Life is Good (update)

I suppose I should begin this post with an apology – sorry for being a bad blogger! I’m finding full-time work (still at my supermarket job) much less stressful, but much more physically exhausting, than university – I seem to average about 7 miles of walking (to and from work, at work, and then walking my dog afterwards) in the average work day, and sometimes walk as many as 10 miles a day. The good thing about this is that I’ve lost weight, and – despite eating so much lately – have managed to maintain the weight. I also feel really fit (compared to my high school days anyway) and I’m probably in the best shape I have ever been right now (though there’s still a lot of room for improvement). The downside of this is that I always seem to be exhausted, and I also never seem to get anywhere near enough sleep these days, though this is also partly due to actually having some semblance of a life over the last couple of months (!!) I hope to make more time for blogging, because I really do miss it, and I have countless updates/ subjects that I want to write about.  However, I’ve had writer’s block every time I have attempted to write a blog post recently. I’m really out of practice, so please bear with me as I spew word vomit all over your screens.

Also, have some optional cheesy background music. Because, let’s be honest, it’s a nice change from the less upbeat songs I normally post on here. Also, damn you WordPress for no longer letting me post youtube videos without parting with my hard-earned cash! You’re just another greedy, elitist corporation!


Life is actually going really well in some areas at the moment, and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed life as much as I do right now since my last year of primary school. Why? For a start, I’ve actually had a social life over the last couple of weeks. After not seeing/ hearing from any of them in ages, all 3 of my friends met up with me in the same week, a couple of weeks ago. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to have a friendly chat with someone or watch a film/ play a video game with a friend at their flat. Life would be amazing if I had more friends, and/ or if I could meet up with my friends on a more regular basis. Even doing something with a friend once a week would be fantastic. I will hopefully be meeting up with 2 of those friends again over the next couple of weeks, which I’m looking forward to. I’m also hoping to do more travelling this summer – around Scotland, possibly around some of Europe (my youngest sister and youngest cousin were talking about this, and I may join them if they decide to go), and possibly back to Africa for a bit as well – but I haven’t planned/ organised anything yet. I don’t know if my work would let me have my job back afterwards, but if they wouldn’t, I’d still much rather go, and have the experience of a lifetime, than stay in the same monotonous and often frustrating job. I hope to start coming up with actual, concrete plans over the next few weeks. Other reasons as to why I’m enjoying life at the moment include feeling more like I am part of the family, being a lot less stressed since leaving university, and one other reason that will become apparent in my next post. I always felt like the black sheep of the family throughout my teenage years, but (although my mental health seems to be a bone of contention and something that they may never fully understand) I do feel more a part of family life, and more understood by/ involved with my family members. And my mental health/ life in general has certainly improved ever since getting out of that hellhole (university). People used to tell me that high school and university would be the best days of my life, but those were definitely the worst parts of my life so far. Things have improved greatly since leaving those days behind me. I know that my experiences can’t speak for everyone, but I just thought I’d clarify to those of you that have severe SA and are still going through high school/ university, it being “the best days of your life” is utter bullshit. Just do your best to hang in there and get through it. Life is much better now, and I don’t think there is a single day from those years that I’d like to repeat.

Although things are going really well at the moment, I’m still feeling rather discouraged about the possibility of making new friends. There seem to be very few people my age on meetup.com in my area, and I still haven’t gotten weekends off, so I still can’t even go along to the women’s cycling group that I’ve wanted to go to for ages. I went along to a different meetup.com group last month, but I found myself wishing that I hadn’t gone. I was the youngest person there again (though not by decades this time), and was the only female there until the organiser (who was over half an hour late) arrived. I couldn’t really relate to/ converse with anyone in the group, and was so tired from work that I was just about falling asleep. I did manage to eat a meal in front of a group of strangers, which was no mean feat, but I spent the entire meet up just waiting for it to be over, so I could go home and sleep. So yeah…I don’t know how on earth I’m going to meet new friends that I can truly connect with. I can’t just give up though. I wish there were better ways of making new friends available to me. I even thought about starting my own meet up group, but I still don’t feel ready for something like that. It’s still too scary.

