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One of the most common types of emails/messages I receive from you lovely, wonderful people, is how you struggle to make friends or maintain friendships that already exist because of your social anxiety.
It’s tough making friends when you constantly worry about social situations and how people perceive you. Where do you meet people? How do you get people to like you? How do you keep friends when you often have to cancel plans? I know that when I was younger, I felt like I would never make any friends or at the very least never have any true long-lasting friendships.
You can make friends when you have social anxiety though and you can maintain great friendships. Here’s a few tips on how to do that…
If you find it hard to make friends because you’re always worried about why someone would like you, maybe you feel like you might not be much fun, or you feel like you’re not interesting enough or that you’re social anxiety will only annoy them… You need to stop right there!
Making friends is not about you, or about what is great about you! It’s about how you make that person feel. If you’re too concerned about whether or not people will like you, or if your personality is good enough to make friends, then that is the reason you aren’t making friends right now.
Quit with the self focus and focus on making them feel awesome instead.
So how do you make people feel good around you? Listen. Listen. Listen.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk ever, it just means you need to listen better. Often when we’re in a conversation, our social anxiety gets us all concerned about how we look when we’re talking, whether we’re smiling properly or what that person thinks of us that we forget to actually pay attention to other person.
When you’re having a conversation from now on, I want you to try to focus on what the person is actually saying, pushing away any urge to think about yourself or what you’re doing. Focus on THEM.
Listen out for a person’s name when meeting them, so you can actually use it when talking to them. People respond really well when you use their name, it makes them feel like they’ve known you longer and they feel more connected to you. So try using their name where you can.
Give them compliments and make it genuine. If you really want to be this persons friend, it should be easy enough to think of something nice to compliment them with. Tell them you love their style or what they’re wearing. Just a simple compliment that will make them feel good being around you.
Talk more about them and less about yourself. Ask them questions about themselves, what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, where they grew up, what they love doing in their spare time… make the conversation more about getting to know them instead of worrying about talking about yourself.
If you’re going to make true friends then you need to be yourself, not who you think people will like. Trying to fit in isn’t going to win you a group of best friends, the best kind of friends will love you for who you are, so you need to give people a chance to know YOU.
I know it’s hard when you have social anxiety to voice your own opinion and not agree with everything someone says but people will respect you much harder if you are an independent person who doesn’t come across as fake.
Be yourself. If someone doesn’t like who you really are, they are not going to be a good friend for you anyway.
A lot of the times I hear you guys say that your friendships are often strained because you feel you’re clingy. Your friends have their own lives and they probably aren’t able to hang out with you as much as you’d like, so you feel insecure in the friendship, like you don’t mean as much to them perhaps. Really the truth is, your friends probably have a lot going on and it’s nothing to do with how they feel about you but guilting people into spending more time with you can be damaging so we don’t want to get to that point.
A good starting point to making friends and maintaining friendships is to be comfortable being alone as well as with other people. If you rely solely upon your friends, you’ll put too much pressure on the friendship. Value the quality time, over the quantity.
The best way to make friends who you know you will get along great with, is to meet them through a hobby. Maybe taking classes for something you enjoy or joining a club or even going on a local group or online forum that caters to your hobby/interest and meeting people that way.
You instantly have something to talk about with them, so the ice is easily already broken.
I think that often our social anxiety stops us from talking to people at school or work because we assume they’re not going to like us, or that they’re too different from us. Sometimes we just talk ourselves out of initiating conversations in case they go horribly wrong.
You will likely be surprised though at how many people you could make friends with, people you already know as acquaintances but haven’t had the chance to get to know them better.
They might have completely different hobbies and interested to you but that doesn’t mean they can’t become brilliant friends. I have lots of friends now that are polar opposite to me, people who I thought would never like me or would think I was weird.
Ask them how their day off was or talk to them about something anyone can relate to, to get the conversation started. You might be surprised how much you do have in common actually.
Meetup.com is a network where you can meet local people for drinks, trips to the cinema, photography walks, lots of different things. There are different groups for different kinds of stuff, depending on your area.
This might help as you already know the people using it want to meet new people and make new friends.
