My brain is so scattered right now, I don’t know where to start. The wedding did not go well, in fact I really feel like I need to apologize. I need to send a thank you card that just says, “I’m sorry.” They’ll know exactly why.
Actually, I wish I could send cards to everyone who interacted with me, simultaneously thanking them and apologizing. I feel sorry for the people who had to shake my sweaty palms and attempt to sustain a conversation with me. I do not know why anybody would want me at their wedding. It’s absurd.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not fake happiness. I was completely saturated with anxiety. From head to toe, my body was tense and heavy and uncomfortable. I didn’t stop sweating. Under my arms, the stains went through three shirts, even a heavy black sweater. I felt nauseous the whole time. I barely ate. I did manage to get three beers down, but that did nothing because when I’m that anxious, I can’t feel anything except the anxiety. I couldn’t smile. Most of the time, I didn’t even try. What’s the point?
The other night, when I talked to my mom about my issues, she said, “You’re like a broken record, and it’s getting a little old.” She’s right. How much longer can I let this go on before people begin to quit on me? It’s one thing to have issues and internalize them, but it’s something entirely different altogether to show them off to the world. I’m trying so hard, but maybe that’s not good enough? I know my g/f worried about me the whole time instead of having fun. She’s always taking care of me.
When she left on Friday night–the night before the wedding–for a pre-wedding dinner, I got really drunk. The anticipatory anxiety became too great; I had to do something. I had a terrible hangover throughout the wedding, which probably helped to ease the anxiety a little. I’m actually still feeling a bit hungover. Anyway, my g/f had a mini breakdown in the morning, as we were getting ready–
“I want you to want to look good,” she said, crying. “I want you to want to go. I want you to be happy. I need your support.”
How much more can she take? How much more can I take?
I’m sorry, Mike. It’s usually the case that it’s not as bad as one thinks it is. That is, your interactions with people and the way you came across are probably a lot better than the way you saw/remember it. You’ve had time to replay it in your head over and over again, ruminating your behavior to death, blowing it up and making it seem like it’s the only memorable thing about the wedding, but I’m sure others aren’t thinking about it. I guess put yourself in their position. If you have an awkward interaction with someone do you think ill of them or criticize them after the fact? You probably don’t give it a second thought. Try to be as forgiving toward yourself. Sorry if I’m saying too much here, I just know too well the pain you’re in right now and these are things that I can think through when the immediate shame and embarrassment have worn off. I also realize that these are the circumstances that make the bigger picture seem hopeless. Remember though…progress comes little by little.
I hope you’re getting through this okay.
Hey ml- I’m doing okay. Actually, I’m doing fairly well. I went to the wedding. I showed up and stayed the whole time. I got through it, which is an accomplishment in itself. It’ll take a few days for me to pull back and look at the bigger picture, but I’ll get there. Thanks for your kind words.
Hey Mike, I just wanted to stop by and thank you for visiting my blog as well as your compliment on my writing. I’d disagree with you but I’ll just take the compliment instead =)
As for your post, I have felt this way before and it only furthered my own isolation. I desperately want to say something to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel, but honestly I can’t even remember how I pulled through. I felt like a burden to my family and that makes what you are feeling that much more difficult. The best I can offer you right now is–your family and girlfriend love you and try to believe there will be relief. Try hard to flip those thoughts of people thinking the worst of you around–either tell yourself firmly to stop it or realistically look at it as they probably aren’t even thinking about you. I sincerely hope you have better days soon.
Thanks! It’s something I am working on–to stop the negative thoughts–but it has been a struggle. I can’t seem to catch them early enough, so they just build on one another and once I’m aware of them, it’s too late–they’ve already done their damage. I’m getting better, though. Thanks for stopping by.
Even if it wasn’t the experience you were hoping for – congrats on surviving the wedding! You made it through.
Hey Mike. I found your blog on the S.A.S. website. I used to go there many years ago and returned recently. When I get the chance, I’ll write more about my experience there (so perhaps this is my first draft) 🙂
I can identify with so many things that you write about. That is exactly how I used to feel/think many years ago. It certainly isn’t easy.
