Tag Archives: avoidance

Leisure Time

This post got me thinking ..

Even though I’m not working, the past few months have been pretty hectic for me. School work has been slowly piling up as the semester moves on. I’ve also been experiencing quite a bit more depression as of late. Some days I can’t do anything at all for school, and so I’m always having to play catch up. This blog has also been taking up a lot of my time. Writing and doing research for posts, responding to comments and emails, etc. I spend at least an hour on a social anxiety message forum each day, as well. Talk therapy, hypnotherapy, yoga, meditation, CBT … it all adds up. It’s all too much.

I can’t imagine adding a job to the mix. Dealing with my anxiety is a full-time job in itself, and I feel like I have to push myself more and more to overcome it–and I’m starting to think that’s not the right answer.

And when I look ahead, all I see is stress, and this stress leads to anticipatory anxiety. November is a mess: I have a wedding to go to, there’s Thanksgiving, and I have to give two class presentations. December’s even worse: Christmas, New Years, and party after party after party, all of which I probably won’t go to, which will make me feel like crap (actually, it already is).

My days are so full I have no time to think and just be present. I think we’re all conditioned to believe that if we’re not doing something productive, then we’re just wasting time. (Again, this is fuel for my perfectionism.) As a whole, we need to slow down, we need to relax, we need to enjoy (and learn to accept) our leisure time. I cannot keep going at the pace I’m at; it’s not helping to ease my anxiety; in fact, it’s doing just the opposite: it’s fueling it.

I want to do less. I need to keep up with school work, but I want to put less pressure on myself to always stay ahead. It’s okay not to get an A on every assignment; it’s okay to turn an assignment or two in late; it’s okay to fail–sometimes it’s the only way to learn. I want to put some boundaries on how much I work on this blog and answer emails and browse message forums. I want to take the train less and bike and walk more. Instead of taking the elevator I want to take the stairs. Instead of manically trying to fill my days with activity after activity after activity, I need to slow down and learn to accept my thoughts and anxieties and depressions, rather than pushing them aside–and hiding.

I want to have time for myself. I want to have time to think. And live. And be.

Poland, part 2; or: the socially anxious traveler

This post is a continuation of Poland, part 1….

While studying in Poland, I traveled extensively throughout Europe not only to see other parts of the world, but also to get away from the other Americans. Again, I had high hopes when I returned to Poland after I fled back to the states–expectations that I couldn’t live up to. The second I got off the airplane I knew things wouldn’t be different. I wouldn’t connect with anyone or fit in or feel comfortable–and I didn’t. And so, I spent as much time away as I could.

I’d now like to document my travels, which I should have done a long time ago ..

BEFORE POLAND

New York City (January 7th-11th, 2006)

I had a blast in New York. In fact, I had such a good time, I ended up moving there a year later. We (my ex-girlfriend and I) stayed in a YMCA hostel near Times Square for a night, but after getting no sleep, because of the extremely loud steam heating system, we moved to a hotel (also near Times Square).

Unfortunately, most of the pictures taken either have me and/or my girlfriend in them. So I can’t post them.

On liberty island, looking toward Manhattan.

Watching a band at CBGB who described themselves as Radiohead meets Pink Floyd. They turned out to be nothing like that. It was still cool, and I’m glad I went because the club closed later that year.

London (January 12th-14th)

After New York, we flew to London. I don’t think I saw the sun once, which somewhat prepared me for the weather here in San Francisco.

Buckingham Palace

Dali Museum

Tube

Big Ben

Paris (January 15th-18th)

Paris was/is definitely one of my favorite cities. Again, I didn’t see the sun or sky, but the wonderful architecture made up for it. I also fell in love with crepes and nutella–and nutella on crepes.

Arc de Triomphe

Madrid (January 19th-23rd )

Next up was Madrid. I honestly didn’t care for the city (aside for the Prado Museum), but that could be because I was starting to get a bit burned out. I did get some sun, though. These pictures are of no significance ..

Rome (January 24th-27th)

I got sick the first day in Rome. I didn’t really enjoy the city. If I wasn’t sick and was Catholic I probably would have enjoyed it more. I’ll make a mental note of that in case I ever go back.

Vatican Museum

Ancient ruins

Colosseum

DURING MY TIME IN POLAND

Budapest (February 10th-12th)

So, as I said in my previous post, my first few weeks in Poland were hard–so hard, in fact, I had to go home. When I returned, a week later, all the Americans welcomed me back by feeding me shots of vodka. We all went out that night. I don’t remember much. In the morning I awoke to an angry girlfriend who said she was going to go to Budapest to visit her ex-boyfriend–who she dated when she lived in Hungary with her family on an exchange program–because I apparently did something stupid the night before. She wouldn’t say what exactly, and I was still a bit drunk so I didn’t care.

In retrospect, I don’t think I did anything–she was just looking for an excuse to see her ex-boyfriend.