I know that sometimes avoiding a social situation when you have social anxiety is inevitable, as you’re going to come across things that are just far too much for you to handle but if you’re invited into a social situation that you know you could do but it makes you fairly anxious, try not to avoid it altogether. The more you avoid social situations or cancel plans, the less you’ll be invited in future because people will just always assume you won’t be into it.
Try and say ‘yes’ to as much stuff as your social anxiety allows and while you might find that you maintain good friendships that way, you may also find your anxiety decreasing each time.
Some friendships just aren’t meant to be. If it makes you feel stressed or down, or if you feel like you’re being walked all over, then it’s perfectly okay to end the friendship and go your own separate way. A toxic friendship is no good for your mental health and really it just wastes your time!
I mentioned in a previous post that I was attempting online dating again and that I might be meeting up with a guy from one of the sites. Well we did end up meeting up, and things have gone really well so far. I’ll need to write about our first date at some point, actually, as it makes for a funny story, in terms of how mortifyingly/ hilariously (depending on how you look at it) awkward I am. We’ve been going out for almost two months now, and I now have a boyfriend (!!!) Trust me when I say that no one is more surprised than I am! I was thoroughly convinced that I would never be in a relationship, given my mental health issues, unattractiveness, and low self-esteem. I still can’t really believe it now. This is a very prolonged and elaborate dream that I’m having. I really don’t want to mess this up, but I’m worried that all my issues that I mentioned above will inevitably ruin things. He knows all about my social anxiety and history of depression, and has so far been extremely patient and understanding, but it is still a worry. I have zero relationship experience (and not even much experience with friendships), and, as I mentioned before, being in a relationship/ getting close to someone is the area in which my anxiety and low self-esteem are most intense. I am also absolutely dreading meeting his parents (he has already met all of my immediate family, but his parents live up in the Highlands, so it will be some time before I have the opportunity to meet them, if everything continues to go well), even though they seem like lovely people. Everything in a relationship is so new and daunting to me.
While I’m of course really happy about finally having found someone I really like (and who apparently likes me) enough to be in a relationship, I am having huge issues with cognitive dissonance. For example, I can’t believe him when he says that he really likes me or that he finds me attractive, because most of my previous life experiences have taught me that I’m unlikeable/ unlovable, and that I’m hideously unattractive. Therefore according to the sum of my life experience and conditioning, he’s lying. And then I get suspicious and start to worry about what else he might be lying about. Stupid brain. All of this has made me realise that low self-esteem is my biggest issue/ obstacle. I’m currently reading a book on self-compassion in an attempt to address this. Another thing that I’m worried about is that I have intense anxiety/ issues around physical intimacy (I find it really difficult to talk about that kind of thing, but will hopefully write about it in more detail at some point, as I imagine it’s quite a common issue in those of us with SA). Even though he’s been super patient and understanding about this so far, I worry that my issues with this will eventually cause his patience to run out. Anyway…negative rant over.
It feels so great to finally have someone special in my life. I thought that romantic relationships would only ever be something that happened to other people, not to me. I’ve been so lucky to find someone so caring, patient and understanding when it comes to me and my mental health. I had the courage to be open with him about my issues, and he has accepted me, anxiety and all. I feel like this is someone that I may actually be able to trust and open up to completely. Although there are a lot of things about getting close to someone that make me really anxious, I have become so much more comfortable around him already (probably like a different person compared to how anxious I was on our first date), so I am hopeful that I will continue to improve and won’t let my anxiety get in the way of this part of my life. Even if things ultimately don’t work out, I’ve still really enjoyed our time together, and have some new happy memories to add to my collection. Any friendship or relationship that I have in my life is very precious to me. I won’t take this for granted, and I will certainly cherish this far more than most people.
i live with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). which means that anxiety presents itself to me every day throughout the day. as much progress as i have made in therapy i still find myself getting sucked into what i like to call the anxiety vortex. part of my recovery has involved recognizing when i start to head down into the rabbit hole and using tools to take a step (or a lot of steps) back. i hear from more and more people that it’s a challenge to identify anxious behaviors for what they are, so today i am going to talk about some of my own red flags and what i do to help myself when they come up.