Fortunately, something worked and e.g. when I went to a meeting a few weeks ago (new people, new place would’ve similarly freaked me out starting a week earlier), there was only a little muscle tension left plus I noticed my heart beating a bit faster when we had to introduce ourselves to the group (little over ten people). But all the other symptoms of anxiety were gone and I was able to think and say what I wanted. Last week’s meeting (new place and, again, over ten people and about half of them new) went even better. Still a little muscle tension but other than that, I would say my experience was “normal”. In a way, I am still amazed at how different my current experience is.
After meeting many people dealing with SA, I guess some are luckier and find something that works quickly. My situation would be at the opposite end: takes long time and progress is very slow. I think being called “quiet” or “shy” didn’t bother me much but after a while the symptoms of SA became way too overwhelming. It was almost like bumping into invisible electric wire. Over time more and more areas became “contaminated” and there was virtually no situations where I didn’t feel some anxiety and the little hope that I used to have was pretty much gone. By the end of high school, tough managed to postpone it day after day, finally, I did try to quit. Obviously, it didn’t work out … but at that time I felt that didn’t (or perhaps couldn’t) live like that.
Then that hope/hopelessness state continued for a few more years. Then, somehow, I became more hopeful and found a few books with techniques that I could do.
From my experience, I found that CBT and various exposure based therapies can only do so much. I took some acting, improv, singing, public speaking classes and there was a little by little gradual change but didn’t really make much difference. I think those might work for the “low intensity” type anxiety but certain subconscious patterns need different approach. e.g. about ten years ago, after being aware of them (and with a lot of practice) I got good at breaking my negative thought cycles. However, that didn’t work for how I felt and the muscle tension was still there.
A few years later, something happened and that “very slow” change started happening. I’m not exactly sure of the details (or might be able to remember them later) but I know that that’s when the hope changed to belief that somehow something will work. So, I started various relaxations, meditations, visualizations and various other techniques to work with my subconscious mind (NLP and hypnosis). I even met a lot of people involved with NLP/hypnosis but after many many attempts (over a period of six years by a dozen people) still no change. However, I noticed something very interesting. If you learn NLP or hypnosis, you will be able to get certain feedback from the other person’s (and also your own) subconscious mind. Interestingly, I noticed that everyone who tried things did receive “yes” from my subconscious but I received “NO” on the inside (sometimes as feeling, sometimes as internal voice). At first I didn’t know what to make of it (especially with all the other symptoms of SA going on) but over time it became clear that my subconscious was just “pretending” to go along. Especially, by the dozenth person this phenomenon became very obvious. Although, in some respect, it wasn’t really that surprising. If I want to cook a certain food but am unsuccessful, then I go to a restaurant to figure out how can I make the food, am I going to be interested if a waiter brings me that food? Not really. I want the info so that I can make the changes that I want and not the change. Similarly, I found people were trying to fix things that they weren’t asked to change and ignored what I wanted (at least that three out of the dozen that actually asked me what I want). I also have to mention that none of these were paid sessions, but rather at various meetings. Initially I was even interested in having an actual session but since I found no change after a few attempts, I didn’t feel a session would be the way for me to go. So, if your subconscious mind is not on board (i.e. no permission / participation) then it will not create the requested changes. That’s why some repetition based hypnosis techniques may not be effective. There was another “confirmation” that there will be no change. During visualizations and NLP techniques, I also found that I couldn’t clearly see and feel what I would have liked to see and how I would’ve liked to feel. When I tried to imagine anxiety related situations, the images were often completely or mostly dark and there was nothing that I could do the make them bright or colorful. Only with time was I able to eventually access my “memories” and change them. Finally, after many years, now I know that the I will not have to live with the SA for the rest of my life.
In general, I know there are many factors that affect anxiety but I know how powerful certain subconscious patterns can be and if not changed/processed, can be truly limiting. Also, there were other emotional patterns (memories) that needed their own resolution.
Hope you don’t mind my rather long first crack at trying to summarize what happened in the last 30ish years of my life. I am really amazed at how clearly you are able to write about your experience. Hope my writing is at least reasonably clear.
This is all great feedback. Thanks! I’m sort of in a daze right now because I haven’t been sleeping well, but I’m going to try to process this later today or tomorrow. Thanks again! 🙂
Hey VanDamme- I’m feeling a bit better, so I’m going to try to process your post.
