Category Archives: spirituality

therapy, 10-5-10

Therapy’s supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to be a place where I can share and my therapist can share, and I can grow and my therapist can grow, together. It’s an intimate bond between two people. In fact, there’s probably nothing more intimate than two people sharing the same space, just being who they are.

“Therapy isn’t safe,” I told my therapist, J. “I can’t run or hide, and I can’t use distractions either. I can never get the attention off me. I have to be here, and I have to be present. I have to be me.”

“You can’t protect yourself from the intimacy in here,” J said.

He paused, and I looked away. When my eyes returned, I saw him looking at me–I mean really looking at me. I don’t think anybody has ever taken me in like that before. My eyes darted away again.

“You can’t protect yourself from yourself,” he said, breaking the silence.

He’s right: Therapy, like meditation, has only one demand–that I be myself. Simply me. Whoever that may be in the moment.

And that’s why it’s not safe.

I spend so much of my energy outside of therapy just trying to fit in and remain anonymous. By doing so I don’t live in the present moment, and I think people probably recognize this. When I’m feeling comfortable and can be present, people respond to me. They enjoy being around me. People like that; they want me to be there with them, not somewhere else. And if I am somewhere else, people can sense that too. Their response changes, they see me differently, which reinforces the anxiety.

I’m very fortunate that I have a place where I can be present. I may not be present all the time in therapy–I can go places in my head, make lists, think about what I’m going to do outside of therapy etc.–but I really believe that I spend a little more time in the present moment each session, and that this present awareness is beginning to spread to other parts of my life.

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therapy, 9-28-10

Well, therapy this week continued right where we left off last Tuesday.

It was like I never left …

Last week I ended with- “Well, now I feel like I can’t bring anger into the room, which makes me angry.” And this week I began with- “I’m angry.”

I explained to Mr. J., my therapist, that I felt hurt because he didn’t listen to me last week. In our previous session, he made me angry because he changed the subject while I was in the middle of dealing with some difficult feelings, and he concluded that anger arose because the session was difficult for me–because I was trying to avoid something, in other words. I tried to explain that my anger was just anger but he didn’t listen.

He immediately apologized for not listening (which seemed sincere). I felt a lot better, and we moved on.

It’s interesting (and ironic, I guess) that I started going to therapy to get help with my relationships, and yet in the beginning of our session yesterday, we had to work on our relationship. A part of me thinks that was just a waste of time, but another part thinks that it’s great those feelings came up because my relationship with my therapist is a microcosm of how I view the world.

Once I become content with myself in therapy, and with our relationship, those feelings should extend to all my relationships.

***

Afterward, I told J. about my weekend (see the camping post, if interested), and we chose to look deeper at what’s behind my desire to keep my girlfriend away from my friends.

I’m very uncomfortable with my girlfriend connecting (or cathecting, as J. put it) with my friends, because in a past relationship my girlfriend “stole” one of my friends after we broke up–that is, for whatever reason, my friend stopped being friends with me (who I was friends with first) but kept hanging out with my ex. So I’m afraid this will happen again, and so my solution is to keep my girlfriend away from my friends, which is hard for me to do because she’s my “safe” person, so she ends up hanging out with most of my friends, and because she’s fun and outgoing and interesting (and I’m not) this makes me very uncomfortable (did I say that already?).

Why would so and so want to be friends with me when they can be friends with her–someone infinitely more interesting?

What’s more, I don’t have very many friends, and so I’m very protective of the ones I have, and I keep them at a distance because I’m afraid if they get too close, they’ll see the real me and then run the other way. Because of this I don’t have true relationships with them, and the relationships are very fragile.

“I don’t understand this behavior,” I told J. “I really want real friendships; I don’t like having to cling to my girlfriend all the time, but I just can’t seem to let my guard down. What can I do?”

“It’s simple,” he said. “Develop a relationship with yourself. Relationships come and go; the only constant is your relationship with yourself.”

