Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog: Anixety & Me: Part 1

Friday, 10 January 2014

Anixety & Me: Part 1



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


69 comments:

  1. Seriously thank you for this post! I suffer with anxiety sometimes (I have a hold on it right now) and its so consuming and so hard to explain!

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    1. It really is :/ I hope we're both able to get a grip on it xx

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  2. I can totally sympathise with everything you have said. I had CBT for my anxiety a few years ago because of how extreme it was as well as my OCD. I too would never leave the house alone, would panic at he thought of baby groups etc but its those baby steps to increase your social interaction that really matter. Once you have been to the class once you will see that it's not as scary as you thing. Prepare a few lines in your head to ask other parents to prevent you feeling awkward. You will be surprised at just how many other parents their will feel as nervous and anxious as you!

    Asking about how old their child is, you like their outfit, are they sleeping through yet etc are all simple ways to strike up conversations.

    In relation to Britmums it will be my first blog event and I'm terrified of travelling and staying in London and feeling awkward while there. You are more than welcome to 'hang out' with me!! xx

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    1. Aw thank you for sharing your experience Emma. Did you find the CBT helpful? I have OCD quirks too, I think its all part and parcel of the same thing :/ (I'm going to talk more about that side of things in my next post!)

      I went to the class today and those tips were very helpful...there was a mum sat near me who was clearly shy but wanted to talk, so I asked her some of those ready-prepped questions and it helped!

      For some reason I imagined you would have been a seasoned pro with blogging events!! I'm so scared about all of it! :/
      It'd be fab to hang out there, especially knowing we both will be feeling the same way! :)
      xxx

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  3. I totally relate as I've suffered a lot with social anxiety always scared that I will say the wrong thing or that people won't like me. I was too scared to go into a room full of people on my own when I was at Uni & I once got in trouble on a school trip when I was 18. I was last in the queue for the bathroom & when I finished, the door of the auditorium had shut & the speaker had started the talk. I was far too scared to open it, go in & walk past everyone sitting down as I knew everyone would be watching me so I waited outside the door. The teacher came out and had a right go at me as she thought I was being naughty not going in. When I burst into tears & told her I was too scared to go in the room on my own she realised I wasn't making it up or playing up & just took me back to my place!
    My hubby has some really good anxiety tapes that he plays when I'm doing the housework & they talk about social anxieties & work through the problems and I've found it really helpful, because a lot of the things I worry about are really only in my head & I have to work them through. It's hard though.

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    1. Oh that sounds like a horrible experience :( Things like that really stay with me and make it so much worse too, how horrible when people just assume the reason for your actions and don't stop to think!

      Do you know who the anxiety tapes are b? I'd be interested in looking in to those xx

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  4. Great post - I can see a lot of myself in you! My tips for travelling alone is make sure you are prepared, you know exactly where you are going and that you have an app for your phone to help you on your way. I always fear I am going to get lost traveling on my own and hate bothering others for directions - last time I had to use the London Underground on my own I downloaded the app so that I could check each station and see how many more were to go till me stop. Everyone else on the underground were reading books or not paying attention but I was fixed firmly on my app - I did manage it and it does boost your confidence once you have. Good luck!

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    1. Thank you, and those are very good tips...the app sounds like a big help I'll look into that! xx

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  5. I personally found this so touching and can really related. I suffered severally with social anxiety and didn't want to face the public alone. I wanted my husband with me outside. Especially with my daughter as I felt people would be negatively jugging my parental skill. So much so that I was agoraphobic. Luckily now I've learnt to deal with it, By slowly challenging myself, with things I don't like and make me feel a bit iffy. Every Time I managed to do it, and it was 'OK' in the end, it pushed me to challenge myself further.

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    1. Aw I'm glad you've managed to learn to deal with it, I hope I can do that too xx

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  6. I can really relate to aspects of this post,thinking of you, Hayley!

    X

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  7. Break going out down and do parts on your own - maybe start with journeys - can you meet Jon at a local pub or parade of shops, or park - or try and find a purpose other than just your anxiety goal - go to get a local paper - local shops when you NEED a loaf of bread - and try that all on your own.

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  8. I suffer with it too but I'm the complete opposite to you in that I find it easier to do things by myself than with other people. If I've gone somewhere alone and find myself getting panicky then I can just leave if I want to without it affecting anybody else. If I was in company, I'd feel trapped and that just makes me worse. I hope you & Tyne enjoy baby class and I look forward to reading the second part :-)

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    1. Its funny how it effects us all differently! Thank you - we went to the class today, it was easier than I thought :) xx

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  9. Bless your heart ((((hugs)))) I know how you feel, I too suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. I feel safer at home in my comfortable surroundings but I think you just have to bite the bullet and make yourself do some things. Well done for signing up to baby class!! That's a massive step! As for Brit mum's live! I really want to go (no sponsor as yet) but I won't know anyone!!! I too will be travelling alone! The thought of this gets my heart racing too. Just know that you are not alone. If you ever need a chat, come find me xxxxx