First, just knowing you used to go through many of the things I’m currently going through and no longer experience them is motivation in itself. I envy you. That you were able to work through your irrational beliefs and some how change them is amazing. I feel like mine are just set in stone. No matter how much I work on it, they won’t change. I feel powerless. It sounds like you found success in CBT, as you were able to break through your negative thought cycles, and you used that as a stepping stone to find ways to change your deeper, unconscious beliefs. I’ve tried experimenting with yoga, meditation, and hypnosis to try to bring about deeper change, but so far I haven’t had much success. I feel like I need to first bring about change logically—i.e., stop the negative thought patterns—so I can have some sort of stability in my life before I can change the deeper beliefs.
Also, your writing is very clear and very beneficial. You’ve given me a little hope. Thanks!
I’m glad that writing gave you a little hope. 🙂 I know each of us may be on different paths but if some people can find their way, that gives hope to others. That’s how I felt when I read about others’ successes many years ago.
Envy – I know what you mean. Before the Internet, I thought I was the only person dealing with my type of issues which lead in part to the gradual hopelessness. Then the Internet came along and I found others online who were dealing with the same issues or have already got rid of SA. I was in my mid-twenties and reading about people who were teenagers found something that worked for them filled me with envy. On one hand, it was great to know that there is hope but on the other hand, they pretty much had their whole life ahead of them without this huge limitation. Then, even after the slow change began, I wanted change to happen faster.
Interestingly, this led me to learn acceptance, letting go, not comparing myself to others and many other very (at least to me) valuable life skills. Now, in my mid-thirties with SA pretty much gone, if I do compare myself to others, I think I’m rather lucky. I have met many people in their 50s, 60s who have lived with SA for all (or at least a significant portion of) their lives. Compared to that my situation is rather good.
I do want to write more about my experiences. There are a number of things I want to expand upon that I already wrote about here and there are a few relevant topics that I also want to include. I was thinking about posting it in the “Triumphs” section (as one large post) of the S.A.S. forum but now I’m thinking it might be better if it’s broken up. Easier for others to read, to reply to, and perhaps ask questions. Do you think the blog “option” on the S.A.S. forum would be suitable for that or would a WordPress blog be better? For now I would write about my past but it might be a good idea to add more stuff in the future.
I just re-read some of what I wrote and it definitely looks like a first (or maybe second) draft. 🙂
I was going to but somehow skipped my mind…
I wish you also find the answers (and perhaps peace of mind) that you are looking for.
p.s.: if you have any questions, you can probably see my e-mail, or contact me through the S.A.S. board. My username there is VanDamme.
Hey. Acceptance, letting go, not comparing .. I wish I had all those things. I feel like I get a little closer everyday and then–BAM!–I enter a huge social situation, flooded with anxiety, and all those things come rushing back. It’s frustrating.
As far as an SAS blog vs. WordPress .. it all depends on what you want. With SAS you’ll have an instant audience; with WordPress it will take time to build up a following. I love the features on WordPress, though, and it feels more like it’s your own, which can be good and bad. I think if you intend to post regularly, then you should go with WordPress. Maybe you could summarize your success story on the SAS board, under the triumphs section, but include a more detailed story on the blog.
I’ve been thinking about my blog and will probably go with the SAS blog. This is more about sharing the info rather than “to build up a following”. My guess is that more people will be able to find that info easier there. It’ll take a while to collect (remember) and organized my experience since I’m only able to access lots of details only now. After that I’ll post each “topic” every few days but I’m not sure after that. I’ll probably write about my successes perhaps in a before/after format to let people know what is possible but that could go under the Triumphs section.
That sounds like a good idea. Let me know when you start getting things posted.
I like reading your blog because it helps me remember the things I went through even though I haven’t thought of them for a while. Kind of like a big picture puzzle where I have all the pieces (though some are still in the box) and now I want to put them together to create the “big picture”. Once I have that, I’ll “digest” it for a while and if I find it is “right” then I’ll begin to post it. I’m not sure but probably a few weeks if all goes well. I’ll definitely let you know when I do begin to post it.
