Being alone. Some fear it. I love it.
If I was the last person on Earth, I think I would do pretty well. No, I don't really have any knowledge on end of the world survival, but I do have one "skill" that would be in my favor. I am really good at being alone.
So, I'm in college now. Many people may not agree or believe it, but college can be a great place for people who love being alone. If I wanted to, I could probably go the whole year without making friends....but don't worry, I won't.
First, I feel like I am being pressured to make friends by my parents and friends. Second, I know I will be judged and be thought of as freak if I didn't try to make connections. The other day, my sister asked me if I had any friends, and even though I technically didn't lie because I think I have friends here, I may have acted a little too confident- "Oh yaa, I have friends. I mean it's a small group but ya they're really nice...". It didn't bother me at the time.
Sometimes I hate being alone. I was on the phone with my best friend yesterday and she asked me again about my friends. I told her the same thing that I told my sister. "I have a small group of nice friends". Didn't bother me. Then our conversation was suddenly cut short. She had to go. Her roommate just walked in and something hilarious just happened. She's too busy with her new life, so she has to go. I hung up the phone and felt so alone and so isolated.
If I like being alone so much, then why do I feel guilty when my roommate comes back from her friends' place at 2 am? Why do I cringe when my friend asks what I have planned this weekend? (Netflix and enjoying my own company). I thought loved it. My favorite part of the week used to be when I knew I could sit in my room, watch tv, and not have to talk to anyone. But now it feels a lot more lonely than it used to.
These are my answers to the survey I posted yesterday. I'm trying to use this project I have in English to help me with my anxiety. Please help me by filling out a survey.
1. Are you shy?
2. Do you have social anxiety?
3. Are you mute?
4. How long have you been mute, shy, or had social anxiety?
I've had social anxiety all my life.
5. Do you think your shyness, mutism, or social anxiety is a problem?
yes, it prevents me from doing things I want to do.
6. If you think it is a problem, are you doing anything to fix it, such as seeing a therapist?
yes, I have been seeing a therapist for 1 year now and I am also taking anti-anxiety pills (prozac)
7. Do you know why you are mute, shy, or have social anxiety? If so, please list the reasons you think make you shy, mute, or have social anxiety.
I do not know why I have social anxiety. I have been like this all my life and this is all I know.
So, I somehow convinced myself that this was going to be a good idea. Everyone reassured me that it was a fine idea when I explained it, so I felt okay about it. Here is a graphic representation of what I envisioned along with a poem that inspired me.
The idea was that I would buy a balloon and give it away. This is how I saw it. A great time, framed by this whimsical poem of spring. I imagined that I would be a little awkward like Cummings' balloon man, but I would make people happy. That's not quite how it went.
First, I went to the party store. I picked out a big monkey balloon. A big monkey balloon. I tied it to a hair band around my wrist. I drove to a store I was not accustomed to. I felt lost as I wandered through the isles looking for someone to give the balloon to.
I felt like people were staring at me because I was carrying a giant monkey balloon. They were. I knew I should look them in the eye and smile. I think they were grinning at me. But I started feeling self conscious. Where was my inner extrovert when I needed it?! "Square your back, chin up, don't look at the floor," I told myself. And just then I saw a mom with a toddler.
I approached my "prey." I asked the mother if she wanted a balloon. Her eyes widened. She looked flustered. I freaked out."Oh, no. Oh, no. What does she think is wrong with me? Oh, no. Oh crap," Uncertainty crept through my spine like seeping, black, fog. That made her feel even less sure. As I drew the balloon toward her, she tensed. Okay, this was stupid. "Well," I said, "he's probably too young"
"Yeah, too young... I was going to say," she responded. I walked off. AGH! Why did I decide to walk around Walmart with a giant monkey balloon? Could I please explain that to myself again? How did this seem like a great idea? I felt like a big, stupid, clown. It was as if the monkey was screaming, "Idiot! Idiot!Idiot!"
I hid in the toy isles and pretended to look at some Batman action figures. I felt a burning in the back of my eyes. Was I going to cry? "Dear Heavenly Father," I prayed, "Please do not let me cry in Walmart while holding a monkey balloon."