If I can develop an inner relationships (sounds easy, right?) I will have stability in life no matter what comes my way, and the real me will open up. My friends will see this and will connect more with me.

Okay, sounds great. How do I do that?

“You’re doing it right now,” J. said. “We’re doing it together, you and I. I give you the space to be yourself–the real you, whatever that may be in the moment–in here, while you slowly open up to yourself. It’s a lifetime of work, but it’s necessary because you can’t have happiness and joy in your life if you don’t have affinity for yourself.”

“That’s too abstract,” I said. “It has no practical meaning for me now, in
the present. I don’t know what to do”

“You’re doing it.”

We sat in silence for some time.

“I know that you feel vulnerable and exposed in here,” he said breaking the silence, “but all I really see is a man trying to develop a relationship with himself. That’s all.”

“I feel like I’m twelve years old,” I said.

“You feel like you need someone to look up to and to take care of you?”

Yes. And I didn’t have anybody there–emotionally speaking–when I was twelve, but I do now–I have myself.

camping

I went camping in Big Basin over the weekend with a friend (Ms. M), my girlfriend, her brother, and two of his friends. It was rough weekend.

I hadn’t seen Ms. M. for quite some time, and, honestly, I think that my girlfriend connects more with her than I do at this point. But since I have very few friends, I’m very protective of the ones I have, so I’ve tried to keep my girlfriend and Ms. M. somewhat apart. (Which is a separate issue altogether.) Anyway, I rode down with her on Saturday, and it didn’t go well.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to somewhat reconnect with her. I had to say the right things. I had to be funny, witty, and interesting. I put so much pressure on myself and I worked myself up so much beforehand that I had to take something. I wanted to take an Ativan, but I took Propranolol by mistake. All my pills are getting mixed up because I have to cut them and I keep all of the cut halves together, in the pill cutter.

Mental note: pink = Ativan, round and white = Propranolol, triangle = Lamictal. Or maybe that’s pink = Propranolol, round = … ?

Anyhow, I didn’t live up to my expectations on the car ride. I didn’t always say the right things (I never do), and I wasn’t funny enough or witty enough or even interesting (I never am, never am, never am); and thus, I was very anxious throughout the ride. I think the second I got in the car in fact, I just wanted to be somewhere else. It was a different kind of hell being in that car with her, but it was still hell.

When we got to the campground, I stopped worrying about conversing with Ms. M. and started worrying about meeting my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend and her friend. They arrived with my girlfriend a day earlier. I was actually supposed to go with them but I avoided it, opting instead to ride with Ms. M. on Saturday.

Once I got through the formal introductions (which I think I’m great at)–

  • To my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend: “It’s nice to meet you.” (Smile, shake hand.)
  • To my girlfriend’s brother: “It’s nice to see you again. (Smile, shake hand.)
  • To my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend’s friend: “It’s nice to meet you.” (Smile, shake hand.)
  • To my girlfriend: “I missed you.” (Smile, hug, kiss.)

–I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or how to act. I wanted so much to make a good impression, but I really just sat there at the picnic table while everybody else conversed. I didn’t need to be there. Nobody cared.

After a quick breakfast, Ms. M., my girlfriend, and I went to Santa Cruz so they could register for the triathlon. I wasn’t in it but I wasn’t about to stay behind with the others. On the drive into town, I sat in the back, while my girlfriend and Ms. M. conversed, while I consciously told myself I wasn’t going to compete with them (or anyone) to say things: instead, I’ll just be quiet until there’s an opening. What that really meant: I just won’t talk and feel like shit because I’m not talking. I just stared out the window, wondering how I’d get through the weekend and why I was there to begin with. They acknowledged me once during the whole ride, commenting about how quiet I was.

I didn’t need to be there.

Back at the campground, I avoid conversation by taking a nap–and by that I mean I pretended to. I stayed awake, hoping that someone would say something bad about me so I could confirm my suspicion that I am a piece of shit. It didn’t happen, though, but then again, no one seemed to mind that I wasn’t around. I got up around 5:00 to help make dinner.