I still have not the faintest idea what I’m going to do with my life after travelling, and I start to feel really down any time I start to think about it. I meant to see a careers advisor at my university a while back but I ended up getting too upset about the whole thing. I need to see someone about it soon, and start asking myself some soul-searching questions, or I may be stuck in a monotonous job that I dislike for the rest of my life. I know that I tend to catastrophise this sort of thing, and that I’m currently enjoying life even with a monotonous and frustrating job, so life will not necessarily be unbearable (in my head it will be) if I don’t end up in an enjoyable/ meaningful job. I would very much like if I could do something meaningful with my life though.

I’ve stopped seeing mental health professionals after completing a 12-week group CBT programme a few months ago (I need to write about this at some point), and (as no one I saw ever helped me much, and I’m doing so much better on my own) I feel this is the right decision for me. I still have so much frustration over the way I was treated by people who were supposed to be helping me, and over all the years I wasted in pointless therapy sessions. I hate that the potential misdiagnosis of autism is still hanging over my head as well. I never felt truly understood by anyone I saw, and some of them had not one iota of empathy. But that’s another rant…

In other news, my mum started dating again around this time last year, met a really nice guy, and they are now engaged. I was a little bit shocked that they were engaged only 8 months after meeting each other, but I’m sure they both have enough life/ romantic experience to know what they’re doing. He (my future stepdad) moved in with us a couple of weeks ago. Having so many people living together in a fairly small house is a bit of a nightmare at times, but he is a really nice guy and has made a real effort to get on with my siblings and I. I was so nervous the first time he came round to the house that I actually went and hid in the kitchen, but I’m so, so much more relaxed around him now. I’m really happy that he and my mum are both happy. We – the six people living in my household, and also my dad and his friend/ flatmate – are all going to Florida for a 2-week holiday in May (I had never been to another continent before I went to Namibia, and now I’ll get to experience 2 new continents in the space of less than a year!) I had worried that it would be awkward with dad being there, but he and my mum have remained really good friends, and he can always go off and do other things with his flatmate if he wishes. While I’m really looking forward to the holiday, going to Florida most likely means that both my future stepdad and my dad’s flatmate will have to find out about my scars, which I’m dreading. My mum, with my permission, has already told my future stepdad about my scars (though he hasn’t seen them yet), and thankfully, he does seem fairly understanding when it comes to mental health problems. But I am absolutely dreading having to tell my dad’s flatmate about it. I’m not sure he will be so understanding.

My mum and stepdad are also going to sell our house (though it may take up to a year or more for it to be ready to be put up for sale), and buy a new house about 2 or 3 miles away. There will still be enough room in their new house for my siblings and I to move in if we so wish, but lately, I find myself wishing that I could move out. My youngest sister has also spoken previously about wanting to move out as well, so we could possibly move out together and maybe with our other sister as well. It’s going to be so weird to see the house that I’ve lived in for the last 22 years of my life going up for sale; the house where I grew up. Everything is changing lately. But it all seems to be changing in a positive way. I have some more big steps ahead of me.

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Social Anxiety on This Morning — wE’Re AlL mAd HeRe

I just wanted to share this, just in case anyone missed it the other week there. The author of wE’Re AlL mAd HeRe discusses her own experiences with social anxiety, and her new book (a guide to coping with and beating social anxiety). I found this incredibly inspiring, and will definitely be reading her book at some point in the near future. It’s refreshing to see a book written by an actual social anxiety sufferer, for other social anxiety sufferers, rather than by a mental health professional who thinks that they understand but have no first-hand experience of the condition. It’s also very inspiring to see her coming across as so calm and composed on live TV, despite her anxiety.


