Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tears of a clown

I suffer from social phobia……or social anxiety…or SAD whatever you want to label it as. All I know is that it’s a giant pain in the ass.


I spent a childhood being told I couldn’t do things, being told I was no good and all that usual rot and it kind of manifested into me giving up until the day I could leave home or until I had the money to be a bit more independent.

Things totally worked out that way as well. As soon as I strided away from my home town and the restraints it brought with it (ie this was a real tracksuit and trainers town at the time and I was little miss mod girl – I got abuse). I found myself; I grew as a person and became quite confident. My picture was taken when I went out and I loved it all. I was signed up for an agency that picked people for music videos and all sorts. All things I would never dream of doing today.

Aren’t you meant to get more confident as you get older?

Not me.

We all know the big two incidents that led me to this place (for those that don’t it was an abusive relationship and the best part of 4 years being house bound) – it’s amazing how much it effects your behaviour. Then on the flip side – if someone feeds you every day, you will have forgotten how to use a knife and fork within about 6 weeks. So 4 years of limited social activity, of course I am going to find it hard to find my feet again.

I went through a weird stage of feeling no good and so, so ugly at the end of that horrible relationship and then I had all the weird hormonal stuff that went on with the tumours and I frequently found myself getting all excited to go out, getting dressed up, going out and then freezing. I’d sit in a room full of people feeling so alone. So scared. So boring. So unable to do anything. My heart would be in my mouth. I would have mean little mantra’s spinning around my head making me feel worse and worse. I’d bolt and it wouldn’t be until I was home that I realised I hadn’t been breathing properly.

I’d see people I knew and would look down and rush away or duck into a shop. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to see them I just had this total panic over take me and fear would kick in. It was all new to me and I didn’t know what to do.

I was known as a real motor mouth who could talk to anyone and did talk to anyone. I’d end up with phone numbers of new ‘friends’ every time I went out. People knew who I was, weirdly. I really had no issues with talking to people. If anything I was told I talked too much. So how did this happen to me and how do I get away from it?

My real friends all tell me I am fine. I might seem fine but I get so stressed out and can end up sometimes not enjoying myself or making excuses at the last minute to not be able to go out. In fact, the friends I keep near tell me I am still little miss chatterbox.

I don’t feel that way though.

A friend told me I am so far from shy that it’s something else. He’d be right – but I just don’t know what that something else is…..or I guess I do. Social Phobia.

The bain of my life.

At work I sit on my own all day. I can’t really leave my desk other than for breaks and lunch. My breaks and lunch are quite often at different times to others. I feel that I don’t know the people I work with. It’s new to me. Every job I’ve ever had I’ve made friends that stick around long after I have left that employment. But now? It’s all weird. I walk down this corridor to get to the kitchen where our breaks are and you would not believe the dread that overwhelms me. Just walking into a room where quite a few people could be finishing off their break makes me feel sick. Yet I do it. But no one knows the accomplishment in such a small pathetic task. I’ve been asked why I never join them outside on a sunny day. There is no way right now I could walk up to a table full of people already talking. I can’t actually do it. It’s like my feet are set in cement.

It sounds so pathetic and so indulgent. I would’ve just told people to pull themselves together, man up and get on with it. If only it were that simple.

I’ve danced on stages. Been on stage with bands. Played an instrument on my own to 500 people. Had my picture taken for magazines (not those kind thanks very much). I’ve had a band halt a show to tell me to stop talking…..yet suddenly…….here I am this little shell of the person I used to be. Consumed by a fear I don’t understand, a fear that I don’t want, a fear that makes me so mad at myself.

I feel retarded for even writing this but realised many people suffer in silence, and the kind of ironic comment is that I am sick of the silence. I am sick of being locked in that quiet room.

I guess some days are better than others though. A few years ago there would be times that it would take up to an hour just to be able to leave the house. I’ve never been so grateful for a job as I was in those times, as I had no choice, I had to get out there and face the world.

Now I am trying to face my demons. It’s not easy. I wish it was.

I feel I’ve failed this job sometimes as I can’t see how the people here will never not feel like strangers now, that the set up I put myself in was the worst one for someone with a social phobia. I worry that I am being a bad friend as I am always on edge or worried about one thing or another.

The comforting thing is that I know this is not me. I know that this is a temporary blip and the more confident me is there somewhere. I just don’t have the key to let her out just yet.

My doctor asked me how I did it once. I had no clue what she was talking about. I asked. She told me that I had been through so much that she didn’t know how I wasn’t having counselling. After a little chat she told me that she had never known anyone that had counselled themselves so well and that when I finally work out what to do with all this information that I will be a force to be reckoned with. You might laugh at that comment but honestly, I really hope she’s right. In my darkest moments it’s something I cling to, with hope! I also have some wonderful friends that have been so understanding and patient and I really thank them for that.

I am sure there are people around me that think I am quite rude, or can’t be bothered with them. I worry that my awkwardness makes them think there is something wrong with them or that I don’t like them. It’s never that. Believe me if I don’t like you, you will never be in doubt about that.

I kick myself for all the wasted opportunities there have been and hope that one day just walking into a room of people won’t be such a difficult thing to do.

All the health issues I had can be really antagonised by stress and I have to really try to avoid such situations, kind of hard when I am trying so hard to overcome this phobia
I’ve built massive walls around me that some people seem to take personally. It never is, it’s about self protection more than anything.
I can’t believe that I became the girl that once entered a room with such enthusiasm now feels sick to walk into that room. The girl that would sulk if the phone call wasn’t for them, now runs from a ringing phone (yeah for those of you who know what I do for my job do laugh – it’s one of the very reasons I took this job.) I never wanted to become this silly person. You would never believe how much I beat myself up over it, and I am not so foolish as to think that too many of you even care. I just hope that one person reading this will maybe feel not so alone with their own phobia or that someone somewhere will show someone tomorrow that little bit more understanding and not just write them off. You never really know what is going on with someone or what has gone on with someone. You only really know what they tell you. Sometimes all you have to do is take a second to scratch the surface. Most people are worth it you know.

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