After dinner we all sat around the fire talking–everybody except me, that is. I didn’t say much to anyone the rest of the night.

Put simple, I felt very depressed throughout the day. But was my depression caused by my anxiety, or was it a mood swing? Probably both. I binged on Friday night and felt like shit (even more depressed) in the morning, and I think I went into the weekend feeling depressed, because of a mood swing, and then that depression made it even more difficult to engage socially, which, in turn, brought me down even further.

I barely slept that night, but I woke up on Sunday feeling a lot better. My girlfriend and Ms. M. left early for the triathlon, while I stayed behind to help the others pack up the campground. I ended up staying with them most of the day, watching the triathlon. I never really felt comfortable but I got by.

Pic of the athletes warming up:

I love watching endurance events because everyone gets so emotional. At the end of the race, I hung out by myself watching the runners cross the finish line. Some laughed. Some cried. Some shouted. Each one evoked emotion inside of me, and I started crying at one point. It was therapeutic.

When my friend crossed the finish line I gave her a big hug. I felt the connection between us. It felt good.

On the ride home, my elevated mood rose even higher. I couldn’t stop talking. What’s more, I was witty and funny and interesting and felt no anxiety, and I didn’t really want to say goodbye.

Overall, Sunday was a much different day than Saturday. On Saturday I felt so depressed I couldn’t converse with anyone, and during the night I felt suicidal. I didn’t feel even the least bit depressed on Sunday. I sought out social situations and spoke up rather than hide.

I hope others didn’t notice this swing.

Finally, I want to end with some positive thinking. I don’t think my girlfriend’s brother’s girlfriend liked me very much. I don’t really know why I think this, but I could just sense it. She didn’t really talk to me much and when she did it felt forced and she gave me some funny looks. I know it could be anything, but I’m interpreting it negatively. Interestingly, I feel somewhat okay with that–I’m not a bad person because someone doesn’t like me. There isn’t something inherently wrong with me because someone doesn’t like me. I don’t need to change something every time I come across someone who doesn’t like me.

Rinse. Repeat.

I hope everyone’s day went well, and I hope this good mood of mine lasts for a few more days!

binge, lamictal, my story

Friday

I binged again last Friday on the usual: a super burrito and almost a quart of ice cream. It’s scary how the “usual” used to be a super burrito plus a pint of ice cream–and now it’s a quart! Anyway, I wanted to take a picture of the food because I want to keep visual records of my binges (because I think it will help make the binges seem more real after), but I didn’t because I had to eat the food immediately because I was feeling terrible. I didn’t have time to waste on finding the camera and arranging the food. I had to eat! I felt that bad.

After I jammed the food down my throat, I felt terrible. The depression seemed to increase and I felt shame, regret, and tension throughout my body. I wanted to eat more–a lot more–but there was no time because I had to go right to hypnotherapy after.

I’ve been seeing a hypnotherapist for my social anxiety since April. I really like the idea of hypnotherapy (intellectually speaking), but I’m just not getting very much out of it. I probably would have quit a while ago if I didn’t connect so well with my hypnotherapist, Ms. L. She’s suffered with social anxiety most of her adult life and is currently recovering from it. She’s really easy to talk to, and it’s just nice because I know she actually understands what I’m going through. I think a lot of therapists and psychologists don’t really know all that much about the disorder, and if they do, they only understand it on an intellectual level–they don’t understand it first hand. Because of this, I think it’s hard for them to have empathy, and it makes treatment difficult.

With that said, my hypnotherapist is not trained in clinical psychology–she only has her hypnotherapist certification. Yet I treat her as if she was a psychologist. As of late, we’ve been spending a lot less time actually doing hypnotherapy and more time just talking. I feel comfortable telling her my secrets because I know she’s been through the exact same things.