Yesterday I appeared on This Morning to talk about my book and my experiences with social anxiety. Was I nervous? Let’s just say that during the journey to ITV studios, I forced Dan to have a ridiculously in depth conversation about all the potential plot twists in Westworld. Literally EVERY single one. (It was 8:30am, […]

via This Morning – the day after… — wE’Re AlL mAd HeRe

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So I’m Back…From Outer Space…

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…Or more accurately, from Namibia (a country in south-west Africa), where I spent 5 weeks at a wildlife sanctuary, including one week at a research site. Overall, it was an absolutely amazing experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I kind of wish I’d had the courage to do something like that sooner, but it doesn’t matter – I’m just so glad to have been able to do it in spite of my anxiety. I saw, and learned about, so many different animals – both in captivity at the sanctuary, and in the wild – and met so many different people, from all around the world. I feel that it really helped me to grow as a person, and although I’m still a very unconfident person by typical standards, it has helped with my confidence immensely. People at work have actually commented on this, telling me that travelling has brought me out of my shell, and that I seem like a more confident young woman. No, my anxiety didn’t magically cease to exist while I was away, and it was really tough at times, but I have fond memories of my time away, and again, other people have noticed that my face lights up whenever I talk about my trip. I’m so lucky to have been able to travel so far afield and have had so many new and pleasant experiences. I think my social skills have improved a bit, and while I still don’t particularly enjoy small talk, I can see now that it does serve a very important purpose. Also, this probably sounds quite trivial, but something that I struggled with before travelling was making eye contact when talking to more than one person. I used to only be able to make eye contact with one person in the group, but while away, I managed to make adequate eye contact with everyone, and I’ve been able to do so since returning from Namibia as well. I’ve noticed lots of small but important things like that. I’ll write about my trip in much more detail later, either as posts on this blog, or in a private blog.

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Like I said in my last post, I have really missed my blog. You’ll have to forgive me for being quite rusty at blogging (I’m already being hard on myself for the low quality of this post), seeing as how I haven’t regularly written posts in over a year now. I’m also feeling a little bit stupefied, as I often do at this time of year (more on this later), particularly when it comes to forgetting words, so please bear with me. I have so many updates to write, and so many other things that I want to write about that I’m actually feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but I’ll take it one post at a time. Thank you so much to everyone who has emailed me and commented on this blog over the last year and a bit. It’s so nice to know that my blog has made some fellow social anxiety sufferers feel understood and less alone. Many of your comments/ emails have made my day, so thank you!

I did mean to write an update weeks ago, but a combination of work and coming down with some kind of viral illness got in the way. The doctor actually said that my symptoms (cycles of high body temperature followed by chills) meant that I had to have blood tests done for malaria, which (despite the fact that I didn’t visit a malarial area of Namibia, and didn’t visit during the malaria season) was quite disconcerting. I also had to take my own bloods all the way to the blood lab at the hospital, while I was feeling very unwell and flu-like, which wasn’t much fun. Thankfully (and as expected), it wasn’t malaria.

In other news, I’m still working away at my supermarket job. For the most part, I have felt much happier and less stressed since leaving university. I still don’t have a clue what I want to do with my life (and the fact that one of my course mates described the job market for biological sciences graduates as “a shambling corpse” doesn’t exactly provide much optimism), but I’m thinking that for now, I will just take a year or so to try and figure my life out, and hopefully save up money to do more travelling, while I’m still young and don’t have any major commitments. Perhaps I am burying my head in the sand a little bit with the career situation (and I have already had many people depress the hell out of me by telling me not to leave looking for a graduate job too late or I’ll be working at the supermarket forever/ they have X, Y and Z postgraduate qualification yet still work in an entry level job), but travelling is currently the only thing I know that I want to do. I know that it’s something that makes me feel happy and that has also helped my confidence, so I’m keen to do more of it if I can. I may do some voluntary work as well.

Social life? What social life?