Anyway, my girlfriend left, and I went back to sleep. I got up again a few hours later. Sober, I realized what had happened, and so I hightailed it to Budapest. I don’t remember much of the city because I honestly didn’t do much. I spent most of my time in a hotel, hungover.

Chain Bridge

Prague (March 9th-13th)

After Budapest I had a month of social hell–everything from attending classes to going on a pub crawl (and blacking out) to leaving my room to brush my teeth was very difficult. That said, Prague was an amazing city–one of my favorites, architecturally speaking. Oh, and we also got snowed in for a night.

Prague Castle

Red roof city

Drinking the pain away ..

Germany: Frankfurt and Heidelberg (March 24th-26th)

We flew on a discount airline (like $20 a ticket) from Warsaw to Frankfurt–a boring, ultra-modern city, I felt like I was in the financial district of NY–and then took a train to Heidelberg, a small college town in the south-west portion of the country. I enjoyed the city.

Skyscrapers in Frankfurt

Tree path in Frankfurt

Heidelberg–red roof city 2

Famous church in Heidelberg

Poznan, Poland (March 31st-April 2nd)

I don’t remember much of Poznan, aside for the excellent local beer from the bar at the hotel. I think we saw more of the bar than the actual city.

Old town square

Former Pope, John Paul II memorial (about 90% of
the population in Poland is Catholic)

Gdansk, Poland (April 7th-9th)

I also don’t remember much of Gdansk, namely because all the Americans went there together, as an organized group, and I had a terrible time. I think I’ve blocked most of it out. I remember three hour dinners each night, having to sit at a table with fifteen other people I didn’t connect with. I drank a lot.

Solidarity memorial

Bird flu

Hurghada, Egypt (April 15th to 22nd)

We spent spring break in Egypt. It was great–I got to forget all the horrible social interactions in Poland, and I even forgot I had to go back. We bought our tickets through a Polish travel agency and ended up staying at a Polish resort.

Red Sea

Trip to Giza / Cairo

Resort

Krakow, Poland (April 30th- May 5th)

Krakow. Another group trip. Another disaster.

Auschwitz

Jewish cemetary

Salt mine

Wawel Castle

Amsterdam (May 6th-10th)

Amsterdam was a nice break–got high, saw Radiohead.

Canals

More canals

Pot

Heineken Brewery

Thom Yorke

Brussels (May 12th to 14th)

I wasn’t planning on traveling that weekend, but I found out we had a group dinner, and so I picked the cheapest flight. I was very depressed in Brussels. There also wasn’t much to do. I spent most of my time in the hostel and only came out for a few meals of ice cream and waffles. I got so bored, I took a train back to Amsterdam and got really, really high.

Cool church

Arc de Triomphe

Random street

Manneken Pis

AFTER POLAND

Oslo, Norway (May 21st to 23rd, 28th to 29th)

Saying goodbye to everyone in Poland was difficult. Those who really made connections with people were crying. I just felt like an outsider, giving forced smiles and hugs. When I stepped on the plane, I felt an immediate release. I could escape again.

Norway was beautiful, but Oslo wasn’t so great–just another big city.

Harbor, round 1

Harbor, round 2

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Bergen, Norway (May 23rd to 28th)

Bergen, a city surrounded by beautiful fjords and seven mountains, was absolutely amazing. So beautiful, so wonderful. I wanted to learn the language and stay there forever.

Harbor

Mountains ..

.. fjords

Cool church

City

Alley

London (May 29th to 30th)

We had a layover in London before returning home. It was actually sunny, so I spent the day running around the city taking photos to make up for the gloomy photos from the first time around.

Big Ben

Big Ben, Westminster, London Eye

Colosseum

social anxiety vs. shyness

I’m so sick of hearing people say Social Anxiety Disorder is just another way of saying someone is extremely shy or introverted. I’ve even heard someone argue that social anxiety is just a euphemism for shyness–which doesn’t make any sense to me. Sure, shyness and introversion are generally a part of social anxiety, but they are not the only parts. Not every shy and/or introverted person has Social Anxiety Disorder.

So what’s the difference?

Well, shyness and introversion can make life difficult at times but you generally pull through. You go to parties and other social gatherings, you make speeches in school, you accept promotions at your job, etc. They’re difficult, in other words, but you still get through them. With Social Anxiety Disorder though, it becomes almost impossible to engage socially, even in the most basic social situations. You have difficulty standing in line at the grocery store, you can’t talk on the phone, you avoid all social situations, etc.

Shyness makes life difficult; social anxiety makes life impossible.

With that said, I think in our society people jump to hasty conclusions, demanding drugs when drugs may not be needed. Sometimes people who are just shy may be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and be given drugs, and this has hurt the people who really do have the disorder, as it gives everyone a bad name. But not everyone operates in this manner; there is legitimate suffering going on. People need to be conscious of this before they trivialize someone’s problems.

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!