I emerged into a clearing of children's clothes. I passed some people who stared at monkey and me. I felt ashamed. I had to get rid of this horrible, smiling, banana munching anathema of evil. A girl of perhaps three or four and her mother were picking out clothes. They had their backs to me. Great, now I had to get their attention.
"Um," I stammered, "excuse me." They turned around. "Um, I was buying balloons for a friend" a partial lie, only a partial lie, "and I had this extra balloon" that was true, "and I'm trying to give it away." She looked slightly confused. "So, um, do you want it?"
Ahh! This awkwardness surpassed Napoleon Dynamite! "Sure," she said politely. Turning to her daughter, "It's your birthday next week anyway, isn't it?"
The little girl happened to be wearing a monkey hat. "It matches your hat," I said. She smiled as I transferred the burden from my wrist to hers. I felt like Frodo finally dropping the ring into the volcano. I turned to go. "Thank you!" the mom said.
When I got to my car, I felt like the most giant loser on the planet. What had I been thinking? "Stupid,stupid, stupid!" I told myself. I suppose, in feeling these things, I was doing what my therapist, Dr. Headman, tells me I often do. I was figuratively sticking an ice pick into my leg and twisting it all around. I didn't actually do anything wrong. In a sense, it happened a bit like I had imagined, but with minor set backs that I blew out of proportion. I gave a little girl, who obviously loved monkeys, a giant monkey balloon a week before her birthday. 'nough said.
Sometimes, people think that shy people are snobs and that's why they don't interact more. A cool, quirky girl wrote a blog entry that discusses how this is usually not true.
In the case of people with anxiety, it's not that they don't like people or don't want to have positive interactions with them. It's not that they don't want to make friends. It's that it's hard for them. They may feel foolish, as if they're carrying around a giant monkey balloon and are inevitably going to elicit rejection.
Until my next awkward adventure,
Namaste (bye in Napalese)
"Too many of us are not living our dreams, because we are too busy living our fears." Les Brown
Recently, I started blogging about my social anxiety disorder. I also started posting some original songs online.
My original thought - YIKES!
As someone who has suffered from severe social anxiety disorder since the age of 10, the idea of blogging about it seemed like an interesting dillemma. Yes - I would love to get my story out there, if only because I myself would have gained a lot from reading it when I was younger. But No - I can't put myself out there, everyone will judge me, and who am I to think that anyone will care, people will just think I'm full of it and be annoyed.
At the end of the day, probably very few people will even know that it's out there. Yes, a lot of my friends have been suddenly enlightened to the fact that this disorder even exists, but on the upside, they now understand why I usually have an excuse not to go to their parties, and maybe, just maybe one or two of them have recognised the same traits in themselves and may look at others in a new light.
I am a singer, and I love to sing and write music, but until this past month, I have NEVER let anyone hear what I write, let alone put it online for all to access. I guess though, that I've come to a point where I've managed to conquer the worst of the social part of my anxiety (through years of intensive CBT sessions), and am now using blogging as a tool to keep myself moving forward, to chase my dreams and to actually do things that make me happy, and (try) not to care what anyone else thinks. After all, we all have hobbies and weird things that make us happy, so why should I have to keep mine hidden when everyone else is out there doing what they do?
I'm certainly not saying that I intend to be famous - I actually dread that - I think I dread success from my music (and now the little voice in my head is saying - "you narcissistic arrogant girl to even be contemplating such an outcome).
So my blogs on this fabulous site, will be about how I'm coping on my journey to finally achieve my dreams in spite of anxiety and panic.
Would love to have feedback on wether anyone else out there is getting anything postive from what I write, but at the same time, that's not the reason I'm doing this.
Sweat trickling down, chest discomfort and heart pounding – anxiety is a very real thing. Of the many things I have learned through anxiety, it is this that strikes me as the most curious: To accept is to change.
That has real-life implication for me. And little did I know that will also change the way I view the world.