Hypnotherapy is sort of like a guided meditation. She guides me away from my thoughts and the external world to my inner thoughts and feelings and emotions. It’s very hard for me to move away from my thoughts and into the present moment. I don’t think it’s possible to ever truly shut off your thoughts, but I do think it’s possible to not let them control you–letting them just be there without attaching onto them. I’m not there yet, and so I think it’s important for me to work on meditating on my own and on other forms of healing. Being lost in my thoughts prevents me from going deep into my intuition and, thus, getting positive benefits from the therapy.

On Friday we just talked. I told her about my depressions and how I was diagnosed with Cyclothymia. We both agreed that it would be best to hold off on any further sessions until I start getting relief from the depressions, as hypnotherapy can’t really help with something that’s biological in nature and the depressions are my main concern at this point. We scheduled our next session for the beginning of October. Hopefully I’ll be feeling a little better then.

During the session I also spoke about my frustrations with my mom: how whenever I talk to her she trivializes my issues by saying either, “Everybody gets anxious sometimes” or “You shouldn’t worry so much about what people think.” Which pisses me off, as you know. Anyway, Ms. L responded by saying, “Maybe your mom really wants to help, but she doesn’t know what to say. She’s trying to help in her own way. Maybe you should try telling her how she could help in the future.” This is something I hadn’t considered, and the more I think about it, the more I think she’s probably right. I engage in the same behavior sometimes: often when people are explaining their problems or issues I tend to respond by giving positive, practical feedback. I think sometimes people just need someone there to listen without judging–and that’s what I’m looking for from my mom. I just want her to listen. Maybe I should try explaining this to her?

After hypnotherapy I went for a run. I ended up running 3.5 miles with a belly full of ice cream left over from my binge . I gagged up stomach acid and chocolate ice cream every minute or so and just spit it out. I probably “threw up” thirty or forty times. So my binge turned into a purge. Wonderful.

Saturday

I started the Lamictal on Saturday. 12.5 mg. No side effects yet. But no positive benefits either. It’s too early to tell. I need to get up to the 50 to 100 mg levels before I’ll even begin to feel anything.

I hung out with a friend, Ms R., on Saturday. She suffers with social anxiety and depression and that’s how the friendship formed, but we have a lot more in common, as well: we’re both in graduate school studying information science, we’re both volunteering at a literacy center, we’re both interested in politics and literature, we’ve both lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I really enjoy hanging out with her. Again, it just feels good being able to actually talk to someone about my issues and know that they understand because they experience them.

Oh and I also showered for the first time in like five days! Yay!

Sunday

I spent most of Sunday holed up in the library, working through my history with social anxiety (My Story). It was incredibly difficult and evoked a lot of emotions. There were times when I couldn’t go on because I got too emotional, but I pushed through. It’s a work in progress and my hope is to continue expanding it. I also hope that you can relate.

On Sunday, someone came across my blog by searching “unhappy with graduate school and depress” from Google. I’m glad to see that people are finding their way here, and I can relate: I’m in graduate school, and I’m not really happy with it. I’m going to school online, which doesn’t help me to develop socially, and I’m going into a field (library science) that isn’t exactly growing. I have to constantly remind myself that (a) I am in graduate school (sometimes it’s hard to tell because the program is online) and (b) the economy will bounce back. It’s been hard.

Anyway, if you read this, hang in there. I think you’ll eventually find something that you enjoy doing with your life if you continue searching.

Today

I’m in a hypomanic state today. I got up early, came to the library, and have been working on schoolwork and blog posts ever since. I read seventy-five pages for school and finished a project. I wrote this post and am working on another. I’ve posted comments on other blogs and message forums. I’m caught up on email. And I’ve only been in the library for about four hours. I feel good, though. It’s nice being caught up with school and being so very, very productive. Earlier I was feeling extremely–extremely!–anxious. But not anymore. I’m not sure what that’s about. Actually I am still feeling somewhat anxious (and happy), but I feel sad as well. This is me right now: 🙂 + 😦 / happy and sad / I’m smiling and frowning / I’m laughing and crying …

social anxiety: what is it?

