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#1 Posted by Sombre (427 posts) -

Hey gang,

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.

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#2 Posted by MikePC (7 posts) -

For me, support groups have been enormously helpful in overcoming my social anxiety. I believe this is because they provide a safe space wherein you can speak about yourself, and connect with the other members of the group. It's also a good way to meet some folks.

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#3 Posted by VikingRk (115 posts) -

My advice is to focus on taking control of something small in your life.

I'm betting it feels like an overwhelming task to regain control but the way to do it is to break things down into smaller more manageable pieces. You can make big change in your life if you take things step by step.

Find something you feel like you can make a positive change with and focus on that. Keep taking small steps.

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#5 Edited by stantongrouse (222 posts) -

I don't think I'll ever fully break some of the cycles I go through regarding anxiety, I just (hopefully) get a bit better at managing them. It's tough to recommend specific things, I think finding what works can change from person to person. I come from quite a small town in the UK and completely understand the "what if I run into x person" problem - especially when it's something that's such a big factor in the anxiety in the first place. I thought moving to London might change that, which it did - but all the hustle, bustle and general rudeness down here caused me other issues instead.

Personally, I've managed to find a few quiet places to walk, something I used to do a lot when back in the sticks, that help me get a handle on things. Funnily enough having a bit of time like that makes the prospect of heading out into populated areas that much easier. And finding some people to just talk about things has been the other biggest help. It normalises a lot of the problems I tend to build up and makes working through them myself that bit more manageable. I've gone through CBT on the NSH too - it was helpful but the funding wasn't there for more than a handful of sessions so not sure I got the full benefit. Still, it gave me some of the tools to deal with things myself more. Finally, and it's a cliché, but exercise can really help with the brain stuff. My partner gets my lazy ass out for a run when I'm struggling and it can be as good as anything for working out the knots inside.

Hang in there, you'll find what it is that works for you - even if it takes a few tries at things that don't. The UK is a weird place at the moment, lots of tension and when the environment itself is anxious it can be hard to escape it. If you can find a reason or thing to get yourself out there that gives you genuine uplifting feeling, take it. Mine is finding an amazing new kebab place but I highly recommend a healthier thing to leave the house for. Really hope you find something that gets you there dude.

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#6 Posted by bmccann42 (407 posts) -

I've got some low grade anxiety and depression issues brought on (what I have since been diagnosed with) by being on the Autism Spectrum. The worst was being stuck in a bad job, at a terrible company, with a tyrant of a boss.

The worst part was that my anxiety/stress would cause me to have seizures, to the point that my driver's license was taken away (I live in a big city and never really liked driving, so it's not that big a deal to me).

I've seen a psychiatrist for a little while and was prescribed CBD oil, both of which have really helped. I still take things as I can, I have the occasional seizure (down to once every 3-4 months from a height of 1+ a day), and was diagnosed as being on the spectrum last August which has really helped me to understand myself better.

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#7 Posted by mrfluke (6101 posts) -

Might sound crazy, but i highly recommend Dan Ryckert's book Anxiety as an Ally, i know he has his reputation for being a goof, but that book is filled with honest to goodness advice to deal with anxiety. and maybe hearing his story through his lens might help make things click

Also, highly highly recommend, starting an exercise AND meditation routine. and doing your best to stay consistent with this, i found this dramatically helped my anxiety episodes. (which is both advice i got from Dan's book)

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#8 Posted by Damenco (62 posts) -

Hello, to live with social anxiety is possible, but very difficult