It is 2019! (cues heavy sigh of relief)
I have taken a lot of time over my December holidays to reflect on the year that was 2018. Indeed, it was a vicious and trying year.
It was also, for me, the beginning of some kind of a self-awareness journey, I guess. In 2018 I did a few very important things for myself. One of them being that I self-diagnosed myself with social anxiety, and two is that I went to a psychologist for the very first time.
I am not too sure when this started, but for the longest time, I have always been someone who is not the best at dealing with most social situations. Most of the time meeting new people gives me a rush of anxiety that makes me want to jump out from the nearest window, or just jump out of my body for a while. And, depending on the overall energy of the people I meet, the feeling will eventually fade away, or last forever.
Tasks that come easy to an average joe, are usually also quite difficult for me to get through- something as simple as taking the bus to work every day. I have to make sure I do not sit too far from the door so as to avoid people looking at me for too long when I go in and out of the bus. I always make sure to stand up just before my stop, so that people don’t look at me for too long when I get off. I would also rather stand then walk to the middle or back of the bus. Yes, okay. I know it sounds completely ridiculous. I also cannot, for the life of me, ask for help at a shop, or even ask the security guard for directions. I would rather walk aimlessly around the mall, and find my own way. It is only after the 10th time I have passed the same bin or bench, do I decide to give myself an hour long pep talk, and eventually open my mouth.
The painful part is beating yourself up about it when you’re finally alone. “That lady was really looking at you for a long time, she probably things you’re weird. “Dude, why didn’t you just open your mouth and ask?? You wasted so much time today!”.
I read a lot of tweets and other social media posts about people experiencing anxiety in this way last year, and so I decided to do some research. (Yep. I googled my symptoms). This is when I discovered that I seem to have a form of social anxiety. Social anxiety? I was always aware of having anxiety (the same way one would get nervous or excited), but I was never sure about it being something that I live with on a daily basis. Even now, as I am writing about it, it still feels strange to me.
My visit to the psychologist towards the end of the year, was more or less just to confirm my research. I spoke about what brought me to his office, and we started unpacking my thoughts. He then told me to go and research a few other “disorders” that are closely related to social anxiety, so as to better understand it.
“The defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.”.
Okay great, now I know what is wrong with me, give me the drugs so I can get better!
I began thinking about all the things that I could do to “cure” myself of this “disease”, that has made me so uncomfortable for so long. Medication? Hypnotherapy? You name it, I am ready!
Luckily, before I could run to the pharmacy, I came across a book by Sarah Wilson in the beginning of this year titled “First, we make the beast beautiful: A new story about anxiety”, which has really put things into perspective for me. In the book, she talks about her high-functioning anxiety, and how she has learnt to deal with it throughout her life. She goes into great detail about it, but the crux of the book, for me at least, is to not run away from your anxiety or try to “get rid of it”, but rather find ways of dealing with it in your daily life – so, make the beast beautiful. She says: “Take on board all the theories, but see this as an opportunity to define anxiety as something other than a problem or disorder that has to be fixed…Instead of building a bridge and getting over it, we make the most of the river we find ourselves in”.
So, for the year 2019 this is going to be one of my most important goals and something that I will hope to incorporate into my life moving forward. Making the beast beautiful. Finding ways to get through my most challenging and jump-out-of –the-nearest-window moments, instead of running away like I usually do. Easier said than done I know, but I am committing to it.
For starters, one of my biggest fears has always been sharing my thoughts with other people. So in writing this, I think I am moving in the right direction, right?