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    1. Exactly - home just feels so much safer and its so tempting to not step outside that comfort zone.
      Aw I hope you're able to go to Britmums, if you do go please let me know and maybe we could meet up - it'd be nice for those of us who feel this way about it to team up and help each other out a bit xxx

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    2. I'm working on it! I will let you know what'd be lovely! xx

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  10. just read your post out to my step daughter we both suffer from social anxiety me probably more ,it was very nice to realize im not alone in my fears ,i also come across as stand offish and have been told this before, thankyou for a very honest post :)

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  11. Well, after being ripped to peaces throughout my school years for my name, I mind block a lot of deep anxiety which must be inside me somewhere.

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  12. Good luck with overcoming this, all the best xx

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  13. I read your post and feel that I can relate to everything you say! :D I used to suffer with panic attacks too - I hate being in situations with people I dont know or people I havent seen since school (which is happening at lot at the moment) I never know what to say and I have hage concerns about what people think of me!
    I had to register my son into nursery early (I dont work) because I was getting to the point where I was avoiding taking him places and he was missing out on social activites, I have lost so many friends from iscolating people too - its just awful when people dont understand :(

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    1. Aww its so hard isnt it :/ I struggle a lot with that too, seeing people you haven't seen for years!
      It is so difficult xx

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  14. I can relate to parts of this too. x

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  15. Aww bless you, am so glad i read this post, as i throught i was the only one, and felt really silly talking to someone about,

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    1. Aw I'm glad you know now that so many of us feel the same way...its so surprising how many people it effects! x

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  16. Social anxiety is the worst feeling for me. I can pinpoint exactly when mine started and it was when my now nearly 7 year old was about 10 weeks old. After nearly losing her I suffered with severe PND and with that came the horrible social anxiety. I couldn't leave the house without her when i was out I felt as though everyone was talking about me and I got severe panic attacks when planning trips even to the local shop. I still suffer with anxiety but can normally keep a lid on it. I try to have my girls (either both or one of the other) with me as much as I can as they keep me focused, I still find certain social situations hard but before all of this I was a strongminded person who would fight through things so try really hard to get past my barrier and lead a 'normal' life (whatever that is haha)

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    1. Oh that sounds horrible :( Its such a horrible thing - part of me thinks I will probably feel better when Tyne is older too as he's be more of a focal point and I can interact with him more.
      xx

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  17. A telephone psychic!? wow! and i can totally relate. my least favourite thing to do, ever, is speak on the phone. which is why i now love that we can order food online! i also hate ordering food in restaurants! i make chris do the speaking.

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    1. Lol yes...I've had some random jobs! Oh I hate that too :(
      xx

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  18. I can relate to thisx

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  19. Would just like to wish you the very best and hope that things get better for you.

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  20. You are not alone Hayley! Look at all these replies, you have done so well by writing about this, its not an easy thing to speak to people about but you have taken the first step *HUGS*

    You know I suffer from anxiety and its an awful feeling but take very small steps in trying to over come and control it, going to the baby class is a big step and I hope you have a great time, such a great place to meet other mum's and remember you wont be the only one feeling on your own, try and say hi to a few mums, I bet you end up making a few friends there.

    You had better come to Britmums!! I won't go if you don't!!! Am so looking forward to it and to meeting you, we will have a great time xxxx

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    1. Thanks Emily :)

      I will force myself to go...Its making me feel lots better knowing you'll definitely be there! :) xx

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  21. Yes! I suffer with social anxiety....I can relate to so much you have said! I sometimes feel physically sick and on occasions have been if I have to go somewhere alone! Well done you! I've never been brave enough to blog about it!!

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    1. Oh its horrible isn't it :/ Its so surprising how many of us suffer with it :( xx

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  22. I suffer from anxiety too, it's one of the things I want to work on this year also

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  23. I have every confidence in you, you are stronger than you think x
    Beautyqueenuk xx

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  24. I suffer from this really badly. I am lucky that my Hubby is a real extrovert & realises how I feel & makes sure that I don't feel overcome.

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  25. This post felt like you were describing my life, i am exactly the same and find it very tiring. it really wears me out and wears me down :(

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  26. they should b more help for ppl with us

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  27. I suffer from anxiety/stress which manifests itself by spasming a muscle in my back which can incapacitate me. Social anxiety followed as I was going out less and less due to worrying about my back, which increased stress, which set my back off. Vicious circle. Eventually my daughter forced me to see my doc who turned my life around, surprisingly to me it was just low levels of Seratonin causing it which is easily fixed.

    Low Seratonin is one of the major causes of stress/anxiety because it's your natural armour against things that would normally hurt you emotionally. My advice? Make an appointment with your Doc., he'll probably offer you a drug that increases your Seratonin levels, and that takes a few weeks/months to kick in.