 I’ve been feeling pretty depressed about the likelihood of making friends post-university, as I don’t really have a way of doing that other than meetup.com, and the vast majority of meet ups take place at the weekend, when I’m working. However, after speaking with my manager, it looks like I may finally be able to have Sundays off. Saturdays would have been better (about 70% of the events I’ve seen seem to take place on Saturdays), but I’m not complaining. I really hope that I can go along to more meetups and make new acquaintances (perhaps even friends, if I’m extremely lucky), though to be honest, I don’t hold out much hope.

I went to a meetup on Tuesday night, to have a meal and see a film with a group, but I was the youngest person attending the meal by about 3 decades. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like talking to older people, it’s just that the whole point of me going along to these meetups is in an attempt to make friends/ acquaintances, and I’m much more likely to be able to do that with people my own age. Everyone was very friendly but I felt very awkward being by far the youngest in the group, and they also kept mentioning things that were clearly before my time, so I just sat there saying nothing, not having a clue what they were talking about. Ah well…at least I was still working on my social skills, I suppose. A couple of people closer to my age joined us for the film (Fantastic Beasts, which, despite being quite tired of the Harry Potter films, I enjoyed), including a woman that I went to high school with. Like me, she was also quite unpopular and got picked on a lot, though unlike me, she still managed to have a group of friends at the time. I sat next to her in standard grade English for 2 years. One day we had to write a poem, and I chose to write one about people who are “different” in some way. I remember that the first line of the poem was “The world is cruel to those who are different, those who don’t belong”, and it was about being strong enough to ignore the bullies and be your own person in a world that tries to coerce everyone to fit into a very narrow and restrictive definition of normality. I remember her saying that she related to the poem and that it was everything that she had wanted to say with her own. I’ve always wondered – given certain mannerisms that she has – if she might have Asperger’s or something. She has always been a little unusual, but also very genuine and a pleasant person. She actually gave me a lift home from the film, which was really nice of her. It would be nice if I could see her at another meetup, but that group doesn’t have many meetups that I can actually attend, and the thought of being the only young person amongst a bunch of older people again puts me off.

I really wish it wasn’t so incredibly difficult to make new friends. I feel like a middle-aged person in that sense already. I’m so grateful for the few friends I have, but it’s not like I see them on a regular basis. We hear a lot about loneliness in older people, but people don’t seem to understand that young people can be very lonely and have no close friends too. I realised yesterday that barring my one online friend, I’ve only had one close friend in my entire life, while I was still a child, and I think that’s quite sad. All subsequent friends have only been casual friends. I’m left wondering if I will always be as lonely (if not more so) as I am now. The future, regarding friendships, doesn’t exactly look promising.

Graduation

 My graduation ceremony was at the end of last month. I was absolutely dreading it, and was in a terrible state of anxiety the night before, but I actually ended up really enjoying it. I even managed to smile in photographs! I had been dreading walking up on stage in front of everyone most of all, but it really wasn’t that bad. I also managed to cope with certain things – for example, collecting my ceremony and reception tickets, finding out where to collect my robes from, finding out where to get my photo taken, having it taken, and making conversation with the photographer (all on my own, as my parents went for a coffee while I was sorting all this out) – a lot better than I would have previously. And while this probably sounds really childish, I used to rely on my parents a lot more with this sort of thing, but I think I’ve become quite a bit more independent since my solo travels. I think my parents were/ are really proud to have a university graduate in the family, and my mum kept saying how proud she was of me for getting through it all and getting great results in spite of everything. I have fond memories of the day.

