Today I want to talk about my experience with having social anxiety.
Mental health is something I feel very strongly about and although there are things I am not prepared to share, I am definitely not shy when it comes to talking about anxiety and depression.
When I got diagnosed with a serious mental illness about two years ago, the final results also showed that I have a high level of anxiety and mild depression. It is not the main diagnosis but it is present enough to be taken seriously.
While there are scarier things I am dealing with, and probably always will be, it is this anxious state of mind that really holds me back. Because usually to get the help you need you must meet with people, and with social anxiety that’s kind of what you don’t want to.
But no progress can be made if we do not leave our comfort zones and muster enough courage to face our fears.
That is why I want to write an honest review of the things that helped me in the past few years to be able to live with anxiety and take one step at a time towards recovery.
This is not a prescription, advice or a guide. Obviously. It is simply a story of what I tried in hopes of being able to communicate with humans and not be afraid of being in contact with them.
Here are a few things that actually helped me with social anxiety:
- I take antipsychotics.
After suffering horrible side effects from antidepressants and mood stabilizers, I went on antipsychotics for almost 7 months.
There were some minor health issues so I decided to only take them when I need to. That means I take a pill before big social events or in times when my emotions are too unstable and I am having too many episodes back to back.
It is bizarre, but when it comes to anxiety, these pills only help with major things. That means that I will be totally calm (if I take a pill the night before) when going to the city and talking to 30 strangers, but not when I am at home and feeling anxious about something random.
- I have a psychiatrist.
This one is so important because before finding my current doctor, I got rejected by a psychiatrist who refused to work with me.
It really helped when I found someone who understands me and is willing to help, no matter how challenging my situation may be. There is nothing better than having someone who believes in your recovery and listens to your concerns without judgment.
- I went to therapy.
Back in early 2019, I was visiting a therapist for about two months – she was a nun (fun fact).
The reason I went there was not anxiety but she was amazing at helping me face other problems. But where it did help with my social anxiety was with the commitment to go to the city and attend our sessions.
She was kind, humble and a good listener. I was not afraid of her and our talks were something I really looked forward to.
That taught me the importance of goals in recovery from social anxiety. My goal during those two months was to be in the company of my therapist who made me feel understood so I faced the fears with more commitment.
- I meditate and practise mindfulness.
Meditation has been a part of my life since I was about 16. That’s when I discovered the New Age cult/movement/religion and got sucked in.
Having faith took a lot from me but the one thing it gave was the love for meditation. Although I did it for 10 years with the intention of talking to God, I was still learning an important tool for dealing with life’s challenges.
In 2017 I discovered the work of Sam Harris and his approach to living and thinking has drastically improved my life. I started a regular meditation practice and became more committed to living mindfully.
- I remind myself that I can always quit.
When I started attending start:up competitions and workshops a few years ago, I always reminded myself that quitting was an option.
I was anxious, shaking when talking to people, I dissociated when talking in front of people, and my mind was constantly vibrating because I was feeling stressed and watched.
This reminder gave me permission to return to my comfort zone and stop the uncomfortable feelings. And I did, many times.
But sometimes I marched on and spent a year and a half learning how to act in an acting school even though I was dizzy every week because my mind was trying to keep me home and safe.
Still, the option of quitting was there and it’s what gave me the courage to continue. I had a choice. Most of us do.
I know I said this post is not meant to be advice or a guide, but I sincerely hope that you find a psychiatrist or a therapist that you can work with. They are trained to help you – it’s why they do what they do.
My history of mental health is pretty wild.
I have been visiting psychologists since I was a child, got diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 17, been suicidal for almost two decades, self-harmed without knowing I was self-harming, and two years ago received a diagnosis that put everything in perspective.
I’ve been on antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. I experienced side effects that ranged from sleepiness and rashes covering my whole body to blood coming out of my nose and having painful swollen lymph nodes.
When I say that I know a thing or two about fighting the darkness within, I mean that I know what it means to fight the darkness within.
Am I ashamed and embarrassed about sharing all of this with you? Absolutely. Very. Do I hope that sharing my story will perhaps make someone else feel less alone and less misunderstood? I do, yes.
There are millions of individuals who are suffering, just like I am. If this post shows just one of them that it’s okay to be on antipsychotics and have a personal psychiatrist, my job is done.
Bravery is not pretending you are not struggling: bravery is being vulnerable about your pain and seeking treatment for it. Again, that’s why we have doctors for every part of our body, even for our mind.
Mental health is still health, and if you go to a doctor to treat your broken leg, you can go to a doctor to treat your mental pain.