I got a comment on my blog yesterday that upset me a bit. It was asking about my social phobia, the commenter didn't understand how i could truly have it when from what she'd seen in my blog i seemed to have quite an active social life.
I realise now that if you don't have anxiety yourself, or know someone who has it, it can be very difficult to understand. And I guess if you only know me online (which is basically all of my followers) i do come across as quite a cheerful, gregarious person. I'm sorry to the original commenter that i overreacted a bit, i know you didn't mean anything offensive by it. It's just difficult to me to have to prove my disability and when you asked why i was living off the government it just sort of seemed you were implying that i was lying about my disability. I understand you weren't now and just didn't understand.
So for anyone who's interested here's a short explanation of my disability and how it affects me.
My mouth is dry and my heart is racing. I feel a million eyes on me, all staring, all judging. They think i'm an idiot, i look so stupid and weird i can tell everyone is thinking it. I need to say something or they will just think worse of me but my mind is blank and my mouth doesn't seem to want to work. I feel frozen to the spot for what seems like hours.
Where am i? About to begin a speech infront of a crowd?
No i'm at university and someone has just asked me how my weekend was.
Eventually i manage to move my lips just enough to form a whisper of the word 'fine' along with a shaky smile. The girl who asked me the question looks at me with sympathetic pity and moves away and i am left feeling more useless than ever.
I've been shy my entire life. As a child i would hide away whenever my parents friends came to the house and making friends myself was very difficult but i managed it. i was never popular but was happy with my little circle of mates. I was also bullied and verbally abused consistently until i left for university, though I told myself being constantly called fat, ugly, weird, and so on didn't hurt me i think it probably affected my self esteem very badly. Through puberty i went through bouts of depression where i ended up doing really stupid things because i felt so bad about myself. My shyness and lack of confidence grew and i began to find everyday things like talking to shop assistants and answering the phone difficult but it still didn't really affect my life too badly.
Then i left high school and went to a sixth form college and everything changed. Before while my shyness had grown my day to day life was filled with the same old faces i'd known for years so i could cope with being at school. Then suddenly i was thrust into a completely new place where there were only a few people i knew from the past and they were all in different classes to me. Going to classes became absolutely terrifying. I would get to the station and as the train that would take me to college pulled in i would start to panic often to the point of an attack and be unable to force myself to get on. I missed probably 60% of lessons over the 2 years of college. I used to be smart, no genius but still a bit above average. In my GCSE's i got all A*s As and just 2 Bs (i think i got 10 GCSEs altogether) but as i missed so many lessons in college my grades plummeted and i left for university with (i think) 1 B, 2 Cs and a D. Luckilly i applied to art college and they were so pleased with my portfolio they gave me an unconditional offer.
While this was going on as my quality of life had gotten so bad my mum dragged me to a doctor and i was diagnosed with having social phobia and social anxiety disorder. I was offered medication but at the time was hesitant as i'd heard horror stories about people taking anti-depressants or anti anxiety meds and turning into zombies so i turned them down. So instead i was sent for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
CBT basically works by slowly exposing you to things that scare you so you become accustomed to them and they stop being something to fear.
However for whatever reason it didn't work for me at all. If anything it made me feel worse. I think the reason is that what's meant to happen is you do somehting scary, like in my case talking to a stranger and then you see that nothing bad happened as a result so you think 'that wasn't so bad' and the next time it's easier. However as my phobia is all about assuming people are thinking badly about me so even if nohing 'bad' actually happens i still think they are feeling bad about me. Also instead of remembering the feelings of relief that would come after i'd done my task i just focus on the pain and misery i felt while doing it.
My therapist would talk to me, which was scary and at first i was struck dumb but after about 5 sessions i was able to alk to her almost properly. I don't mind talking about my feelings and my problems. However she would also take me outside the hospital and force me to approach people and do various little exercises. I did it because she would be right there, maing me, but it made me feel sick and i would always go home shaking and spend the rest of the day in bed crying. She would also set me homework tasks that would generally be something like 'go up to 5 people and ask them the time' but without her there watching me i couldn't bring myself to do it. But then i was too ashamed and frightened to tell my therapist so i lied and said i did everything.
University was better than college as before we made the college aware of my illness before i enrolled so they made some arrangements to make some things easier for me. And, well basically in my college we were left pretty much to ourselves. You were given a studio space, once a week had a lecture and about once every 2-3 months had a tutorial. My social life was appalling though. I didn't leave home like most people do for uni and there were a few people i became friendly with i didn't make any proper friends. At first people tried to invite me out a lot but i was too afraid so i always made up some excuse and eventually the offers dried up.
I got clinically depressed about 2 years ago and started taking some medication. It's supposed to be both an anti depressant and an anti anxiety medicine but while it helped a lot with my depression it hasn't done anything to help with my anxiety.
Social phobia is basically shyness taen to an extreme level. While most people feel anxious when they are made to give a speech or something i feel anxious just leaving the house because i worry constantly about what other people will think of me. I hate crowds and they make me feel dizzy and often i hyperventilate. I never, ever approach people but if i am forced to talk or interact in some way i feel sick with anxiety and get lots of other physical symptoms. I can't answer the telephone or front door and can only rarely leave the house on my own (i only can when i am going somewhere i know very well). I find little, odd things like just walking into a strange building first incredibly difficult. Recently i've got a lot worse around people i atually know as well, i have begun to feel like i am just a bother when i talk to them, that i'm not remotely interesting and everyone would just rather i weren't or at least wouldn't approach them so they would be obliged to talk to me. I stay in my house the vast majority of the time, usually, apart from a quick dog walk in my local park most days, i will only leave my house once a week and i do that with great reservation. When i do go out on my own (sometimes i force myself to in an attempt to get better) i generally have to drink some alcohol to give me dutch courage.
I don't really know what else to say about it but if you have any questions please feel free to ask. I really don't mind talking about my condition. Again i'm sorry i overreacted but i just feel that at the moment i am having to prove the fact that i am ill a lot and being told that i'm wrong and exaggerating is quite hurtful. It affects my life every day and really is, in a way, ruining my life. I would love to be able to get a proper job and go out and make new friends. This is hard to explain but i am actually quite a social person, i want to make lots of friends and go out all the time and i really, really want to be liked by people but i can't do any of these things because of my fears. I try not to feel ashamed because i cannot help the way i am, it's an illness, but sometimes i cannot help it. My family and Claire sometimes have to act like they are my carers. There are so many things that i just cannot do some they have to do it for me and it's not fair for them.
Recently i decided that i wanted to try and get some more help so i went to my local GP (who i really like) who then referred me to some sort of mental health specialist. However this was the man i mentioned in my previous post that made me feel awful. I felt like he bullied me, he was forceful and nasty and patronising. And at the end the only thing he could recommend was more CBT, even though i explained that i'd bhad i before and it made me worse. So i'm not sure what i'm going to do. I don't want to put myself through something that will cause me such pain when it might , at the end, either do nothing or even made me worse, especially when it's been recommended by someone i felt really did not know how to handle someone with my problems.
If you want to know about the condition in general here's the good old wikipedia page: