Guest Post: My Life with Social Anxiety

by - 18:12:00


Hi, I’m Siana-Rose Crawford aka author S. R. Crawford. I’m a mental health writer, blogger, podcaster, and author in the UK. Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve suffered with Social Anxiety, so here’s my story on my life living with this disorder.



What Social Anxiety is like for me


Social Anxiety, if you don’t already know, is an anxiety disorder that focuses on and is mostly triggered by social situations (duh). For me, my social anxiety is triggered by:

  • ·        Meals at restaurants
  • ·        Parties and nights out
  • ·        Social events of any kind, really, even with lifelong friends or family
  • ·        Activities and group settings
  • ·        Having to talk to people on the phone
  • ·        And so on



Firstly, I must point out that not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way, even if they have social anxiety like I do. For me, when I feel anxious, I feel it in my chest, my stomach, and my head.
My chest becomes tight, and I have difficulty breathing. I get a churning, unsettled stomach that feels like I always need to throw up and so I can’t eat. And lastly, I feel my head thinking a million things at once to the point of headaches, irritability and tiredness. My chest, with its racing heart, makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack; and my stomach, with the churning, makes me gag, cry, and frequently visit the bathroom.

I was diagnosed with social anxiety when I was about 16, when I saw a therapist about my poor sleeping and my problems with eating. Together, we discovered that I had more going on than I realised. Not once have I questioned my diagnosis, because it is so obvious. Social situations don’t just make me nervous, they make me panic at the mere thought of them, no matter who I’m with.
In my experience, the anxiety is much worse before the actual event. Say my friend was having a birthday party in a month’s time, I would panic and worry and overthink about the event for that entire month. Naturally, it’s very draining and it often leads me to cancelling anyway.

In the past, with my social anxiety, it has been so overwhelming and awful that I’ve cancelled hundreds of times on my friends. It’s no wonder then that I have lost friends, been left out, and ended up being less close to them compared to others. It’s not their fault, it’s not mine; it’s just how it worked out and that makes me very sad.

My social anxiety has made me question of self-worth, my personality, how interesting I am, how intelligent I am, and whether I’ll ever make lasting, wonderful friendships. I have only had one romantic relationship in my life probably due to this, too. Thankfully, I now have an amazing, extroverted partner who helps me to grow and get out of my comfort zone and put my social anxiety to the test.

My social anxiety has made life very hard in general. Career wise, relationship wise, friendship wise, socialising, meeting new people, public speaking, private speaking, traditional education, celebrations and events, going to the hairdressers, going to the gym, and more. It means a lot of extra, unnecessary effort goes into just living my life. I’ve left jobs and education because of it, and it’s pushed me back time and again.

But it does so less now, and here’s how…

How I cope with social anxiety

Back in 2015, when I was depressed and highly anxious, I wrote a self-help book called, You’re As Mad As I Am. I wrote this book initially to simply teach myself how to get better because I knew that I’d already seen three therapists in my life, and so I knew the techniques for coping and getting better.
Fast forward to the present, and I’m an active part of the mental health community, an author, a blogger and podcaster, and I’ve spoke at mental health awareness events. Whenever I fall into a bad place, I go back to my own book and the techniques I’ve learned over the years to help me get back on track.

Here’s what I use to cope with my social anxiety:

Meditation
The first thing I’ve come to love for relief from my anxiety is meditation and yoga. These techniques are gentle, calming, and all about the breath which is a crucial part of feeling more in control, relaxed, and centred. I’m not a guru or a master by any means! But doing one of these things when I feel anxious (in any way I can) has given me relief, even if it’s only momentarily, and that’s truly important when anxiety is a big part of your life.

Perspective
Being able to reshape my thinking and regain perspective has helped me to cope better many times. The thing with anxiety is that it tells you lies again and again, making you believe them. But taking a moment to gain some perspective and find what’s true and what’s not, really helps you to calm down and regain control. I gain perspective using meditative practices, and with the techniques below…

CBT and therapy
I have been to see a therapist four times now, I believe. Each time, I loved the experience. I know it’s not for everyone, and I know not everyone will be as lucky as me to have great therapists, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I needed them; they helped me at my lowest points. The techniques that I was taught back then have become the foundations for my coping and recovery (and advocacy and advice) today.

The negative thought challenging, the helicopter perspective technique, the recognition of catastrophising and mind-reading and black-and-white thinking have all helped me understand myself and the anxiety better, which leads to acceptance and better coping.

Speaking about it
As with the therapy, I’ve learned to speak about how I’m feeling. When I was younger, I didn’t think I could openly discuss what I thought and felt. Now, I’ve learned that I must. Keeping it locked up inside my own head is a fast-track to causing more damage. I speak to my mom, my siblings, my partner, my friends, and even people I don’t know on the internet!
Speaking it into existence has helped me hundreds of times in better understanding what’s going and putting it into perspective. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Walks
I work from home as a writer, and so I don’t ever have to leave my house. This is very damaging, though, as being cooped up inside only hinders your mental wellbeing. I know that. This is why when I feel anxious, I know that it might be because I have been inside all day. And so, I get up and go for a walk.

Walking is a form of meditation for me. I get to be out among nature, get some fresh air, get some sunlight, get some exercise, and clear my head. Being out and about means I’m among people, can listen to some advice on a podcast to motivate and calm me, and generally feel more myself again after 15-30 minutes.

Breathing
I use my breath like a quick tool for fast calming results. It doesn’t always last, but it always gives temporary relief and time for me to get back in control. Taking deep breaths, following the line of the breath, and feeling the sensations in the body is incredibly grounding. Us anxiety folk need to be grounded in these moments and brought back to reality, so our breath is our saving grace.

Journaling
The last thing that I’ve come to lean on and appreciate in coping with my anxiety is my journal. Not the whole “Dear diary” stuff but having a journal that I can reach for to have a good thought-challenging or self-reflection or perspective gaining session.

My journal helps me to understand how I’m feeling, why, and what I can do to change it. Oftentimes, our thoughts become muddled up or fixated on one damaging thing that needn’t be the focus of our time. Journaling helps me to recognise this and put a stop to it. It’s like talking to a therapist, when really, I’m getting advice and perspective from myself.

How it’s changed over the years

Thankfully, my social anxiety has changed over the years. In my teens, I couldn’t go to restaurants and if I did, I barely ate. Now, I clean my plate in seconds and look forward (kind of) to a meal in a new place. Travelling used to have me shaking and crying but now, it’s mostly just shaking!
Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then:

  • ·        I know it’s not in control of me.
  • ·        I know it’s not “real” and it’s not true in what it makes me believe.
  • ·        I know that my own beliefs have led to my thoughts and feelings and anxiety, so I can tackle them.
  • ·        I know there’s going to be times when it comes on strong, and times when it’s less powerful; either way, I’ll be ok.
  • ·        I know, sometimes, the difference between what is real and what is the anxiety.
  • ·        I know that I have the tools to get myself grounded, if only for a moment, and that the panic won’t last forever. 

 Thank you for reading my story, let me know if you have had similar experiences.

Connect with me here:



You May Also Like

22 comments

  1. This is very helpful to read! I also suffer with social anxiety to some extent, mostly with being at parties and social events and having to work in groups at school. I also experienced the symptoms like not being able to breathe and my head feeling foggy. I've gotten so much better over the years though and talking it out with a loved one definitely helps! Second to that is meditating and thinking about it �� thank you for sharing!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw glad you found it helpful! I'm glad you've gotten better over the years, I also think that talking it out with a loved one is so helpful, I'm always talking to my boyfriend about it, especially before I have events/plans to go to! xx

      Delete
  2. This is such an interesting post- I get quite mild social anxiety and really work myself up before events and things and also find that the lead up is much worse than the actual event. The tips on how to deal with it are really helpful- perspective especially is a great one!

    Soph - https://sophhearts.com x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found it interesting! I'm the exact same, the lead up I'll be so anxious and then I'll get there and I'm fine.. but even though I know that happens most of the time it still doesn't help me when there's another event to go to! xx

      Delete
  3. This is such an interesting post. It's always fascinating to see how different things impact different people and how they cope. The tips on how to deal with it are great, I'm sure they'll help a lot of people. I get really mild social anxiety when I'm going to new places or an event that I know I won't know anyone but nothing that impacts my daily life thankfully x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found it interesting! I find that too, it's interesting to see how others experience these kind of things and how different they can be to how you experience them! xx

      Delete
  4. I am socially awkward at times, and phones I can't answer them even if it's my mum!! I love your tips and advice I will be trying them x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked Siana's tips! I'm also not too fond of answering phone calls! xx

      Delete
  5. I've experienced social anxiety within my generalised anxiety disorder and it's crazy how it changes over time. I find anticipation of events WAY worse than the events themselves. Anticipation is often the thing that ruins things for me and it's where my anxiety is as it's worse. I couldn't eat in restaurants for years - thankfully I've gotten over that fear now although I still get a little anxious about it!

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am the exact same, the lead up to an event I struggle with so much, but then when I'm actually there, I am so much more relaxed! xx

      Delete
  6. I can relate about social anxiety in these events. I know I've told managers I'd skip out on happy hour because I need to mentally prepare myself and didn't have enough time to do so. I like that there are different ways to cope with social anxiety. I am all about journaling! That way, you're taking thoughts and putting it into words, and it can be shared with others if wanted. Thanks for sharing Siana-Rose's story!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, glad you liked reading Siana's story! I also find journaling to be a great way to help with social anxiety, I guess that's probably why I love blogging so much, because we get to put our feelings into words and we can share them out! xx

      Delete
  7. I do suffer with social anxiety every single day and working in retail really doesn’t help, I work myself up a lot before every shift thinking it’s going to be a bad day but once it’s over I’m so relived. Mentally it really knocks me about but these are some great tips which I think will actually help me. Great post! 💕

    Samantha | https://samanthajblogs.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked the post! I can imagine how hard it can be to work in retail whilst suffering with social anxiety, I work in an office but it's still kind of customer support so I'm talking to people daily, and it's the same for me, every day going to work I struggle so much! xx

      Delete
  8. I loved this post. Super important, thank you for sharing x

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a really helpful post. I'm glad you have found the tools which help. I suffer with anxiety in general although I'm generally ok with social situations nowadays (I've a lifelong fear of the phone however!) I find meditation and walking help too ��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Alison, glad you found the post helpful! I also have fear of the phone -- but it's funny because, my job is literally being on the phone all day, but if it comes to my own personal things like calling for appointments etc I struggle with so much! xx

      Delete
  10. This is such a helpful post, thank you so much for sharing. I suffer with social anxiety too and always get myself so worked up before events, it's almost like the longer I know about it, the more anxious I feel. Normally, whatever I'm worrying about turns out okay anyway, but I have just spent so much time and energy overthinking it. I really appreciate you sharing your suggestions, going for a walk always calms me down too and I really need to give meditation a try! Fab post <3 xx

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, glad you found it helpful! I'm the exact same, I get so worked up beforehand and it annoys me so much because it makes me enjoy the whole thing less! xx

      Delete
  11. So many great tips in the post, I always used to take walks when I was feeling anxious with a good playlist and it was like a magical cure! Talking about things and journalling are things I find useful as well. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find going out for a walk super helpful too, especially when it's a nice day! xx

      Delete