Anxiety Chronicles: Social Anxiety

I have a love/hate relationship with being social. And why is this, you ask? Well, it has a little something to do with anxiety. For as long as I can remember, I felt anxious, and still do, in social situations. To be honest, having Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I feel anxious in most situations. It’s pretty crazy because I seem confident, super talkative, and witty. But inside, I feel like I just want to explode. Like if I don’t talk away my anxiety or run away, I may just explode. This is especially true in public.

There was a point in my life where I couldn’t leave my home. Not many people are aware of this because I hid it very well. I made excuses. I talked a lot over the phone, and I sounded happy. But I couldn’t even go outside for a few minutes at one point. I was in constant fight or flight, and had multiple panic attacks each day. I can honestly tell you that I felt like I was dying for months. I didn’t know what to do except for the fact that I needed to get better. I ended up in the hospital unable to eat anything. I had lost so much weight that they had tested me for everything under the sun. It came back as chronic anxiety, which had caused some stomach issues. I was prescribed anxiety medication and allowed to go home after 2 days. This happened twice over a few months, and I knew that I needed to push myself even if it was baby steps every day to be able to get back my life.

I started with eating more and attempting to hydrate (I still have issues with this!). I also started to workout at home. Movement and eating better helped my anxiety as well as my medication. Slowly, I would go outside or leave the house for small amounts of time. I would still feel the panic the first 15-20 minutes, but this time I had to accept that this anxiety was still going to be intense for a while. My body and mind needed to adjust. I would breathe through it, and eventually, I felt better. To be honest, it became exhausting, but I knew I had to regularly do this to help regulate my nervous system. It was an uphill battle, but I knew it would be worth it. As time went on, I felt less anxious, but I decided that having a drink or two would help relax me before I went out. This seemed like an okay idea. I mean I am not drinking that much, and it was just to take the edge off. People have a drink every day, so what is the big deal? Well, it was the start of an unhealthy coping mechanism that felt good temporarily but allowed my anxiety to overcome me once again.

I just wanted to be able to live like “normal” people. People that can just get ready and go out every day, and not have anxiety or minimal anxiety. I just, for once in my life, wanted to feel normal and not anxious. It was so exhausting, and since it is such an invisible illness, no one understood, especially to the extreme that my anxiety became. Having an innocent drink or two allowed for this. But when I actually went out socially, it always turned into more. I didn’t want the feeling to end. Drinking didn’t mix well with my anxiety medication, and before I knew it, I woke up with regret and a terrible hangover. The worst part of the hangover was that my anxiety was the worst it ever was the next day. Nothing helped and I was miserable all day. And then the cycle continued. It was a difficult one to break. I never ever drank at home or alone for that matter. It was all about having to drink to decrease my anxiety enough to be able to do everyday things. I didn’t think I had a problem, but it was definitely problematic. I didn’t want to take anxiety medication for the rest of my life, and in hindsight, getting on a long-term, effective medication would’ve helped my anxiety rather than putting a band aid over it. But it seemed like a medication rabbit hole and I didn’t want to spend more time dealing with my anxiety. Ironically, I was forced to when I realized I needed to gain more control over my anxiety. This was going to be a long-term thing, and I needed to accept it. I needed to show up for me and stop the short-term solutions and start really dealing with it. This took so much time and energy, but today, I am proud to say I have a much better handle on my anxiety. I have come a long way, and I still have to make the next right decision. I still have my struggles. But I put in the work and I will continue to put in the work.

I hope this gives you hope. I hope that you see that nothing is impossible, and if you start with slow and consistent steps, stick through the hard times, and continue moving in the right direction, you can live a life that you are proud of. Make sure to be gentle with yourself and do the best you can. That is all you can do. Show up for you. You are worth it 😊

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