If you’re reading this, you probably already know what social anxiety is. Maybe you’ve already read all the formal definitions? Or you experience social anxiety everyday in your life? You know what it is, in other words; you don’t need me telling you. Well, I’d like to offer up an alternative definition–a subjective definition. Why? Put simply, we all know what social anxiety is objectively: we know that it’s the anxiety we get in social situations. It’s the worry and fear we get when we think about interacting with people and being judged by them. It’s those irrational thoughts that won’t go away. I know that. You know that. Doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists know that. In my experience though–living with social anxiety, seeking treatment, meeting others with social anxiety–I know that social anxiety is much, much more than just the basic DSM definition. It’s subjective, like any disorder. There’s varying degrees of intensity, specific and generalized. People experience much different physical symptoms. For me, sweating is huge. It’s something I constantly worry about. For others, it may be blushing or shaking. I’m going to offer up my interpretation, which, I hope will get you to think about how social anxiety affects you personally so that you can find your own definition.

When I first went to the psychologist about my anxiety, I talked about it objectively, without really thinking about how it affects me personally. It took a long time for me to be able to open up about it–and an even longer time to get the right treatment, tailored for my specific needs. Think of it this way: the better you understand how social anxiety affects you, the easier it is for you to explain to others how you experience anxiety. If your psychologist or psychiatrist understand this better, they can provide better treatment. It’s that simple.

***

Aside for medical professionals, I’ve told very few people about my anxiety in the real world, and those I have told, more often than not, respond by saying something like, “Everybody gets nervous and anxious sometimes in social situations. It’s normal.” This sort of response doesn’t help. In fact, trivializing my problems only exacerbates them. This post serves as my response to them–the things I should have said. First off, in a sense, they’re right: it’s easy to forget that most people get shy, nervous, and anxious in social situations at one time or another. Just knowing that, though, doesn’t help when I’m flooded with anxiety at a party or work meeting. Also, there’s a big difference between social anxiety and shyness and introversion, as well as just feeling “normal” anxiety and nervousness and worry and fear in social situations. Social anxiety isn’t just about what happens during the social situation itself. In fact, in my experience, the worry before the event and the brooding after are much more intense and troublesome than the actual anxiety during the event. The before and after are what separates social anxiety from “normal” anxiety.

Before, during, after?

I get anticipatory anxiety when there’s an upcoming social event. Depending on the situation, this anxiety can come anywhere from two days before the event to several months. For example, I have two class presentations in December. I’m already freaking out over them. The bigger the event, the more intense my anxiety will be, and, often times, the anticipatory anxiety is much worse than the anxiety during the event itself. If the social situation will just be one or two people, I generally don’t get much anticipatory anxiety. However, if the event is a large social gathering where I know I’ll have to be in the spotlight (like a work meeting or class presentation), the anxiety will come as soon as I find out about the event and stay with me until it takes place.

Anticipatory anxiety can be crippling. It usually involves hypothetical thinking: I envision the social situation, picturing who will be there, what I’ll be wearing, and how I’ll act. I usually get very detailed with conversations: I’ll say this, the person(s) will respond with this, and I’ll have the perfect response to that. In my head it’s all perfect. Logically, I know this thinking doesn’t serve me. Social situations are not controllable, scientific experiences. They’re unpredictable. They’re sometimes illogical. You can’t plan for them. Sure, if it’s a work meeting or presentation, you can practice for that, anticipating people’s questions, but normal, everyday social gatherings cannot be planned for. It’s too hard. It sets up unrealistic expectations that I can never live up. It takes me out of the present moment, and it just sets me up for failure. Logically I know that. But sometimes my logic isn’t the most rational.

