I’ve just returned to work after a 2 week holiday. It was good to have a break, even though all I did/ have been doing is getting back into doing regular exercise/ trying to lose a bit of weight, and trying to tick as many things as possible off my ‘to-do list’ before going back to uni. For the first week of my holiday, the whole family went away to Lochgoilhead, in the west of Scotland. Dad and I left a day after everyone else, as I was working and probably would have found it quite difficult to drive and navigate at the same time. And anyway, it was difficult enough for the others to fit four people, a dog, and all their bags into my grandad’s car (which we borrowed because, as per my parents’ luck with cars, they’re probably going to have to scrap their current one as well). Driving to Lochgoilhead was the furthest I’d ever driven. I thought I’d be a lot more anxious/ terrified than I was, especially when driving on the motorway through Glasgow, but I think having dad there to keep me right helped a lot. His attitude towards bad drivers helped me (in terms of reminding me that it’s not my fault if someone else is driving like an idiot) a bit as well. For example:
When someone was tailgating me on the road into Glasgow:
Me (getting a bit anxious): “I think the person behind me must have an urgent appointment somewhere”.
Dad: “Aye, an urgent appointment at the hospital, if they keep driving like that”.
When yet another person (probably about the 12th person that day) was tailgating me on the way out of Glasgow:
Me (getting increasingly annoyed/ anxious): “Seriously!? Why are they driving right up my arse?”
Dad: “Because they ARE an arse.”
As we were driving past Loch Lomond (I was jealous that my dad got to look at the beautiful views and I didn’t), we passed a place called Firkin. Though my dad pronounced it as “Furkin”, which obviously sounds rather like a swear word, much to his (and my own) amusement:
“You’ve just passed the Furkin Point”
“Look at these Furkin cottages”
“Look at that Furkin view”
“Keep your eyes on the Furkin road!”
(And yes, this is the sort of thing that I find amusing after driving for nearly 2 hours). Anyway, we made it there in one piece, despite having to drive along a road on the way into the campsite which my mum described as being “like a rollercoaster ride”.
The next day, my mum booked an archery session for us all, with a group of strangers, which made me anxious from the start. Three people would shoot at a time, while the others would watch, and I felt very anxious and nauseous when it was approaching my turn. What made things worse was that I was probably the worst at archery of all the people there, and felt that everyone was negatively judging me because of this. It all seems a bit ridiculous now, but I ended up walking out after only two turns, because the anxiety was too much for me. I was standing outside the archery place, crying, which only made me more anxious, as I’m always terrified of other people seeing me cry. My parents noticed that something was up and asked me why I was crying and why I felt so anxious. This didn’t help matters, as I was sure that the other people could hear us. I wanted to join in again, but my anxiety wouldn’t let me, and I definitely did not want anyone to know I had been crying. After a few minutes, I ended up walking back to the caravan with the dog, having to stop a few times because I couldn’t stop crying. I unfortunately did have to walk past a few people to get back to the caravan, which I found completely mortifying.
I felt suicidal and had a really strong urge to hurt myself when I got back to the caravan. Despite how long I’ve been SH-free, I found it really difficult to talk myself out of doing something on this occasion. More than anything, it was simply the fact that it’s not worth it (i.e the brief emotional relief isn’t worth the permanent scars). So I just cried, and cried, and cried, probably for over an hour. When everyone else arrived back from the archery, I was still slumped, crying, on the sofa. All they could talk about was how much they enjoyed the archery and what was for lunch. No one asked if I was okay or even paid the slightest bit of attention to me, which only made me feel even worse. I was in tears, felt suicidal, and had been considering hurting myself, yet it seemed that they didn’t give a toss about me. They may as well have said to me: “Oh, you’re suicidal? No one cares”. To be fair to them, I didn’t tell them that I was suicidal or felt like hurting myself, but I think it was quite obvious, from how much I’d been crying/ my bloodshot eyes, that I was in considerable distress. Yet I received no sympathy or empathy whatsoever. When someone finally did decide to talk to me, it was my dad moaning at me to get up from the couch and eat the soup he’d prepared for everyone before it got cold. (Apparently my family care more about soup getting cold than they do about my own psychological wellbeing). To be fair, I suppose this was still an improvement on previous occasions. There have been a couple of times previously when I’ve had a mini-breakdown like this, and each time, they simply told me to stop being so ridiculous/ stop overreacting, and blamed everything on me, despite another person apparently deliberately triggering me (and taking pleasure in doing so).
