Sunday, 10 January 2010

Social anxiety: An insiders view.

Hope. It’s what drives us on. It’s sometimes all that people have left.

In 2009 I was diagnosed with severe panic disorder and social anxiety after nearly a year of refusing to go and talk to a doctor. In the end my mum practically forced me to and the journey to the end of my problem began.

I look back at the months through which I was at my worst and it reminds me of how far I have come, yet back then I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me it was possible for me to feel any better. I wanted to sleep. That’s all. I just wanted to curl up under my duvet and sleep. I didn’t care if I didn’t eat, I didn’t give a damn what was happening in the world around me and I didn’t care what I was doing to myself.

You tell somebody you suffer from social anxiety and you never know what kind of reaction you are going to receive. They will either treat you like you are made of glass or they will laugh at you and tell you to pull yourself together. Everyone feels stressed and worried sometimes – you just have to learn to deal with you know.

Well, you know what, get lost. If you are one of those people who has ever said that to somebody who feels like I used to feel then you should be ashamed.

Whenever somebody would say such a thing to me I would lock myself in my bedroom and cry. My doctor once asked if I had ever thought of killing myself and was shocked because I said the thought had never crossed my mind.

Suicide is something I’ll always be too scared to try thankfully, but the feeling of hurt inside when somebody is cruel because they don’t understand what you are going through makes you wish you were dead. It really does.

Luckily for me, for every critic of my condition I encountered I had angels standing besides me to counter their attacks. I don’t mean angelic angels either – but my friends. Christopher for one.

Chris, you probably wont read this, but when those people I used to work with mocked me online for being signed off of work and you posted on facebook in my defence knowing full well they would see it, you lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders and made me smile a genuine smile for the first time in what had probably been months.

My parents were also rocks of support and I grew closer to them as I fought with myself to gain control on the situation I was in. Even my younger brother, who was at first skeptical of my illness, looked out for me and would phone for help when I had a bad day if he knew nobody was around to help me. Often I would get phone calls that started with “Charlie told me you were having a day, are you okay?”

What more could a girl ask for? A doctor who understood? Ah yes, because that’s what I had.

The biggest fear for somebody suffering with social anxiety is that your doctor wont understand and that you will be made to feel like a fool if you explain the way you are feeling.
I can guarantee though that this did not happen and after I had listed everything to the doctor that I was feeling I felt a tingling through my chest. Relief. It felt good to finally let somebody know that I needed help.

Now, I’m off of my medication and I am back to my normal self. If you can call this normal…

During my worst time at the grip of social anxiety I wrote on a support forum ‘What is the point of me even trying to achieve my goals when it won’t ever happen?’

Three months later and I am sat here writing this. Sharing my dirty secret, my weakness – my social anxiety – with everyone. Tomorrow I have a job interview with a company that I really, really want to work for when three months ago I didn’t think I would be able to do anything successful. Most of all though, I am laughing and smiling with my family. I am able to go for walks with the dog and sit in the lounge and just watch television in the company of the people who mean the world to me.

Such privileges were snatched away from me by my social anxiety when it got out of hand. They were the loneliest months of my life because I craved company but felt I didn’t deserve it. I would wake up in the middle of the night and walk through the house hoping that my mum or brother would be awake so that I could talk to them, but they never were and so I’d go back to bed and lay there, listening for the first sounds of them waking up so I could say hello.

It’s a terrible existence and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody.

If you are in a similar position to the one I was in, believe me when I say that talking to your doctor is the best thing you can do. I didn’t believe it until my mum dragged me to see mine. I gave my mum clear instructions that at no point was she allowed to let me back out of the doctors appointment – something I was prone to doing. She didn’t, and now I feel a million times better for it.

If you know somebody who suffers from social anxiety ask them how they are feeling, don’t underestimate the problem they face. Sometimes all you want when you are stuck in a dark, lonely place is a friendly face.

Hope. Yes, hope. It’s what drives us on. It’s sometimes all that people have left.

4 comments:

  1. It's brave to post something like that Hayley. Best of luck in the job interview, I hope the weather isn't an issue for getting there!

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  2. Wow! Hayley I would have no idea. Especially after you discussed on CS how you attended that paranormal convention and challenged them. Good for you.

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  3. Hey Hayley, I found this blog through the wonderful world of twitter and I just have to say what a fantastic job you're doing, especially with this entry. I know what it's like to be crippled by anxiety and it takes bravery to speak about it. That, along with such a positive approach to scepticism and critical thinking makes for an inspiring read.
    Keep up the good work!

    Garry.

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