For me, anticipatory anxiety doesn’t just happen in my head; a lot happens in my body, too: feelings, emotions, and memories come up, my body feels tense and it aches. Sometimes I don’t even know my anxiety is anticipatory in nature. It’s so frustrating to feel anxious and not know why. In those instances, I generally try to distract myself with something, but the anxiety grows. Like me, it wants to be seen and heard. It needs to be felt. It needs to matter. But looking at it is very difficult. Being in my body when I’m anxious is very, very uncomfortable. The longer I go without addressing my feelings, though, the greater the anxiety gets. Often times, the anticipatory anxiety follows me right into the social situation itself, at which point, I’m so beat up, so flooded with anxiety there’s no hope for me. I fail without event giving myself a chance to succeed.

***

During the social situation, I’m generally flooded with thoughts, so flooded, in fact, that I can’t connect with any other thoughts besides anxious one’s. This flooding generally starts about an hour or two before the event. Before that, I’m pretty calm: I can connect with my thoughts and I don’t have any of the physical symptoms of anxiety, but there’s just this ugly feeling inside–this feeling that tells me something bad is going to happen to me. There’s no tangible thoughts telling me what this “bad” thing is specifically (unless I’m having extreme anticipatory anxiety, of course). I can just feel deep down this impending doom, coming closer and closer to me.

As the days before the event change to hours, that impending doom becomes more defined. Thoughts materialize, telling me, Everyone will think I’m strange or weird, they’ll think I’m a failure–and they’re right, I won’t know what to say, People will see how anxious and nervous I am and because of this, no one will want to talk to me. The anxiety digs deeper, becoming stronger: I start sweating, my heart beat picks up, I feel light-headed, sometimes I shake, sometimes it’s even hard to breath. Panic sets in. I do anything to get out of going. If I can’t avoid the event the anxiety continues to strengthen, the physiological symptoms increase. At large social gatherings, I’m usually completely flooded when I enter them. I can’t smile, at first. I can barely speak. I can manage a few hellos, but small-talk is almost impossible. Once the attention is off me, I calm down a bit and can manage some conversation, but the anxiety stays with me, increasing intensity when I have to talk about myself or when then spotlight is back on me.

When I’m not talking to people, I’m constantly looking for signs that people are judging me: not smiling at me, not giving me eye contact, not approaching me to talk, not looking at me. This behavior is self-fulfilling. It reinforces the anxiety. I also use distractions to take the attention off of me. I say one-liner jokes. I eat. I chew gum. I ask questions. I listen. I watch TV. I read a magazine. I play with a cat or dog. I smoke. I drink. I try to be outlandish: growing a beard or my hair out. Anything to distract people from my words, so they won’t have to hear my true feelings and opinions. I’m so afraid people are going to negatively judge me and not like me. But, in reality, not opening up to people keeps them away. I don’t make connections. People don’t know who I really am.

What’s more, when people do talk to me, I’m flooded and disconnected from my thoughts, I often don’t know what to say. When someone asks a question my goal is to say the first thing that comes to mind and say it quickly so I can get the attention off me so I can go back to just watching and observing and reinforcing the anxiety. If the anxiety becomes too great, I flee to the bathroom or to a spare bedroom or something to recharge. But I never leave. If I leave I have to say goodbye, and by doing so, the attention is back to me again.I’d rather stay put and suffer, which is exactly what I do: I hide until the anxiety dissipates and am able to go back and suffer some more until I have to flee again.

It never ends. It never, ever ends.

***

Even when it’s over, it’s not really over. I carry social situations around with me long after they occurred. I constantly brood on the negatives from social events, picking out where I failed to lived up to my expectations. I go over the event over and over again: I should have said this, when this person said this. I should have smiled more. I should have been more open, more relaxed, more willing to listen. And then I re-frame it by picturing myself back in the event. But this time I’m someone totally different. I’m free from anxiety, so I can converse freely. It all goes well this time around, in my head, and I tell myself it will be like that from now on–that I’ll be this new person, free from anxiety.