Sorry I haven’t visited your blog for a while!! You did go attend the wedding! I think that is such an accomplishment because you faced your fears and actually forced yourself to live out the event. Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. Although you said you were feeling tense all the time, I’m sure the people who talked with you enjoyed your company. I can relate to many of the things you write here, Mike, because I experienced tremendous anxiety and a lot of negative feelings during my sister’s wedding.
I’m sorry that you went through a lot of feelings during and after the wedding, but as your girlfriend said, I want you to be happy, too. You always work so hard facing yourself every day, and you’re brave enough to share your experiences with us through blogging. You should be proud of yourself, and I am. Please try to give yourself credit for trying hard to fight your anxiety. Hope you’re feeling better!
Oh honey. You should be very proud of youself, instead of beating yourself up. You stayed the whole time, right? In fact, even showing up is a massive accomplishment.
And you’re having therapy to work through these issues. So you’re not stagnating, you’re moving forward. One step at a time, you will beat this.
I smiled when I read this because I felt proud of you, and I barely even know you!
Thanks everyone! I’ve been pretty out of it the past few days. I think I was still hung over on Sunday, and I had another difficult social event Sunday night. I was very depressed yesterday, and I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’m really stressed about school as I’m pretty behind now. Thankfully, I’m going to see my therapist tonight. Should be interesting.
I’m your buddy Al (sp408) from the social anxiety forum. I took a brief read through this and I identify with the pain. People who don’t have social phobia/anxiety really don’t get it. I especially hate it when people say “Al, just go learn social (or dating) skills.” They don’t get what that means for somebody who’s socially behind.
Hey Al. Yeah, I hate that too. My mom told me the other night that I should join some group or something to help build social skills. If it was only that easy .. Most just don’t understand how hard it is.
I find it interesting how well you (and also other posters) can describe your experience. One of the reasons why I don’t think therapy even would’ve worked for me was that I couldn’t put some of my experience into words. I could describe what was happening in my body and other symptoms that I was aware of but when it came to the deeper/subconscious stuff – I didn’t even know where to begin. When I tried, it almost felt like experiencing those exact same panic situations and my mind would just shut down instantly. Even when I tried to open up to my brother about my SA (and I thought I trusted him), it was really difficult. It did get a bit easier over time, but I preferred to work on things by myself.
It’s interesting that while lots of our experiences are the same, there are also differences. I also used to have the “you are not good”, “others are much better than you are” type of thoughts. But I didn’t have a sense that I don’t want those changed, just didn’t have the tools. I don’t I mentioned this yet, but another thing that helped me to stop these kind of thoughts (other than the constant interruptions) was meditation. The type of mediation where observe everything and label it (e.g. though, feeling, sound, etc). If you practice it enough, eventually, you’ll become an observer to your experience and stop being a “participator”. After being able to recognize the automatic thought patterns instantly and not having that certain emotional attachment that I used to have was really liberating. Although, that didn’t stop from occurring, the “suffering” aspect was gone. Much like when you are driving a car (and you obviously doing it well because the car is traveling in the proper lane and you aren’t crashing into anyone). If there’s a passenger keep telling you that you are a bad driver, you can accept it or ( as I would) just keep replying: Shut the F@!$k up! 😀 After a while I think most people would stop. However, in some respect some of these thought patterns were more like voices coming from the stereo speakers. Those won’t be easily silenced if you keep talking to them. Those would need a different approach.
Also, another benefit of the meditation was that I could “reasonably” detach from the physical symptoms of the anxiety. It didn’t lessen the symptoms but still not being associated to them made the experience easier to get through.
I know I have a lot more to write about this topic of what self/personality is and which thoughts are really “ours”. And those emotional black holes that can suck you in … those were really tough … but I did survive them.
Whoops! I was going to post the previous reply for “a familiar voice” but I guess I forgot to check 🙂
Hey- Putting words to feelings and learning to name the inner experiences is not something that happened overnight. I learned a lot of what’s going on inside me through other peoples’ experiences I read on the Internet. It takes time. I, too, can relate to the panic feeling when trying to articulate exactly what’s going on. I shut down and experience that panic in almost every single therapy session. It can be frustrating, but I believe little by little I’m getting better at it.