Another thing that my family never seem to understand is that if I’m having an emotional reaction that extreme, it actually doesn’t have a lot (or even anything at all) to do with the situation that triggered it. I’m guessing that most people reading this are wondering why not being able to take part in archery would make me feel suicidal and like hurting myself. In reality, those thoughts and feelings had nothing to do with the archery. Feeling anxious and being unable to take part simply acted as trigger that caused me to ruminate over all the ways in which SA impacts on my life, and all the things it has prevented me from doing. It reminded me how difficult it is to make friends when you have SA, and of my lack of close offline friends. It reminded me how it has made dating/ getting a boyfriend impossible, and how I may die without ever having experienced a relationship/ being in love. It reminded me how difficult it is to hold down a job when you have SA, of how anxious I feel every day at work, and of how I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get a graduate job (leading to catastrophic thoughts about my future, with the belief that I’ll be long-term unemployed). It reminded me of how different I am to other people, and of how much I wish I could be free of social anxiety, even for a single day of my life. It reminded me that no matter where I go or what I do, I am never free of this life destroying disorder. THAT is what made me suicidal. And yes, my thoughts spiral out of control to such an extent that one seemingly minor event really does cause that much pain and misery.
When I tried talking to them about it a little bit later, there was still very little (if anything) in the way of support. I tried to explain to them how much SA affects my life and how miserable it makes me feel. My dad seemed to get a bit annoyed, and started repeatedly asking why I felt so anxious.
Me: “Because I felt as if everyone was watching me and judging me.”
Dad: “But that’s just daft! No one was watching you.”
Me: “I know. But try telling my anxiety disorder that.”
Dad: “Well what are you going to do about it then?”
I then tried to explain to him that I’ve been trying to overcome social anxiety disorder for years. It’s not something you can simply wish away. Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy solutions. And most of us (at least in the UK anyway) never get the help we actually need because the NHS mental health services are useless, and no (or very few) mental health professionals actually seem to fully understand social anxiety disorder. Most don’t even seem to be aware of it at all, and this is probably why I was misdiagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. Sometimes it seems that my family don’t think I try at all. They have no idea how hard I’m trying, and how many different things I’ve tried. They have no idea how much of my life has been wasted doing ineffective therapy in the hope that it would help me. They have no idea how difficult it is for me to do the things they take for granted. They have no idea how much it hurts to not have a group of friends and to go through life miserable and as an outcast due to an inability to connect with other human beings. They have no idea how difficult it is just to get through each day sometimes.
My youngest sister’s advice was probably the best, but it still wasn’t very good. She told me that whenever something like what happened at the archery happens again, I should just try to accept that I’m feeling anxious, and try not to make a big deal out of it (in terms of catastrophizing everything).At least she actually displayed a little bit of empathy. Because no one else in my family has ever experienced depression or an anxiety disorder, it must be very difficult for them to understand it. But it seems as if they make no effort to understand it. When my mental health is poor, it obviously has a negative impact on my relationships with my family members, and it makes me feel like the outcast of the family. I just wish I had someone understanding who could support me. I’m grateful for the kind comments I’ve received on this blog, and for my online friend who (though he doesn’t suffer from SA) does try his best to understand and support me, but it’s not the same as having a proper support system in place.
Anyway, the family holiday wasn’t great, as it rained constantly, except for one day. We were determined to make the most of the good weather, so my parents decided we’d either go to Dunoon or Loch Lomond. I’d been wanting to go to Loch Lomond for ages, and was annoyed that I didn’t get to see it on the drive to Lochgoilhead, but unfortunately, it was decided that we’d go to Dunoon instead. My mum was blaring music in my car on the way there, which made me even more of an anxious driver than usual. At least my dad shares my sensitive hearing and would’ve agreed (unlike my mum and middle sister) that the music was too loud. What annoyed me even more about not going to Loch Lomond is that we didn’t even do anything in Dunoon except wander around aimlessly for about half an hour.
The one good thing that came out of the holiday is that I finally had the confidence to remove the ‘P plate’ from the back of my car. When we got back from Lochgoilhead, mum suggested that we could book a short holiday or daytrip to one or more of the Scottish islands (just the two of us), but the weather forecast didn’t look good so we decided just to stay at home. Oh well. It kind of annoyed me that she seemed to be taking all the control away from me anyway. Hopefully, I can finally travel by myself next summer. If anyone has managed to read this far, I apologise for such a boring post, and for my crap sense of humour.