Sometimes I’ll spend weeks looking at an event in my mind. I won’t even know I’m doing it either. It’s hard to consciously catch that behavior, and when I do, it seems even harder to remain conscious and not lose myself again in negative thoughts about the event. It’s frustrating, and it doesn’t help. I only look at the negative aspects, so I can say, See! You are a failure. It sometimes takes weeks for me to move past the negative parts and view the situation more objectively. Social situations are never going to go how I want them to. There are always going to be failures, negative aspects. But, whenever I look at the big picture, I can see that it’s not that bad. I can show up. I can talk. I can function. I may not be the most comfortable, but I’m there–and that’s what matters the most. Until that point–when I can look at things more objectively–I’m lost in my negative thoughts which can lead me into a depression. Then once I’m out of the depression, viewing things rationally, I often start obsessing over a new social event. I’m carried right from depression back to a state of anxiety (anticipatory) again.

I can never get a break, and, over time, these cycles build on each other, becoming stronger and stronger. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to break the cycle and be “normal” again.

 

What is “normal”?

Finally, I want to digress a bit and re-think or re-frame what it means to be “normal”. If it’s “normal” to experience some anxiety in social situations then my goal to be completely free from anxiety is unrealistic. Let’s go one step further: I think we can all agree that to a certain degree society is responsible for our nervousness and anxiety. We are constantly bombarded with commercials and advertisements, telling us who we should be and what we should buy–and if we are not that person they want or don’t buy the things they want, we’re total crap. Moreover, when our friends, family members, and role models buy into this system of consumption, there’s even more pressure to confirm. If we don’t, we will be labeled as different. Differences are good, but when you’re a introverted and highly sensitive person (which I am) and doing all you can to fit it (which I did), differences are what set you apart and can eventually plant the seed for social anxiety.

Plus, we’re programmed to believe that anxiety is the enemy, so we learn to suppress our worries and fears. Suppressing them only makes them grow. We then have to push them deeper and deeper via drugs, alcohol, or food. (All of the above, in my case.)

My point is this: if you take away society, would the anxiety go away as well? I think it would still be there, but it would be different. There’s always something to fret about. If you run from society, living your life in seclusion, your fears will shift; they won’t disappear. So, why do we (or “I”) have this obsession to be totally free from anxiety, if it’s not “normal”? That’s simple. I already answered it: because society tells us being anxiety free is the way to be, even if it’s impossible. So, the very thing that causes us to experience much of our anxiety also tells us that we shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety. By just being aware of that and shifting our attention away from external influences, we can begin to ease the anxiety. But remember: it will never go away completely. No matter how many drugs you take or how many binges you go on, the anxiety will find a way to get through. It’s like trying to shut out all light from a room during the middle of the day. Light always finds a way in.

Re-think “normal”, turn inward, be content with having some anxiety. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Also, you know this, but sometimes I forget: I am not an expert. I’m not formally trained in psychology or clinical therapy. I am, however, college educated, in graduate school, and I’ve read countless numbers of books on social anxiety, depression, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. I’ve also utilized a number of different treatments. Most importantly, I’m aware of my problems and how they affect me. If you asked my parents what they think of social anxiety and depression, they’d probably refer to them as being something that someone else has, even though they experience them too. I think I have enough experience and understanding to create knowledge, in other words. I think what I have to say matters.

That said, I do not have the answers. I can only share what I’ve come to know from living with social anxiety and depression and what I’ve learned from observing others and from the knowledge taken from books and first-hand accounts of anxiety and depression. As I share, my hope is that we–yes, you and I–will find some answers together.

Conclusion

So, that’s my definition–that’s how social anxiety affects my life. It’s not easy writing about this, but I’ve found that talking or writing about the things I avoid, helps me to forge a deeper connection with myself. It’s really the first step towards recovery. I urge you to look at how anxiety (or depression) affects your life and come up with your own definition so you can not only better explain your situation to your medical provider and get better treatment, but also for yourself: to understand, to connect, and to learn to appreciate.