develop body awareness. an important place to start recognizing my anxious behavior was my own body. many of us perceive that anxiety is all in our heads when in reality it is also very much physical. when my thoughts start to race and indecision kicks in i turn my awareness away from my mind towards what is physically happening to me. when my breathing has become faster, when i start sweating, when my palms tingle and when i sweat, i know that my anxiety level is increasing. our physical reactions to anxiety are highly individual – some people experience headaches, stomachaches or backaches, while for others the breath becomes quick and shallow. beginning to notice what happens in my body and how it feels has given me a powerful way to spot anxiety symptoms. even if i’m not sure what is making me become anxious, taking note of my physical changes helps me to slow down and…
take deep, slow breaths. the first time i learned about deep breathing was in the psych hospital. yes! i thought. i’ll just breathe and the anxiety will stop. it didn’t work. i was still panicking. while i doubted if it was helping me at all i stuck with it for months and months. mainly because every therapist and psychiatrist told me to do it so i figured there was something to their advice and at that point i had nothing to lose. it took a lot of practice for breath work to make a difference. while taking deep breaths in the midst of a panic attack will help to a certain extent, i have found that the real power of deep breathing happens every day. when i am thinking ahead about my day, or driving to work, or at my desk or cooking dinner. i don’t wait until i am in a full-blown anxiety crisis to breathe deep. as soon as my thoughts start racing or i feel any of my physical symptoms, my deep breathing kicks in. sometimes i leave my desk for a few minutes and stand outside and breathe. or i pull over and inhale, exhale. it’s something i can use anywhere to help me hit the pause button and reconnect to my body.
examine the everyday. for me, anxiety isn’t as focused on major catastrophic events. rather it’s hidden in my daily activities. from choosing what to wear to planning an event to buying a gift i become obsessed with finding the perfect solution. from small decisions to big ones, i will compare and check every and all options until i have exhausted myself. before my episode of major depression and anxiety in 2014 i didn’t think that i had an anxiety problem. shopping, overachieving, people pleasing, fear of failure – now i can look back and see that anxiety defined many of my personal and professional habits. becoming educated about anxiety disorders has helped me a lot. now i know what to call it. i know what the symptoms are and can connect them to my own behavior. as frustrating as it can be at least it makes more sense. and i’m not afraid to get professional help or take medication. it sure beats trying to deal with it on my own.
intervene in the moment. anxiety is like a snowball – once is starts rolling downhill it’s very difficult to stop it. body awareness, breathing and knowing my symptoms are only one side of the coin. the other is actually changing my anxious behavior, which in the moment is extremely difficult to do because the momentum is so powerful. whatever need is driving the anxious behavior feels urgent and dire – and for me that is usually an underlying fear of rejection or not being good enough. over time i have found that i can almost always look back and see that choosing the perfect dress or arranging the decorations just so wasn’t so important in the grand scheme of things. often times anxiety isn’t really about what we are anxious about.
there are a few tools that help me intervene with myself in the moment. one is just walking away. if i am getting sucked into indecision and keep checking, researching or going back and forth, i gently encourage myself to drop it or just leave it for now. or i set myself a timer on my phone – ten more minutes to check different options and then i need to stop. i keep a bottle of lavender oil in my purse so that i can pull it out and smell it at moments when i feel the anxiety rising. it distracts me and engages my senses in a different way. i talk to myself, sometimes out loud, and recognize that i am feeling scared and ask myself what else i can choose to do to help me feel safe. exercising, going for a brief walk or even just standing up and stretching helps me to reconnect with my body and takes me out of the intensity of the moment. having some backup activities handy helps – cooking, crafts, watching a movie or cleaning can help me choose a different path.
don’t be afraid to ask for help. i have come to realize that anxiety is common. in fact it’s the most common mental illness in the united states. so very many others experience symptoms of anxiety, even if they aren’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. while i don’t wear a sign around my neck that says ANXIETY PROBLEM, i do talk to family, friends and even some colleagues about it. i can’t underscore how much this has helped me. it has shown me that i am not alone. i learn from how other people cope with it and i help them by sharing my own experiences. and i feel less isolated when things get tough. those who are closest to me can help me recognize when my anxiety is becoming stronger, and while that isn’t always easy to hear i do appreciate it. they wouldn’t know how to be there for me if i didn’t share.
getting to know my own anxiety has been the key to help me unlock it. i used to gloss over behaviors that concerned me and didn’t tune into how my body reacted to stress. while it has been difficult to face, it’s almost a relief to understand how GAD impacts me from day to day. the more awareness i develop the less often i find myself sucked down into the vortex. without that knowledge i couldn’t get the help i needed from others and most importantly i couldn’t get the help i needed from myself.
