for the panic attack, but anxiety isn’t rational.
When I went for counselling I was told to push myself to go to places. As the years have gone on I’ve found that pushing myself isn’t for me, and that if I do I feel worse. It can vary from day to day, even hour to hour. Sometimes I will give myself a little nudge to get over the invisible force that seems to hold me back. It’s trying to quell the knot in my chest and the skipping heart. It’s also about reading how I feel at any given time.
I’m still learning about the things that trigger me. I still tend to turn up ridiculously early for things and I can get anxious if I’m doing something out of the ordinary. I also get quite anxious if I’m meeting people and they are late, I’m grand if they’ve let me know they’ll be late.
It’s a strange one because I’m sure people who know me probably wouldn’t think I’m anxious at all – well they do now! I’m a firm believer in listening to myself and being a friend to myself (it took me a long time to achieve this). If I’m not in the mood to go somewhere I won’t go, it’s not worth the repercussions, I will end up feeling stressed and drained. Tomorrow is always another day.
I’ve come a long way from where I used to be and I suppose I’ve realised it’s just part of who I am now, and I’m OK with that.