Online Dating

Meanwhile, in my (non-existent) love life, I FINALLY managed to actually post a picture of my face on online dating sites. That probably seems like nothing to most people but it’s a huge thing to me (and I’m especially surprised that some men have seemed interested in me despite seeing my face), though I’m still terrified that someone I know will find my profile and mock me for it. I just keep telling myself that the possibility of finally being able to be in a relationship and experience love will be worth any amount of teasing. I’m not going to be miserable for the rest of my life (or at least, I will give it one hell of a fight) just to avoid teasing by people who have nothing better to do with their time. I will admit though, joining a site that requires you to pay for membership does make me feel like a bit of a loser. I feel like I’m broadcasting the fact that I’m a socially inept freak who can’t meet/ talk to men any other way. In a lot of ways, I worry that I’m still not cut out for a relationship, and may never be, and would make a terrible girlfriend – I really need to read a book or two on emotional intelligence and on healthy attachment styles. However, despite trying not to get my hopes up, I have been chatting to a couple of guys and may actually be meeting one of them soon (a thought that absolutely terrifies me). I managed to video chat with him over skype the other day (though I wasn’t actually able to say all that much) and he said he felt bad for asking me to do something that made me so visibly anxious and uncomfortable. But I was actually surprised at how quickly my anxiety (which was initially sky-high) reduced. Even if nothing comes of it, I think just actually meeting someone from an online dating site (even if it’s not a proper date) would certainly be a step in the right direction. I think if I ever want to be in a relationship, it’s something that I really need to start working on before I get much older. However, dating and relationships are also definitely the area where my anxiety is most intense and where I definitely have the most issues. I will try to take it one small step at a time and see what (if anything) comes of it.

I’m sorry for dumping yet another essay here. A plethora of updates to come, when I can find the time.

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Hi and Bye

Hello! Long time no blog. Just a VERY brief update to let you know that, yes, I am still alive, and university is finally over! I got my results a couple of weeks ago and managed to get a first class degree! I absolutely HATED my last year of uni, given how bad uni in general  was for my mental health (MASSIVE “mega-rant” coming about this in the future), and I’m still feeling very pessimistic about my future job prospects with a biological sciences degree, but at least all my hard work and stressing and all-nighters have paid off to an extent.

I had intended to write a few blog posts over the last two or three weeks but I’ve unfortunately been so busy that it hasn’t happened. The reason I’ve been so busy is that I’ve been preparing for a 5-week adventure abroad, on my own, which I leave for today. This is WAAAY out of my comfort zone and I’ve felt so anxious over the last few days that I have a constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I honestly think I must be crazy for signing up to this. It will challenge my anxiety like never before, and I just hope that I will be able to cope.  At the same time, though, I am really looking forward to this. Hopefully it will really help to boost my confidence. 

I’m sorry that I’ve been so terrible at responding to emails over the past year. Thank you to everyone who has emailed me or commented on my blog, and I’m really sorry if I haven’t messaged you back yet – it’s nothing personal. I’ll try and get caught up on all of that when I return from my trip. I really have missed my blog all these months, and the cathartic/ therapeutic effect of blogging. I have A LOT of updates to write, and a lot of other things I want to write about when I get back. Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough, and I’d better get a move on – I have a plane to catch! Thanks for reading and speak to you all in 5 weeks!

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Stressed oot ma nut! (Update)

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 haven’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!) – most of those future blog posts will have to be postponed by a few months.

Things aren’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 can’t help but feel bad about myself for all of the times that friends have abandoned me throughout my life. It certainly doesn’t help my self-esteem or my mood. But if someone wants to treat me badly when I’m going out of my way to help them, they aren’t really my friend. I’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, I’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 I’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 don’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 I’m not even sure that one of those people is really even my friend, given the way she treats me sometimes). I haven’t seen my other friend since July, and she won’t be back in Edinburgh until May, so I’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 didn’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. I’ve recently thought about trying online dating again, but I probably won’t have the time/ energy to dedicate to a relationship until university is over. Or maybe I’m just making excuses. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible to have a healthy relationship if you don’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 can’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 can’t rely on another person for my happiness because it’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 I’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 hadn’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 don’t blame her. When the woman in charge of befriending at the mental health charity found out that we’d been meeting so infrequently, she looked into getting me a second befriender who would be able to meet up with me more often. I’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 don’t really hold out much hope though. I find it so, so difficult to open up to people, and I don’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 “voice” in my head that tells me I won’t be able to make friends because I’m so socially inept and weird that no one would like me. There’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. We’ll see how it goes. I’m feeling really hopeless and miserable about my lack of close friendships and of a relationship but I’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.