But back to social anxiety. I refused anxiety. I guess, like most of the people, I am trying to escape what is painful. I will not deny it – anxiety is a very painful experience for me. I have tried – psyching myself that I am not anxious, telling myself that I can deal with this. It worked – in the short term. But it soon crumbled. It was an uphill battle. For most days, I would sit down and try to collect myself, inspiring myself with that Japanese, “Ganbatte!” only to have it wilting as soon as I feel that nervous twitch that I was so familiar with.
What I did not realized was that underlying all these, was a set of beliefs that I held. And through reading, discussions and much self-reflection, I, like many others, have come to the following insights.
First, I realized that anxiety need not restrict us in what we do. We may feel anxious at certain things – but that should not stop us from doing what is necessary. I was told that such an outlook on life is highly unproductive. We should not prefer the emotional-based lifestyle to the action-oriented life. What do I mean? Well, imagine on a lazy Saturday afternoon you might convince yourself that there are chores to be done. But because you felt lazy, you did not do them and in the end, something is left hanging. It would be all right – but think about how permanent your emotions are. Happy? Bored? In the wisdom of Solomon, “This too, shall pass.” Recognize that feelings come and go.
I can, and will continue feeling anxious. No one should and will take away my right to feeling anxious. However, we should not make the mistake of allowing something so impermanent like emotions to decide for us what is permanent. I can feel anxious at talking to people, but that does not always have to lead up to not talking to people, right? I can talk to people anxiously. It’s still talking. And again, we come back to the point that we should not arrange our entire life around anxiety. Anxiety exists and we acknowledge that, but like a spoilt kid, if you are to go with its every whim and fancy, you’d go insane.
Second, acceptance. It’s a powerful tool. Anxiety is painful, trust me on that ;) But there is something bigger than anxiety. That is acceptance. We are designed to escape from anxiety, and anxiety-inducing stimuli. That is how we are wired biologically, and there is no sense in kicking ourselves for being wired like that. Nonetheless, that does not mean we cannot do something about it.
To illustrate my point, I will share my personal experience. I always have qualms about eating with people I don’t know well. I guess, some part of me feels insecure eating outside. I will analyze my every move – the way I eat, does it make me look stupid. And not to mention critical – you idiot, what if they think you’re inept for dropping that piece of chicken on your lap? In short, I was extremely self-conscious about myself.
You get my point. Well, one day, by chance I found myself sitting with my new classmates who felt it was necessary to have me accompany them for lunch. You know those type, they are insistent and if I leave, they’ll pull me back to my seat. I was, in their opinion, too alone.
And again, the experience was quite anxiety-provoking. I was eating carefully, and it was very taxing. Everyone else was talking and laughing. I was however miserable and wanting to get out. I had two options, continue being miserable and tension-filled, or try to enjoy the moment. And I decided on the latter. Obviously. But it wasn’t so easy. I notice thoughts swarming into my head. Do they want you here? They must pity you. Not the most pleasant thought to have. I guessed something in me ticked – exasperated, I retorted with an Ok, and so?
And then no more. I was taken aback. For a while at least. Although occasionally, during then, I had a few more negative thoughts, but they seem reduced in intensity. Muffled, if you will.
It may seem like an unremarkable incident. Eating in public? Really? You might have worse stories to share, and that is fine. But for me, and people with social anxiety disorder, you will know what I’m on about. Tell yourself “I am anxious – I am feeling my hands shaking. I will, however, accept these sensations and thoughts that arise, and see where they will lead me to. ” Of course, acceptance is not just simply telling yourself that – but it makes for a good start.
And there is some basis to what I’m saying. All these techniques are used in therapy to treat anxiety disorder. Mindfulness based therapy, and some variation of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) base their entire treatment on these approach.
Stanley Schwarz is an author of Reducing Social Anxiety: A Self-Help Approach
"Like many people who have been given a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (and many who have not), I am always braced for the next recurrence. Anxiety, like the tide, is forever receding and returning, receding and returning. I have been experiencing this pattern for nearly 20 years now, so that my anxiety has come to seem, at times, inevitable and unassailable — a fait accompli. My anxiety, I’d concluded, is what I am. There is no escape."