During my 3 weeks of work experience, my cousin invited my 2 sisters and I to her birthday dinner. It was at a restaurant in central Edinburgh, and she’d invited about 20 people. My youngest sister couldn’t go because she was working. I initially didn’t want to go as I didn’t know anyone who was going except my middle sister and my two cousins, and I DEFINITELY didn’t want to go out clubbing (which is what was planned for after the meal). However, I decided that I would go along to the restaurant in an attempt to face my fears.
Unfortunately, the entire evening, and the conversation going on around me, reminded me of the song (if one can even call it a song) that I took the title from (I definitely wouldn’t choose to listen to it, but I was subjected to it). I was really anxious throughout much of the evening, but my sister is the only person who knows about my anxiety (my cousins know absolutely nothing about my mental health problems), and isn’t usually particularly helpful/ supportive. I didn’t want to mention that I was anxious in front of everyone, so I texted her. She looked at her phone, gave me a couple of (probably condescending) pats on the shoulder, and then went back to talking/ boasting to our cousin’s friends. My two cousins were also obviously busy talking to other people, so I was pretty much sat twiddling my thumbs, wanting to leave, and trying not to have a panic attack, for most of the evening. My cousin’s boyfriend’s sister sat next to me at one point and attempted to have a conversation with me, but I was obviously too awkward for her, as she soon moved her chair over to a group of other people. So on one side, I had no one sitting next to me (which made me feel even worse about myself, and like an extremely weird and unlikeable person), and on the other, I had my sister constantly boasting to my cousin’s friends about university life, her boyfriend/ sex life, clubbing/ drinking, and so on. The weird thing is that my sister told me before we got there that she didn’t really like that particular group of people, yet she spent the entire evening trying to one-up them.
Maybe this is just me being really bitter and grumpy/ weird, but all the conversations going on around me seemed to be very superficial and vapid. Like I said, it seemed that most people were talking/ boasting about their social lives/ nights out, and about various things they did while drunk. Now obviously, as someone who has a virtually non-existent social life, perhaps I just interpreted it this way. But with my sister at least, she certainly did seem to be trying to make herself/ her life appear better than the lives of the other people she was talking to. I just found it all rather odd. Then there was the guy who kept loudly boasting about the fact that he’d once managed to take over a hundred selfies on another person’s phone without them noticing. I felt like saying to him: “What do you want, a medal?” I felt like a complete alien, being there.
At the end of the evening, people were trying to convince me to go out clubbing with them, but by then, I had had more than enough anxiety for one evening, and just wanted to go home. Thankfully, I had work experience the next day, so used that as an excuse for leaving early. I didn’t enjoy the evening at all, and spent most of it just waiting until I could go home. I can’t tell if I wouldn’t be able to get on with most people my age, or if I would be able to get on with more like-minded individuals. What I quickly realised is that I didn’t have much in common with those people. I feel so alienated when it comes to most people my age. And I think that most of them see me as being very weird/ antisocial. Oh well…at least I’ve learned (I think) not to force myself to go along to social events if I feel that I probably won’t enjoy them, and don’t have much in common with the other people there.
Long time no blog! My final year of university has so far kept me extremely busy (and stressed out), and the Christmas holidays have been the last time I will get a break until May, so naturally, I havenâ€™t been in much of a writing mood. I have really missed my blog though. I still have loads of things that I want to write about, but unfortunately – as I will have to start work on my honours in just a couple of days (eeeeeeeek!) â€“ most of those future blog posts will have to be postponed by a few months.
