Like many of you, I've suffered from an anxiety disorder for much of my adult life. I wish I knew what exactly triggered it "starting", but I know roughly when it was. In 2011 I broke up with my girlfriend at the time. I was pretty upset for a while, and we primarily met in the biggest city nearby, then retired to a family home where we'd spend most of our time, inside, just chilling and hanging out. When we broke up, I found it really difficult to go into the city again. It's one of the biggest cities in the UK (Manchester), and everytime I thought about going in, I would think to myself "Well what if I run into her and her new partner", and eventually stopped going in out of fear. Now, I know how incredibly STUPID that is. Believe me, I know. But that didn't make the fear any less "real". For a while after this, I became a NEET and stopped leaving the house altogether. After a while, I decided to try and get back out there by volunteering in a school, as my dream was to work with children. To cut a long story short, it worked out, and now I work at my dream job as a teaching assistant. It's great, and I'm really fortunate that my life has turned out so successfully.
However, things aren't as stable as they seem. When it comes to social situations, my anxiety is king. Take for example, this evening. It's the end of the year, so we had our work's Christmas party. I normally love them. But tonight, the old anxiety kicked in, in a big way. Now, normally, not a lot of people talk to me. I'm pretty quiet, so I think people have a hard time approaching me, as they equate it to me being shy, or boring. It's not that at all, really. I'd LOVE to talk to people- I'm friendly and really appreciate when someone gives a shit and talks to me. But I didn't really talk to many people tonight. Now, after a while, I realised that it was really obvious that I was just sitting there. EVERYONE ELSE was dancing, and I just...couldn't. When you suffer from anxiety, you assume the eyes of the world are on you, even when they're not. You KNOW that nobody gives a flying fuck about what you're doing, and they're all just enjoying their own night. But that doesn't mean, again, that it's easy to handle. After a while, the fact that I wasn't dancing or singing or talking felt really obvious, so that just fell in on itself. I realised that if I did get up, people would cause a big scene. Similar to the old "Oh you've finally come out of your room to meet my friends" kinda shit that used to happen with your parents when you were younger. To give you an example of this, I'll take you back to going into the city. It's a fucking SAFE city if you stay in 99% of it, but my brain is CONSTANTLY telling me "Well he looks dodgy" "That guy could mug you" "What if he has a knife". The most completely ridiculous thoughts, but that's part of anxiety- your brain tells you stupid things that become "real", as it were.
So I ended up having a pretty rough time. And that's the scale of it. When you struggle with anxiety, the simplest things become herculean tasks. I spent pretty much the whole day psyching myself up to actually get out and go. I was looking forward to it, but my stupid dumb brain automatically does the old "Well what if THIS preposterous thing happened" when you're saying "Well it never will but what if it DID?"
There's a health service on the NHS called "Healthy Minds" that I've been referred to once before in the past, that offers CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to people that are struggling. I went for a few months a couple of years back, and it kinda helped, but I figured I'd "beat" anxiety once my time with them was up. I'm thinking I might need to go back and see them again after Christmas, because this is no way to live. I see the people tonight, all hugging and drinking and laughing, and you think to yourself "Well what's WRONG with me, why can't I live like that?" and it really upsets you.
If anyone has any thoughts on what's helped them, or any advice, or any suggestions as to overcoming social anxiety, PLEASE let me know, because I'm desperate to retake control of my life.