    Meantime, baby steps. Take Tyne to the front door/gate daily. Next week take 10 steps past the gate for a week. Week after that, 20 steps. You'll be fine. But definitely see your Doc., it's amazing how many people think social anxiety or stress can't be fixed just as easily as a sprained ankle. It can, it just takes a bit longer and a bit more effort :)

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  28. I have an incurable neurological condition, it not only makes me jerk and shake but also makes me forgetful anxious nervous and tongue tied. But its also freeing because I don't care lol can't help it don't like me lump it.

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  29. Thank you for the blog post my brother has Social Phobia, fantastic advice...Thank you :)

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  30. I wish you all the best. Hoping some of these tips will work for you :-)

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  31. i am absolutely dreading returning to work next year for these very reasons! can relate 100% . bless your heart.. I seem to think i am below everybody else in the intelligence or common sense stakes & that makes what should be the simplest of tasks unbearable, i dont like being photographed or people looking at me either as it makes me feel uncomfortable.. Madness!! Im just thankful that nowadays you can do a lot of things online! if i could work from home i would - its a shame if social anxiety is such a huge thing that its not possible. if i could find a job where i wasnt around ppl or these situations - i would feel like i have won the lotto! im not stand offish on purpose or a snob. honest! lol

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  32. can definatly relate to a lot of this x

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  33. My health visitor lent me a book entitled 'Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies' which has helped me understand some of my anxieties and in doing so, overcome them. It could be worth a read?

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  34. My husband and I can both absolutely relate to this post, it is a big problem in our lives, made worse by the fact that we have very little family close by and no friends to speak of. Hate the playground cliques etc! The best way we have of getting through is knowing that each other understands the problem :-)

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  35. I've suffered from depression and anxiety for several years, it got so bad at one point I couldn't bear to leave the house and when I did I had to be with my mum or dad. Even now a few years down the line I still struggle with large crowds and have become really sensitive to noise so crowds and groups of people make my anxiety levels shoot up! The best bit of advice i could give you is to talk to those around you about how you feel, sometimes having those you love understand wen situations are hard for you can make all of the difference. It's nothing to be ashamed of as so many of us suffer from this horrible condition. (Ann_ball@ymail.com)

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  36. I don't suffer with anxiety but do sympathise with you. The joy of children is that they frequently put you into situations where you have to speak to people that you wouldn't have otherwise, so hopefully over time your anxiety will diminish. Wishing you luck coping with it.

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  37. I used to have panic attacks, but they have definitely got less frequent as I've got older

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  38. Great reading this post as it is pretty much how I feel!! I have been told that my shyness comes across as being rude to people who do not know me! :(

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  39. This is totally relatable to me! I'm not living near any friends or family at the moment, but I would feel so scared to go out on my own.

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  40. I suffer terrible with anxiety, panic attacks as well as OCD. But mine is not social anxiety its more of the extreme ones where I fear of something bad happening causing me to go into mental nervous breakdown a few years back the worst time of my life. I still struggle with it. Any way thanks for sharing

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  41. I have this, I don't talk to people outside of my family, I don't have friends etc, I'm not an unfriendly person I just don't feel the need to be a part of anything other than what I have at home, I am scared of lots of people and of the unknown, I hate doctors, I won't go, I don't drive anywhere other than work and school generally...what helps me is actually entering competitions for things that I would enjoy but find a challenge. I think if I have been given something for free I will do it. This unbelievably included driving my mum and children 250 miles to South Wales for a holiday I won as husband couldn't get time off!! It was hard, very hard, but I did it and my kids loved it. It amazes me when I do it!

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  42. I can be quite shy in social situations and often people think I'm being rude. I hate it. Especially when most of the time I just want people to like me :( It's really strange because, at other times I just won't shut up no matter what crap is coming out of my mouth. I'm not sure which is worse for me to be honest haha.

    Reading your post actually made me feel sad. Mainly because I want to come to Britmums and meet you and I don't want you to chicken out. Hehe.

    Louise x

    Confessions of a Secret Shopper

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  43. So sad to hear you feel that way. I've never heard of social anxiety before, although I suffered similar when my son was pregnant but thought it was depression. That's how it got classed years ago. Best wishes, I am sure you will do your son proud.

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  44. I know exactly what you mean, I used to drink too much to mask or obliterate it.... of course that didn't work. I'm OK and you're OK and we're all a little( conspiratorial and inclusive giggle ) nuts does work.

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  45. Katie Walden Hall11 January 2014 at 22:13

    Great post to read, I suffer anxiety too and always panic about any conversations and think I say the most stupid things! thank you xx

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  46. Oh Hayley I'm very similar to you with some of the situations you've described! Especially the large crowd situation, I completely close up, I find it particularly hard when the crowd know each other well! As you know I'd love to go to Britmums but I would feel so uncomfortable not knowing anyone when others know each other.
    Well done and thank you for being brave enough to write this post, it's made me realise that I have social anxiety issues when I thought I was just being an unsociable moo! Xx

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