Random picture of a capuchin monkey that I took, just to break up the wall of text a bit

Random picture of a capuchin monkey that I took, just to break up the wall of text a bit

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 didn’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 didn’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 we’re back to 6am starts now. Some nights I don’t get any sleep at all before work, which, again, definitely doesn’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. I’ve learned that it’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.

It’s amazing how high-functioning I can be at times. I don’t know if any of my colleagues would guess that I’m a nervous wreck on the inside (though I’m sure they’ve realised that I’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. I’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: “Oh shit. SHIT! They’re talking to me! What do I do? Why can’t the ground swallow me up?” Obviously, I still get anxious, but it’s somewhat more manageable now. I’m also a bit better at actually getting my words out/ responding to people, rather than my anxiety causing me to completely freeze up. It’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 don’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 should’ve had a “long sentence warning” on it. Hope no one fell asleep half-way through it). Perhaps this is why I am so reluctant to open up to others.

Sleepy squirrel monkey

Sleepy squirrel monkey

Something that worries me is that lately, I’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 I’m sleep-deprived, and my brain also seems able to make just about anything disturbing (re: intrusive thoughts) when I’m in a sleep-deprived state. In the past, I’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 shouldn’t. I’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, I’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 I’ve had to deal with recently are disturbing and upsetting to me.

Last term at university was horrendous but I’ll cover that in another post, seeing as how I’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 women’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 didn’t seem to be going well at first, as everyone else already knew each other and I wasn’t able to join in on the conversation. I once again started to wish that I hadn’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 café, 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 haven’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. I’m still undecided as to whether or not I will make a complaint. It seems like more trouble than it’s worth, and I doubt it will do anything whatsoever to change the deeply flawed and failing public mental health services. Has anyone reading this blog ever gotten any positive results from making a complaint about mental health services?

It’s always difficult for me to start seeing a new psychologist/ psychiatrist. I’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 I’m going to make any significant progress, so that’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 don’t even know what topic they’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, it’s annoying, because I have so much I want to write about, but it’ll just have to wait. Anyway, I’ve nattered on for more than long enough. Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far without falling asleep like that squirrel monkey.

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All I Ever Wanted, All I Ever Needed

I want to write about about a dream that I had a while ago. Now I’m not usually one for analysing my dreams, but in this case, I think it’s obvious what the different aspects of the dream symbolise.

I dreamt that I had been imprisoned by a totalitarian government (again, I read too many dystopian novels), for being ‘different’ to other people (in terms of being unable to behave like a socially ‘normal’ human being). There was a viewing area on the other side of the bars of my cell, which people could get into by going down a staircase. People looked right through me, and didn’t even seem to see me as a person. It was as if they were viewing something like a slug or a snail, and not another human being. It was as if these people had been told “Come and see the socially awkward freak!” I looked at their faces but there were no signs of compassion or recognition of another human being, simply an unwavering stare and dull, vacant expression. Then, suddenly, a guy walked into the viewing area  and held my hand through the bars of my cell. He looked at me like a person, rather than like some kind of alien specimen. It was…nice. I wanted to keep holding his hand, but he pulled away after a few moments. It speaks volumes for my loneliness/ lack of a love life. Even in the dream, I realised I would soon have to wake up and go back to my lonely day-to-day life, deprived of human contact/ love/ close friends.

I don’t think a relationship is something that I truly NEED (after all, I’ve made it 21 years and counting without one), but it is something that I intensely want. I don’t think that it will magically solve all my problems. But loneliness is the worst and I would love to have a special someone in my life. Social anxiety makes everything concerning relationships an impossibility for me though. And I’m convinced that no one would ever want to be in a relationship with me, especially if they knew everything about me. I can’t bear the thought of being alone and unloved for the rest of my life. I can’t bear the thought of having no real connection with anyone for the rest of my life.

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“But first, let me take a selfie”

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.

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