When I was a little kid, I didn't feel shy. I was always very reserved and soft-spoken, but I didn't feel any awkwardness. When I was six, another kid once asked me why I was so shy. I remember responding with, "I just don't have anything to say." So much of the time, I still feel that I'm not a shy person, and that I never have anything to add to a conversation. Back to history though. Growing up, I had so many opportunities. I was always doing so many extracurricular activities like dance and art classes, but my parents never, and I mean NEVER forced me to do anything I didn't want to. Little me learned that I never had to do anything that made me uncomfortable, and things started to get uncomfortable. The more I was told my voice was too quiet, the more I was called tiny, the more I was told I looked so young, the more I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to...the more anxiety seemed to plant its seeds. I went to private school until I was 14. Most of the kids there had known each other since at least second or third grade. The first half of the year at my new public school was fantastic. I had so much to learn, I was well-liked by most everyone, and I had my first boyfriend. The day he broke up with me was one of the first major turning point in my life. I learned what depression was. Other than school, I did not leave my house for two months. When I was at school, I was a ghost. My friends stopped calling, and I stopped caring. I lost interest in all the things I used to love. People started to see me differently. I was no longer the bright and happy girl. I was odd. To odd even for the outcasts. People would approach me, but quickly lose interest. And eventually, no one approached me. Even depressed, I was enthusiastic about my new appearance. I started wearing make-up, dying my hair, and dressing creatively. To others, I guess I looked as depressed as I acted. Needless to say, they were less enthusiastic than I. I can't really say what the next few years were like, because I don't remember much. I found new friends, and new hobbies that mostly included drugs and alcohol and boys. My only anxiety I remember back then came from wanting so badly to express myself creatively in ways my parents didn't approve of, and from school which became increasingly difficult. I started having health problems and eating disorders. School became a nightmare. I couldn't keep up with my friends, drugs, health problems, eating disorders, family problems, and school. I started having panic attacks. They would start the instant I laid out my homework on the table. My work wouldn't get completed, and I was terrified of going to class empty handed. I stopped going to class because I was always either sick or panicking about being empty handed. It was a vicious cycle. Whenever things got tough or uncomfortable, I would run away from them. I didn't have to deal with anything I didn't want to. The one thing that was always comfortable was relationships. I was always in one, never single for more than a week. They always ended in one of two ways; I got bored, or I had smothered them so much that someone ended the unhealthy relationship. The more I was in relationships, the less time I spent with friends or focusing on myself at all. When my significant other wanted space, I was terrified because I had no life outside of them. Another vicious cycle. I think that's when my social interaction got really uncomfortable. And of course, I never had to do anything that made me uncomfortable. All I cared about and thought about was my boyfriend. And who wants to hear someone blab on and on about their significant other? I tried to make friends, but no one stuck around for long. I was always the one initiating plans. I wasn't involved at school or work or anywhere for that matter, so I didn't have a place to connect to anyone. I went through periods of giving up. When I got to the point of feeling like a circus freak from how socially awkward I felt when I'd go to the grocery store, I'd throw myself into social situations like parties. (but never without Jack, Jim, or Jerry to help me endure the dreaded introductions and small talk.) It was magic! I'd wake up in the morning with pictures on my camera, and new friends. And it seemed to cost me no effort. Well most functioning people can't always spend time with Jack, Jim, or Jerry. I didn't feel comfortable when they weren't around. I tried to be a productive functioning member of society, but that included going out and talking to people. it seemed I had to choose; be a non-functioning lonely recluse, or be a non-functioning social drunk. The choice seemed logical enough to me....until of course, I hit that "rock bottom." This was no way to be. Surely, I thought, therapy will help me. Well it did, but only because I had fun learning about psychology and how awesomely screwed up I was, and it helped me to be a little less lonely. Someone not only listened to all my bullshit, but they gave me compliments too! Drugs didn't help much either. I was on them for depression, and they made me feel like shit. What was a 16 year old doing on Prozac anyway? So now, I'm 20 years old and I'm terrified of people. I've never had a job because I'm terrified of being interviewed. I avoid every day responsibilities that require me to talk to someone. I rarely approach strangers, no matter how badly I want to say something to them. I spend all of my time alone when I'm not at the doctors office. I spend hours every day on social networks wishing I had friends, doing the things I love. My personality is so confident, happy, and even social. So why can't I show it? When I'm faced with showing it, I turn into a spineless jellyfish. I'm suddenly unsure of myself. When I'm approached in public, my brain instinctively says "Oh God. Please go away." I don't really want the person to go away most of the time. The longer I have to stand there, the more ridiculous my thoughts become. The anxiety grows from "I'm nervous" to "I feel awkward" to "I wonder what she thinks of me." to "She probably thinks I'm an idiot." to "Brain, shut up and focus on the conversation" to "She can see that I'm nervous." My mouth becomes dry. My eyes dart around the room. I even say things I don't agree with just because they're more convenient at the time, and my brain is so busy racing that I don't have any room to think about how I actually feel about what's being said. And once I think the other person can sense my nervousness, any fraction of feeling content is demolished. Will this be the model for the rest of my life? Time will tell.