Things arenâ€™t great at the moment. I now have no close friends as my online friend has stopped talking to me. He was very depressed and made some nasty comments towards me despite me doing all I could to try and help/ support him, and stopped talking to me not long after that. I know that none of it was really my fault, but I canâ€™t help but feel bad about myself for all of the times that friends have abandoned me throughout my life. It certainly doesnâ€™t help my self-esteem or my mood. But if someone wants to treat me badly when Iâ€™m going out of my way to help them, they arenâ€™t really my friend. Iâ€™m quite used to giving more than I get back in return from close friendships, but if someone wants to be ungrateful and rude towards me, Iâ€™ll try to find people who will treat me with the respect I deserve. I have no idea how to do this though. I always seem to make the mistake of only making one close friend, so it hurts a lot when they abandon me. This probably has a lot to do with my social anxiety, but when I look back on the friendships Iâ€™ve had throughout my life, I valued the friendship far more than the other person did in the vast majority of cases. I imagine that this is a common thing in people with severe SA. Most people without SA usually donâ€™t have too much trouble making friends, and usually have multiple friendships, but those of us with severe SA may only have one close friend (if we are lucky). Therefore, each friendship is much more precious to us than to people who are not socially anxious.
I do still have three non-close friends, but I only see two of them every few months (and Iâ€™m not even sure that one of those people is really even my friend, given the way she treats me sometimes). I havenâ€™t seen my other friend since July, and she wonâ€™t be back in Edinburgh until May, so Iâ€™ve been communicating with her exclusively through email.
I started talking to someone from an online dating site back in September. He seemed understanding when it came to my mental health issues (as he had to deal with the same things himself). We had a lot in common, seemed to be getting on really well, and both wanted to make a relationship work. Then a lot of really difficult things in his life happened in a very short space of time. I wanted to do whatever I could to support him, but he dealt with the difficult things he was going through by shutting me out/ not communicating with me at all for a fortnight. Given my issues around rejection, it was difficult for me to be completely ignored for 2 weeks by someone who claimed that they wanted to be in a relationship with me. He then stopped talking to me altogether. We didnâ€™t even meet up with each other. I still feel bad about the way I left things with him, because there were so many difficult things that he was going through and (despite not taking kindly to being completely ignored/ shut out for two weeks) I really did just want to help and support him. Ultimately though, I think both of us were/ are too unstable and not in the right state of mind to have a healthy relationship. Iâ€™ve recently thought about trying online dating again, but I probably wonâ€™t have the time/ energy to dedicate to a relationship until university is over. Or maybe Iâ€™m just making excuses. Perhaps Iâ€™m wrong, but I donâ€™t think itâ€™s possible to have a healthy relationship if you donâ€™t have any friends that you see on a somewhat regular basis/ are close to. What does everyone else think? The trouble with that view, however, is that I canâ€™t be in a relationship until I make some close friends, and it seems that friends are usually a prerequisite for making new friends. Given this, and given my social ineptitude, it seems like a bit of a Catch-22 situation.
What scares me is that when I was talking to that guy from the online dating site, I was the happiest that I have been in a very long time. I canâ€™t rely on another person for my happiness because itâ€™ll destroy me when things end. Am I too reliant on other people? Or not enough? Why give another person the power to destroy me?
I mentioned a few posts ago that Iâ€™d hardly seen my befriender, despite the fact that we were supposed to meet up with each other about once every two weeks. I actually met up with her again earlier today. I hadnâ€™t seen her since September, and before that, the last time I met up with her was back in May. To be fair to her, she has had a lot of very difficult/ stressful things going on in her life this past year, so I donâ€™t blame her. When the woman in charge of befriending at the mental health charity found out that weâ€™d been meeting so infrequently, she looked into getting me a second befriender who would be able to meet up with me more often. Iâ€™ve met up with my new befriender a couple of times, and she seems really nice. Ideally, my new befriender will be able to go along to meet up groups with me and support me with meeting/ attempting to befriend new people. I donâ€™t really hold out much hope though. I find it so, so difficult to open up to people, and I donâ€™t know how to tell her about my anxiety and lack of close friendships. I also struggle to make friends face-to-face, and would have to somehow overcome the negative â€œvoiceâ€� in my head that tells me I wonâ€™t be able to make friends because Iâ€™m so socially inept and weird that no one would like me. Thereâ€™s also the fact that I may not have the time to go along to many meet up groups, given the hellish onslaught of university coursework that awaits me. Weâ€™ll see how it goes. Iâ€™m feeling really hopeless and miserable about my lack of close friendships and of a relationship but Iâ€™m doing the best I can to distract myself from thinking about it too much. I can bury myself in university work soon. My old befriender and I have finally arranged to go to a meet up together later this week, and my new befriender and I may be meeting up again next week, so at least I do have a couple of (hopefully) positive things to look forward to.
