As one of my new years resolutions this year is to take steps toward resolving my anxiety issues, or at least improving them, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my experiences with anxiety.
I know from speaking to a lot of other bloggers that many of us suffer with anxiety problems, and I know from comments on my New Years posts that a lot of my readers do too.
Anxiety seems to be something that a very large number of people deal with on a daily basis, but very few people really go into detail about how it affects them. This is understandable of course and I have debated whether or not to go into detail myself, but I've decided it's something that needs to be discussed.
There are two parts to anxiety for me - the social side of it, and the more extreme side which results in panic attacks and irrational thoughts and fears.
I am going to be discussing both but it seems a little much for one post, so I'm breaking it up!
Today I want to talk about social anxiety.
I'm not exactly sure where this started for me, but I don't remember ever being a particularly confident person.
It used to be a lot worse than it is now - in high school it was very bad.
I hardly ever talked to anybody - I felt like I had nothing to say that anybody would be interested in and my hobbies & interests were very different to other girls.
As I got older, I started to learn how to fake it more - I learnt to act confident and make more conversation. I'm not too sure how but I managed it - but it never stopped me from feeling anxious inside.
I still suffer with social anxiety today - sometimes I see people I know and I pretend that I haven't seen them unless they notice me.
It's not because I don't want to talk to them - most of the time I am hoping they will notice me and come over to chat - it's more that I don't want to go and say Hello to them incase they don't remember me or they don't want to talk to me.
I feel nervous when I'm paying for goods in a supermarket incase I get that chatty cashier who wants to make conversation - not because I don't appreciate their effort, but because I find conversation with strangers the hardest thing - I never know what to say, I feel flustered and I feel like I say stupid things.
This really doesn't make sense to me because in my working life I have worked as a cashier, a telephone psychic, on the customer service returns in Primark and in the head office team handling complaints via telephone for a well known high street retailer - all jobs which required me to make polite conversation, be very personable and even handle extreme confrontation with members of the public - I enjoyed all of these jobs, and never had any issues with anxiety when working.
But in a social setting - I feel like a different person.
My anxiety is particularly bad in large groups - especially if the rest of the group are very outgoing and confident - in these situations I become a complete wallflower.
I simply cannot find my voice in a large crowd, and the nerves take over me completely so I end up just listening to the conversation and not joining in with it - even when I really want to.
But I don't show any physical symptoms of anxiety - I don't go red, I don't shake, I don't stutter - I just smile and nod along but stay quiet and probably seem quite disinterested.
For this reason, people have often confused my shyness and social anxiety for simple snottiness. They have assumed that I just don't like them or have no desire to speak to them - this isn't the case at all, and I have felt so embarrassed on occasions when people have outright asked me if this is the case or I have heard from third-parties that someone thinks I'm snotty.
If only they knew how awkward I feel and how much I'd love to be able to be the life and soul of the party.
It's not anxiety in social groups that is the problem though...it goes deeper than that.
My social anxiety also makes me too nervous to do anything alone.
And I do mean ANYTHING.
I have never once taken Tyne out for a walk in his pram on my own. I just can't do it. When I'm alone I feel like people are staring at me and thinking nasty things about me - I feel like they're thinking that I'm doing something wrong, and I worry that I'll make a mistake and not let somebody pass me on the pavement when I should have and end up having to deal with confrontation.
I would LOVE to be able to take Tyne out to coffee shops on days that Jon is working...just me & him.
But I couldn't because I would feel so self conscious - I'd worry that people were looking at me and judging me for being alone and friendless, and I'd worry that Tyne would start crying for no reason and people would think I wasn't looking after him properly.
I can feel my heart racing just at the thoughts of these situations.
They will sound so stupid to people who don't have these issues, but to me they seem like insurmountable problems and I can't get past them.
I've often seen people alone at the cinema or dining alone in restaurants and admired their courage - I am simply too scared to do anything by myself.
But I realise, especially having Tyne, that it's not really normal to be this way and it's not setting a healthy role model for Tyne.
I want him to be more confident than I am, and I think he needs to see that his Mum can take him out to places on her own without Dad always needing to be there....especially when he gets older.
So this week I've started to take some baby steps towards trying to overcome some of these fears....
I've signed up to start a baby class - originally I has asked my sister to go with me but it turns out she can't make it.
I almost cancelled but I stopped myself - yes Jon will be driving us there and back, I'm certainly not up to facing public transport alone yet and I don't drive, but despite him offering to come in to the class with us I insisted that I'll go in by myself...just me & Tyne.
So we'll see how that goes.
Another big fear I'm facing is going to Britmums Live.
I am looking forward to it of course and it all sounds so exciting - but I have never been to any event on that scale before and there are SO many bloggers going who I know from reading their blogs and them reading mine... but don't properly know.
I know I'll see these people and want to say Hi to but I'll worry that they won't know who I am and there'll be an awkward exchange...
again I can feel my heart pumping thinking about this situation...
I attended a blog event this year which made me feel anxious but I took Jon along with me - so although I'm glad I went and it was nice to meet the people I did - I chickened out of talking to many people and having your partner there at the event makes other people who are alone less likely to want to approach you, I guess. It probably makes me look like I don't want to talk to people.
The travelling alone part is also a massive factor for me - I am terrified of travelling alone, and if there are changes on the train I won't be able to do it and will end up having to take Jon with me or get a direct coach.
And I'll hate every second of travelling, and every moment of having nobody there with me to make me feel that I can hide in their shadow.
But I'm determined to make myself go.
I am almost chickening out in a way because I'm relying hugely on some of my close blog friends going - people I haven't met but talk to daily and feel comfortable with - if they end up not going for some reason I would most likely back out myself, so I'm not really not being particularly brave at all!
As much as I admire and want to meet the other bloggers going, I worry that they won't like me or won't want to talk to me and I'll be left sitting on my own just like high school all over again.....
Again, the palpitations kick in thinking about it.
But I hope I'll be able to go and put it down as an achievement.
These are all little steps, but as far as social anxiety goes they're all I can really do....
The more severe battle is against the panic attacks and the extreme anxiety issues....but I'll talk about those next week.
Do you suffer with social anxiety? Do you have any tips for people who do? As always, I'd love to hear from you