Eleventh grade year. What makes this year different? I'm being more social. I'm more scare about it than anything. I should be jumping for joy that I am improving but I'm so use to being alone and depending solely on myself. But now, I have friends...
Social Anxiety Disorder is also referred to as being a Social Phobia. This condition is present in an individual when they experience anxiety and a heightened self-consciousness when they are in social settings. This anxiety is overwhelming and is present in almost any social setting. However, the individual may find that certain social settings provoke a more heightened anxiety response. Individuals with this disorder are often excessively conscious of the people around them and are overwhelmed by self-conscious thoughts and feelings of embarrassment and insecurity. Individuals with a social anxiety disorder will often dread upcoming social events and will struggle with immense amounts of worry and anxiety as the event draws near. Sweating, nausea, and difficulty concentrating and speaking have all been associated with this condition.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatments have been found to be effective for the treatment and relief of social anxiety disorder. Typically, this type of therapy treatment is most effective when worked through with a counselor or psychiatrist. However, the CBT can also be done independently if a person is willing to work through the process on their own. However, having success on one’s own will require significant dedication. It is usually easier to make changes in one’s life if you have a support person who is able to encourage you along the way.
It requires time and effort to overcome a social anxiety disorder. Although the symptoms of this disorder can feel extremely overwhelming there is potential relief and treatment options that have been shown to be fairly effective for this disorder. The following are four ways that individuals with social anxiety disorder have found relief from their symptoms.
Setting goals. Setting small measurable goals is a great way to promote growth in an individual. Set small goals for yourself. Challenge yourself to face your fears in small measurable increments. For example, challenge yourself to spend 5 minutes in a social situation that provokes anxiety and worry in you. Set a small goal that you believe you could meet. Once you have reached your goal challenge yourself to extend the amount of time that you are spending in the social situation.
Learn how to relax. Through controlling one’s breathing an individual can gain control of their anxiety and promote relaxation in their body. When an individual begins to feel their anxiety build they can focus on their breathing. Through breathing in for 4 seconds, holding one’s breath for 2 seconds, and releasing one’s breath for 4 seconds an individual can put their body into a relaxed state.
Challenge the negative messages that are anxiety producing. If you feel that other people around you are thinking negative things about you and making judgements about you, try to test the negative thoughts. For example, if you feel that everyone around you is always thinking negative things about you go to the grocery store and ask several people that walk by you what they are thinking about. Although this exercise sounds anxiety producing you will be surprised to find that most people are busy thinking about many other things other than you.
Change your self talk. If you feel bad about yourself chances are you are going to feel even worse about yourself in social settings. Identify things that you love about yourself and continually remind yourself of your valuable assets, strengths, and unique traits. Focus on the positive components of yourself and find special ways to remind yourself of these things. For example, you could write positive notes of encouragement to yourself on your bathroom mirror or put inspiring uplifting quotes on your door. Through continually promoting positive thoughts you can limit the focus that gets put on negative and anxiety producing things.