I have never eaten alone at a restaurant.
I have never watched a movie at a movie theater by myself.
I often miss out on fun and/or important events.
I don’t do volunteer work, even though I feel led to.
I’m 39 years old and have lived with social anxiety for as long as I can remember. I call it “my secret life”, because this is a huge part of my life that very few people know about.
For me, social anxiety is the irrational fear of being around people or being in social situations. I say irrational because the situations I am referring to, I have no justifiable reason for feeling the way that I do.
My brain knows that I am being irrational. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling overwhelmed and it doesn’t keep me from missing out on wonderful opportunities and experiences.
Social anxiety is crippling in a lot of ways. It is so difficult to explain to people that have never experienced it.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) sums it up perfectly:
Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety. They are terrified they will humiliate or embarrass themselves.
According to the Social Anxiety Association, Social Anxiety is the third largest mental health care problem in the world today. Right behind alcoholism and depression!
It has taken me years to realize that I am not alone. That I am not crazy – this disorder is real. And if you suffer from this disorder, you are not alone either!
I have opted to not take the route of prescription medications (I believe that there is a time and place for prescription meds, but this is not for me at this time).
I am not a medical professional, but I wanted to share a few things that I do to cope with social anxiety:
- Get enough sleep. I don’t always succeed at this, but if I can get 7-8 hours of sleep, I feel less anxious and less fatigued.
- Take Melatonin daily. Usually at night, but sometimes in the morning if I’m having a rough morning and am feeling overly anxious. I like that it’s not habit-forming and doesn’t make me groggy.
- Eat healthy. I really do notice how much better I feel when I am not consuming sugar and heavy carbs (bread, pasta, etc.). My ideal day-to-day eating habits usually consist of lots of protein (a variety of meats, fish, nut butters, Greek yogurt, etc.)and lots of veggies. When I eat unhealthy, I feel sluggish and fatigued, which adds to my anxiety and lack of motivation.
- Get out of my comfort zone. This is much easier said than done. I thank God every day for my husband, who is so patient and encouraging. If it wasn’t for him, I might not ever leave the house. 😉 Sometimes it takes every ounce of courage I have to do the most simple task – like going for a bike ride or walking the two blocks to the post office. So, I take it day by day and force myself to do these things.
Notice that I use the word cope. Because, while these things do help, every day is a struggle. I try to wake up each morning and say, “Today is a brand new day that I am blessed with”.
I plan on making a bucket list of things that I want to do in my life, either on my own or with my family. I feel like this would be a great start to putting myself out there and trying new things. 🙂
I’ll keep you all posted and let you know how that goes.