My Social Anxiety Journey

I’ve always been what people would call ‘socially awkward’. I have a nervous laugh that comes out in most social situations and I sometimes shake and stutter when I’m talking to people I don’t know very well. Of course it’s perfectly normal to experience these symptoms sometimes in social situations, but I had an intense fear that people were judging me all the time. I feared that they would laugh at me, ridicule me or talk about me behind my back.

This fear of social situations is known as social anxiety disorder (Or SAD). It’s when you experience intense anxiety in social aspects of life.

My SAD affected me massively as I was growing up. People told me I was too self-conscious, too shy, weird. I had a few close friends but I always had the fear that they would discover the ‘real me’ and then judge me. In larger social settings like parties I stuck to one person or else went ‘missing’ where I would go off on my own to get relief from the socializing.

To my friends I would have seemed mostly normal because I adopted a mask of confidence but on the inside I was freaking out. The fear of being discovered as a fraud was intense.

In later years I grew to be incredibly afraid of rejection so I would cut ties with people close to me, keep my distance and be hard to reach. Easier to let yourself go than to be let go by someone else right?

I went to therapy, where I shook as I revealed my fears. I was told that it sounded like SAD and that I could learn to live with it. Over the next few years I worked on myself.. trying to break down the walls I had built up around myself to let people in.

The strange thing was I found it easy to make friends- it was keeping them that was more difficult. So I started to open up to people. In a way this blog allowed me to do that too. You can see how I began to tackle my fears in this personal post Minding your mental health on a night out

I developed an eating disorder as a way of controlling my anxiety because a huge part of my social anxiety was that I was afraid people wouldn’t accept me if I wasn’t thin.

I started to deal with my anxiety by keeping a journal, opening up to close friends and family and by writing a blog. I also went to CBT and worked on changing my thought patterns from negative self-image to positive.

Fast forward to last year. I moved to a new city and began to work in new schools as a substitute teacher. I was at my most anxious whenever I went into a new school, meeting new people and trying to impress everyone I met. I felt my mask slipping, until I couldn’t take it anymore and fell into old patterns of self hatred, punishing myself for not being stronger and more confident.

But I realised something.

Despite my fears that my friends didn’t like me, they were all there for me. My foundation was secure. I was going to be OK.

I went back to therapy and worked through my anxiety and depression. I practiced self-care and started to say positive affirmations. I recorded my thoughts in my journal and I challenged them.

Now I would say my social anxiety is at its lowest in years. It’s not completely gone as I still have moments of intense anxiety when I have to enter social situations such as going to the gym, going to work and meeting parents of children I teach. But I’ve realised that it’s also completely natural to feel anxious sometimes.

If you think you might have social anxiety disorder I suggest you reach out to a therapist, a friend or family member or an online resource. Social Anxiety Ireland have excellent resources that help you get in contact with CBT that might help you.

 

42 thoughts on “My Social Anxiety Journey

  1. Thank you for sharing! It sounds like you might have some introverted tendencies as well (me too!) I am glad to hear that you have made your way towards a less anxious version of yourself! As I read more about mental health, it seems like something that wasn’t really focused on much when I was growing up. I hope we have a future that embraces the issues and makes all of us stronger people. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Despite my fears that my friends didn’t like me, they were all there for me. My foundation was secure. I was going to be OK.”

    THIS IS SUCH A MASSIVE STEP AND I AM SO PROUD OF YOU. I know how hard it is to say this and actually believe it. I know that this realization can make you feel like a ton of weights have lifted off of your chest. Good luck on your journey, I’m rooting for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an open and honest post lovely! It sounds like you are doing the right things and moving forward in the right direction. That must feel so good. You should be really proud of yourself. I am currently doing CBT for my anxiety and OCD so I hope to be moving forward. Thank you for posting, it’s always reassuring when you know you are not the only one xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautiful and brave post, thank you for sharing! One of my best friends while growing up suffered from the same, and as an extrovert teenager myself, it was difficult for me to understand. We were roommates for a few years, and people often questioned how we could be friends – one who never said a word and the other a constant chatterbox. But it was a perfect friendship, and never ever did it make me think less of her. Now years later I understand what she went through much better, even if I can’t genuinely relate. It’s our challenges and imperfections that make us beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Self-care is so important and O am glad you had the realization that people love you when you are anxious. True friends will love and accept you and you deserve that. Sometimes, we have to sink low to fly high. Your difficult year klaoubds like it left you more confidence in your ability to cope. Thanks fo this post

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sending hugs your way right now because I can identify with so much of what you have gone through. It’s not easy to go through but it is amazing how sharing can help. I used to feel like an island (and sometimes I still do). But we are all in this together. Hugs!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it’s super brave and lovely of you to share your story with us! Eating disorders can honestly get the better of some people and they don’t always recover well from it. You’re a lot stronger than you think, the fact that you keep pushing through and keep finding ways arojnd your anxiety is worthy of applause! 💕👏🏽 I’m sure your story will bring some hope to others…great post Ri! 🌟👍🏽

    xx Lena | https://lenadeexo.com

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kudos to you for acknowledging you needed to take care of yourself and for making a commitment to get the support and care that would help you recover. It is brave to share this story with others. I hope you continue to do well and keep your self-care needs where they should be – front and center! It’s challenging to keep investing the level of energy needed to stay steady so congrats also on maintaining what you needed to stay in a good place. I think many people do not understand how much hard work it is to get and stay healthy when you have anxiety and depression.
    Joan Senio
    kindness-compassion-and-coaching.com
    @joansenio1

    Liked by 1 person

  9. so much of what you are sharing is exactly what I have been feeling as well. I just came out of an eating disorder around last month after anxiety in school made me want any kind of control. The eating disorder gave me that control and it took a long time to find a way out of it. I’m so glad I found your post today! x Brynn

    https://www.brynnie.com

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing! So many people suffer with this and just keep on suffering because hey dont know about the help that exists or are too self conscious and frightened to reach for it. Stories like this are so encouraging and helpful and I am so glad you are in a good place right now!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love everything your blog stands for, and ultimately what you stand for! Thank you so much for speaking your truth. It isn’t always easy being this revealing and open, as you know. I can relate to you so much, I used to get panic attacks during social situations and I was diagnosed with “social panic”. You’re an inspiration for young people with being a teacher going through mental health challenges, and it’s hard working up the courage to meet with a therapist. It sounds like you’ve made great progress so far. 🙂

    I wish you a happy healthy future Ri. Cheers. xx

    Lexi | https://sailinginthesun.ca

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ‘The strange thing was I found it easy to make friends- it was keeping them that was more difficult.’ This is so relatable! I was also diagnosed with social anxiety but I have it much more under control nowadays because I also realised the same as you did – that my friends are all here for me and it’s my fear that is holding me back. Think you explained it rather well here!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your journey couldn’t fail to move me. This was such an incredible story, thank you so much for sharing it. I really wish you the best on the rest of it and I’m glad so many people can find familiarity in your words 🙂 Amazingly done

    Liked by 1 person

  14. thank you so much for sharing. I also have SAD (and GAD) and have struggled with an eating disorder as well, and I hope to someday be able to think of it with as much hope and positivity as you do in this! thank you for your bravery and I wish you all the best ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So honest of you. Thanks for sharing. I don’t think I have SAD, however was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder years ago and have the most problems when it comes to social situations. Nice to read that Im not alone. Sounds like you’re doing some very positive things for yourself. All the best xo

    Liked by 1 person

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