Social anxiety seems to be a bit of a buzz word at the moment like it's something cool to have as is the word socially awkward like they're things you'd want to be, but in reality it's such a frustrating, crippling condition. At it's worse it's all the things people take for granted such as: making a phone call, eating in public, meeting new people and being in groups/crowds. For a lot of people these are things which people don't even think about they just do. When the condition it's self cripples your ability to try and explain it, it becomes all the more challenging! Social anxiety is also the constant worry that you're going to embarrass yourself, or make an idiot out of yoursef, or say something and nobody will "get it" and everyone will laugh at you. Then there's the post socialising feedback te constant worry that you've done something to upset someone and that people hate you and are simply putting up with you. Then comes the added stigma surrounded social anxiety when you're anxious your whole body can tense up and you can struggle to give eye contact, if you have a condition like dyspraxia or or on the autistic spectrum this can be even more harder. Social anxiety can be perceived as rudeness, two faced, that you're simply just boring, that you're odd you name it I've probably had it. When this happens it can make you feel even more self concious and insecure. I describe it sometimes as having everything you want to say in your head but a block about trying to get it all out, as a result you can come across as very quiet and shy when you just want to be able to get it out. Social anxiety and anxiety can also go alongside depression as afterwards you are constantly over analysing what as happened and it can make you feel very low and down when this happens I feel like I'm a bad person and don't deserve any happiness in my life, and that I don't have anything worth giving to anyone. I also feel like noone would ever want to have anything to do with me because I'm an awful person and not someone you'd want to be around.
I had no idea until around 6 months ago ish it was social anxiety I put it all down to shyness and dyspraxia. But I knew something wasn't quite right, the thought of opening up to people filled me with dread, after a bad experience at uni disclosure was just a no go zone, when I did open up I was shaky stammery and didn't make any logical sense. I was always perceived as a bit of a people pleaser, someone who didn't have the confidence or assertiveness to stand up for myself. People assumed I only had limited interests because there was certain subjects which were safe to me even though I longed to be able to talk about more. It was like I was constantly trapped which was not only exhausting but so frustrating too. I saw people close to me who also struggled with anxiety being constantly written off and it was very upsetting to see. Maybe me explaining this will help others understand why I maybe did certain things the way I did. To be constantly perceived as a bad person was very upsetting, when in reality I just didn't have the assertive skills or confidence to speak up and explain myself clearly.
So what happened next, here comes the part in the blog where I hopefully I switch things round a little bit and talk about the positives I've done to try and overcome these issues. Being dyspraxic I probably will never be one of those people who finds social situations easy, I'll always struggle to block out back ground noise and if there are lots of conversations going on. I've always found it easier to socialise with people younger and older than me, never understood why I've found that's common in dyspraxic folk, I find older people that bit more mature and less fickle, a lot probably have children themselves and have had a lot more real life experience. Younger people sometimes see me as a motherly figure someone who is always looking out for them and looking out for them, which I like as I love helping people. Aside from accepting this one of the major things I've done is seek help both for how to cope in situations and with assertiveness. I discovered a few months ago I had never really said "no" to anyone. There's so many talking therapies around, getting there can be a challenge I was shaking from head to toe even if one doesn't work for you keep looking around. Sadly the NHS mental health system is a nit of a mess and people have to wait a long long time to access talking therapy.In the past my instinct has always been to hide the fact that I suffer from a mental health condition, as I have felt embarrassed, weak, ashamed, and misunderstood. Having finally decided that enough was enough – and realising that ultimately the main person who was suffering from my nondisclosure was me – I made a conscious choice to be more open about my anxiety and dyspraxia and dyslexia. Yet, having kept my secret so well, for so long, I wasn't sure how to even go about starting to talk about my anxiety never mind dyspraxia. This lead to me struggling with depression, a constant domino effect.
So I just decided to keep it simple and use techniques given to me by my councillor give only the details I was comfortable with, and be as honest as was appropriate in the given situation. I also resolved that if I encountered negative reactions – as I sometimes have in the past – I would do my best not to take it personally and to understand that such responses are usually due to ignorance rather than malice. This is something very hard for the dyspraxic brain as we think quite literally and can take things to heart very easily. I began charity work and talking to people who might understand me more and understand the dyslexic/dyspraxic way of thinking, I started writing this blog and started fundraising. People with social anxiety tend to have negative thoughts about
- break tasks down into small parts and build on them
- seek help if needed
- learn breathing exercises to help self care
- work on assertiveness if it's an issue for you
- talk to others- you never know who might be feeling the same
- join charities and organisations who have similar interests to you
- be proud of yoursef and all the little steps you take to overcome things
- embrace differences
- Don't perceive people to be someone who they're not and assume before not getting to know someone
- send text or give little bits of motivational advice and praise when someone has overcome something
- get to know people in different social situations
- never assume someone can't or won't change, with the right help and support and understanding barriers can be overcome
- ask questions, try and find as much as you can about someone, even little things like how was your journey or your day.
- research if you know someone has a hidden condition or disability and try and understand it the best you can, ask questions too and try and find out how they effect someone's day to day life
- be kind