Work is probably the thing that has helped me the most in recent times, despite the near-fainting, awful insomnia, and other ailments that my anxiety around work has caused me (SA is such a lovely condition!) The insomnia is probably the worst of these. In the week leading up to Christmas, work started at 4am. I averaged only about 3 hours of sleep per night for the whole week. This definitely didnâ€™t help my mental health, and I was very stressed out and irritable. Strangely though, I seemed to function better socially for much of that week. Maybe I was so tired that I didnâ€™t care as much about what other people thought of me, or perhaps it was just the long shifts and the fact that I was working every day that helped me. I still suffer from pre-work insomnia, even though weâ€™re back to 6am starts now. Some nights I donâ€™t get any sleep at all before work, which, again, definitely doesnâ€™t help with my mental state. I really hate all the side-effects of anxiety, but I am so lucky to have gotten this job, and it has helped me so much, so I will keep on soldiering on through it all. Iâ€™ve learned that itâ€™s better to just be with the anxiety rather than trying to control it. I usually find that the more I try to control my anxiety, the more it controls me.
Itâ€™s amazing how high-functioning I can be at times. I donâ€™t know if any of my colleagues would guess that Iâ€™m a nervous wreck on the inside (though Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™ve realised that Iâ€™m very awkward and weird, and that my behaviour can be a bit odd at times). I think my social skills have improved slightly but people attempting to converse with me probably still find it very awkward and stilted. Some days are better than others. Iâ€™m definitely less anxious when it comes to talking to/ helping customers. As soon as a customer approached me, my initial thoughts used to be something along the lines of: â€œOh shit. SHIT! Theyâ€™re talking to me! What do I do? Why canâ€™t the ground swallow me up?â€� Obviously, I still get anxious, but itâ€™s somewhat more manageable now. Iâ€™m also a bit better at actually getting my words out/ responding to people, rather than my anxiety causing me to completely freeze up. Itâ€™s amazing to think that less than 4 years ago, my anxiety in supermarkets was so bad that I struggled to be in one on my own for any more than about 10 minutes. Now I can stay in one for 8 hours or more, with relative ease, even during the week leading up to Christmas. I could quite easily do a full supermarket shop now.
I feel that I have matured somewhat in some areas, even if I am still well behind most people my age in many areas. I still donâ€™t have any friends at work (again, the main reason for this is probably my fear of opening up to people/ letting others get close to me). Despite knowing full well that no matter who you are, you are always going to have people who dislike you, and despite knowing that this may be more to do with the other person than a reflection on me, and that what other people think about me is none of my business, I still see being disliked in any way by another person as a failure on my part, even if they only dislike a part of me, such as my awkwardness, or how quiet I am at work. (Sorry, that one shouldâ€™ve had a â€œlong sentence warningâ€� on it. Hope no one fell asleep half-way through it). Perhaps this is why I am so reluctant to open up to others.
Something that worries me is that lately, Iâ€™ve been having intrusive thoughts, which mostly centre on bad things happening to me or to family members. I mentioned earlier that my anxiety around work often prevents me from sleeping when I have work the next day. The intrusive thoughts always seem to be worse/ more frequent when Iâ€™m sleep-deprived, and my brain also seems able to make just about anything disturbing (re: intrusive thoughts) when Iâ€™m in a sleep-deprived state. In the past, Iâ€™ve had occasional intrusive thoughts during times of stress, but not quite as bad as this. I feel awful about having such thoughts, even though I know I shouldnâ€™t. Iâ€™m hoping that this is just a temporary thing and not something that will become more of a permanent feature in my mental landscape. Thankfully, Iâ€™ve slept reasonably well for the last few nights and the intrusive thoughts have been less frequent. I am so, so grateful that OCD is not something I have to deal with, because even the relatively infrequent and mild intrusive thoughts that Iâ€™ve had to deal with recently are disturbing and upsetting to me.
