My Social Anxiety And How I Gained Confidence
I’ve suffered with social anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I look back, it makes me so sad. I’ve missed out on so much of my childhood. Mental health awareness did not exist like it does now. Nobody ever asked how I was, and I never told anybody how I was feeling.
School was hard full stop but high school was especially tough. I missed my GCSE’s because of my social anxiety. I couldn’t face being in the same room as everyone else, under all that exam pressure, people staring, i was doing everything wrong, everyone would notice, that’s what I thought. I never had any real friends and never had a best friend. I felt so lonely all the time. I really wanted to socialise, but I didn’t have the confidence.
Panic would quickly set in first thing in a morning. The thought of having to communicate with anybody or just be in the same room filled me with dread. Some days I had to really force myself out of bed. There was never a day when I didn’t feel anxious. My social anxiety was a constant daily struggle. I would become clumsy with nerves, constantly judge and criticise myself, stress that it was already going to be a bad day before I was even out of the door. I was always thinking I was going to make a fool of myself in every situation or worry about saying something embarrassing so I’d just keep quiet. I couldn’t do small talk. I didn’t know how to. This made me more self conscious.
I worried people would judge me on what I was wearing. Did I look nice? How was my hair? To the point of how I was walking. Even if I didn’t have to communicate, the whole part of being in a social situation made me extremely anxious. I just wanted to curl up in a corner and become invisible. I never had any confidence to speak up and I didn’t really know what was going on myself. Why was I like this? I would ask myself over and over. Why couldn’t I just have a group of friends like everyone else. It was in fact after my teen years I realised the severity of my social anxiety.
I became depressed and was starting to isolate myself more and more. I felt so low, alone and had absolutely no self worth. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to see my GP and talk about how I was feeling and i eventually got the help i needed. It took the best part of a year to start gaining any kind of confidence as I had never had this before, it was all new to me and gradually my social anxiety and depression became so much easier to cope with.
My GP started me on a combination of different therapy’s. Medication helped me take control of my anxiety and depression to a certain extent and I became less isolated. Cognitive behaviour therapy, which was learning to recognise and change my thought and behaviour patterns. Graded exposure therapy, taking small steps to feel less anxious in social environments. Progressive muscle relaxation and breathing techniques, learning how your body feels when it’s relaxed, reducing anxiety symptoms.
These have all given me so much more confidence to adapt in social situations. I would never have been able to do this before. Although my anxiety hasn’t gone completely, I am able to go about my daily life feeling less anxious. I’m so much happier and much more confident now than ever, although I do often find myself lonely and I still struggle sometimes in social situations. Small talk gives me a complete headache!
I no longer avoid certain scenarios if it makes me feel awkward but I do find myself feeling uncomforatble around other people. Especially people that find small talk a walk in the park. People that are really confident. It makes me feel under pressure to be the same.
Socialising for me is through work events, usually once a year on a christmas meal out. I still have no friends to hang out with any other time. It appears the norm for me now, it’s what I’m used to. This is not to say I wouldn’t like to. I would really like to make new friends and this is one of my goals. I have so many things I want to do in life, I would much rather do them with other people and without having the added pressure to have the skills in the art of conversation!