Trying to become an “observer” is my goal, too. Have you read any Eckhart Tolle? He talks a lot about this. It’s amazing when you can actually step back and look at your feelings unfold in front of you. It’s enlightening, really. The key in my opinion–and you mentioned it too–is being able to catch your thoughts before they take control. I want to get to the point where I can become an “observer” before I’m entrenched with anxiety. It’s not an easy thing to do, because those negative feelings and thought patterns feel so automatic. They’re so ingrained, I sometimes feel like they are who I am.
I have dabbled with meditation here and there. Right now, I’m just so busy with school and therapy and CBT and this blog and what not. It’s hard to find time, and when I do have the time, it’s hard to get on the cushion and do it. I do a lot of running and I sometimes feel like that’s my meditation. But I’d like to do more. If you have any insights on establishing a regular practice, I’d love to hear them.
Funny that you mention Eckhart Tolle. I did come across his writings after I got good with the detachment-type meditation. 🙂 So his writings about being the “observer” made perfect sense – especially since I’d already experienced it.
That helped me to “detach” from most of the anxiety symptoms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really use it for the really intense emotions. Not sure if my “detachment” wasn’t powerful enough or something else. Perhaps, some situations require the other aspect of meditation (focus / concentration) something I’m only able to experience now after so many years. Detachment also helped with ignoring being cold.
I think “detachment” meditation practice can be done any time you don’t need to concentrate (e.g. driving) but for “focus” meditation you need to practice longer and a schedule can help. In my case, I did start off with a guided meditation cd but after that could practice without it. Basically, you just label every experience you have as: feeling, sound, sight, etc. And you keep doing it. I guess my “job” at that time helped a lot: I was a security guard (though mostly isolated locations with the least amount of human contact) so I had to observe. 😀 That worked for me. There may be other ways that you might find more beneficial. Good luck.
Good stuff. Yeah, I’m pretty reliant on the guided meditation CDs myself. I’m a big fan of Jon Kabat Zinn. His voice alone is so relaxing.
Now I just need to practice more! 🙂
Have you ever had a situation where someone mentioned the “right thing” at the “right time” ? Interestingly, I’ve had way too many of these to account for them as “random occurrences” 🙂
Thank you for mentioning Jon. 🙂 I found a few of his talks on YouTube regarding meditation. In one of them he even held a session (the one at Google). I also find his voice/speaking style perfect (calm/relaxing) for meditation. I haven’t done this kind of “focus on the breath” type meditation in a while because the extra tension in my body prevented me from really being able to focus. However, recently I was thinking that since the tension is almost gone, I could continue. It was interesting that when I first tried to focus on my breath, I had similar symptoms as in the past. As soon as I closed my eyes, I began to feel my body becoming more and more tense and also my heart beating faster. I remember the thoughts stopping for decent amount of time but my attention kept wandering from the various muscle tensions in my body and other symptoms.
However, after lots of practice, I did have some interesting experiences. One was after “shifting” attention during walking: it felt like as if “I” was somehow stationary and everything else was moving around me. (I can still do that.) The other thing was during driving (also after “shifting”) I kind of “forgot” that I have to drive in the right lane. Of course, at some level I knew that I had to drive in the right lane but at a different level it really felt like as if that “right lane” rule was gone. Also, as I mentioned before, it helped me to detach from various symptoms of anxiety. So I guess it did work in some respect but not being able to maintain focus on the breath (or anything else) meant that I had more to experience.
Sometimes even the words (concepts) used can make a difference. Even though I am familiar with it, the way Jon is talking about meditation is just “makes sense” to me. It’s a good way to get back into again and to continue.
There was one other thing that Jon brought up in his talks and I also thought about mentioning it because it is a major part of my SA related experience. He put is as:
What is your “Job” or “Way”? Basically, why are you here? Many times that was only thing that kept me going through the tough times of SA. Interestingly, if I hadn’t followed my “Way”, I would always have had a feeling that something is missing. (This is another topic that I’ll be discussing in more detail but wanted to mention it now briefly)
Another aspect that I liked in Jon’s talks is that he also is interested in meditation (and its effects) scientifically. I’m also interested in looking at various human experiences scientifically and will probably be more involved in it in the future. Probably not career wise but as a hobby. So, thanks again for mentioning him. 🙂
Along the lines of following your “way,” I often ask myself- Does my path have a heart? Does what I’m doing matter? Am I doing good. It’s just a reminder to stay on a healing path.