Last term at university was horrendous but Iâ€™ll cover that in another post, seeing as how Iâ€™ve already typed up an essay for this post. One positive thing that happened not long after my last post on this blog is that I went along to a womenâ€™s cycling group. At the time, I was feeling quite hopeless, as I had gone along to a nature meet up group not long before that, and felt miserable/ like an outcast the whole time that I was there, and spent the entire meet up wishing that I could go home. I was really nervous about going along to the cycling group, especially as I seemed to be the youngest person there. Things didnâ€™t seem to be going well at first, as everyone else already knew each other and I wasnâ€™t able to join in on the conversation. I once again started to wish that I hadnâ€™t bothered going along, but as soon as we actually started cycling, I began to enjoy it. At one point, we all stopped at a cafÃ©, and I managed to talk to a few of the women in the group. I also managed to eat in front of them without too much trouble. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. I havenâ€™t been along to the group since (mostly due to being busy with university and work), but hope to go along to the group somewhat regularly once university is over.
Another (supposed) positive is that I FINALLY started Interpersonal Therapy last week. As I had been on the waiting list since June, the psychologist who referred me has sent me information on how to make a complaint against the NHS. Iâ€™m still undecided as to whether or not I will make a complaint. It seems like more trouble than itâ€™s worth, and I doubt it will do anything whatsoever to change the deeply flawed and failing public mental health services.Â Has anyone reading this blog ever gotten any positive results from making a complaint about mental health services?
Itâ€™s always difficult for me to start seeing a new psychologist/ psychiatrist. Iâ€™ve grown to somewhat dislike/ distrust the profession due to my previous experiences of the mental health services. The psychologist I saw seemed nice enough, though she recorded the wrong scores for the PHQ-9 questionnaire that I filled out (always encouraging!) She said that unlike with CBT, I could have up to 20 sessions of IPT. I feel that I probably do need more long-term therapy if Iâ€™m going to make any significant progress, so thatâ€™s good to know. I want to eventually do group CBT once university is over as well. (Have you noticed the common factor in terms of what is currently impeding my recovery/ generally ruining my life at the moment?)
I am absolutely dreading my honours project. As is typical of the (complete lack of) organisation at my university, we have only two weeks to write the proposal for our dissertation, and many people donâ€™t even know what topic theyâ€™re doing yet. The deadline for the proposal is on my birthday, so this should be fun. We had an introductory session earlier today and I am freaking out at how much work needs to be done between now and May. As I said earlier, itâ€™s annoying, because I have so much I want to write about, but itâ€™ll just have to wait. Anyway, Iâ€™ve nattered on for more than long enough. Thanks for reading if youâ€™ve made it this far without falling asleep like that squirrel monkey.
“But you don’t look sick”
“You can’t have social anxiety, you’re way more confident than me”
“I saw a picture of you on facebook, looked like you were having a good time. You can’t be that depressed”
They are called invisible illnesses for a reason.
Whether it’s a mental or physical illness, if it’s not as obvious onÂ the outside then there are always people who will try to diminish what you’re going through. ‘Cause it’s not like you can laugh at a joke when you have a broken bone or anything and it’s not like you can tell people that a bruise doesn’t hurt when it actuallyÂ does.
It’s called putting on a brave face, not just because you want people to think you’re okay but because sometimes it’s hard to talk about, sometimes people just don’t understand and because flippant & hurtful comments sometimes make you feel like you have to conceal even the worst of days.
I’ve been around groups of people, trying to laugh and joke and act normal while going through severe endometriosis pain, losing crazy amounts of blood at the same time (not even gonna sugar-coat it) and enduring the lovely chronic fatigue that comes with it.
I’ve been in many social situations where I’ve pretended to be confident to mask how I really feel. I also joke around a lot when I’m nervous but I’ve spent years trying not to show how anxious I am… The physical symptoms I get from having anxiety only make my anxiety worse, so I’ve mastered the art of not looking like I’m dying every time I’m in a social situation.
I’ve held my head up high in front of everyone I’ve known, while dealing with depression in the dark. I’ve smiled and even enjoyed myself at times during those dark periods but that feeling wouldn’t last because I’d still have to go back to my life and deal with what was causing my depression, even if that was nothing at all.
I don’t wear my illnesses on my face everyday of my life because they don’t define me as a person and I shouldn’t have to justify being sick to anyone.
More importantly, if having a chronic or mental illness means I’m not allowed to smile, laugh or have fun once in a while then what is the point of struggling through the bad days?
Just because I look fine, it doesn’t automatically mean I am fine.
The post Just Because I look Fine, Doesn’t Mean I AM Fine appeared first on Anxious Lass.