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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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Monday, 17 August 2009

Not a day would go by where I didn't focus on my social anxiety from morning to night. It preoccupied everything I did and thought. But not anymore. Change is possible with a little bit of courage and dedication.

I am writing this so that people who are looking for guidance or help may hopefully gain some insight or at least some hope with their own social anxiety issues.

I am 24 years old now and began to notice my anxiety when I was 20. It is incredible to look back over the last 4 years and the journey that I have undertaken. I watch my descent into deeper and deeper social anxiety issues through my last two years of college, to the point when I decided something was wrong and I needed to take proactive steps to getting better, through the difficult strainful periods of coming face to face with my anxiety triggers and finally to where I am today, living my life how I want to live it not built around avoiding my anxieties. 

It was hard to recognize for a long time that I was living a life full of anxieties. After 2 years in college of smoking a lot of pot daily, drinking myself stupid 3-4 nights a week and getting average grades my self image deteriorated and I was left feeling helpless and frightened. The whole time I drank, smoked and failed to achieve the grades I knew I could get I was slowly, knowingly letting myself down. Not showing myself the respect which I knew, deep down, I deserved. 

 I began to acknowledge how I was avoiding doing everyday things which I used to not think twice about or even enjoyed. Riding the bus up to school, sitting next to someone in class, using the public urinals, walking down the street, talking with friends, etc. All of these things began to give me anxiety. I began to fear them and did the worst thing possible if you are suffering from social anxiety... I began to avoid them. When I feared something and I avoided it, I was immediately relieved because at least I didn't have to feel that intense discomfort. But let me tell you that when you avoid doing something you fear that fear slowly grows bigger and bigger. The more you avoid the bigger the ball of fear grows.

 One of the most memorable moments of my anxiety was when I was talking with a friend in my kitchen with a night of casual drinking and i began to become self concious of my eyes looking at him. I detached myself from the conversation and instead became very preoccupied with maintaining eye contact. And I remember when he said, "why are you looking at me like that??" And somehow it was crushing. I was embarassed and felt that it was weird of me. I felt awkward. This spiraled into another fear of mine, eye contact. I avoided looking people in the eyes for a long time. And that ball of fear kept getting bigger and bigger.

 Here is the painful yet simple truth; We simply must do that which we fear until we learn that it is really nothing to fear. It is the same thing as learning to first swim when our moms are not holding on to us. We cry and scream and are scared at first and then slowly the more we do it the more we learn that we will be okay alone without our moms holding on. Well this is how I learned and as far as I can tell is the only way to beat your anxiety. Find out what you are scared of and do it until your brain just stops being scared. AND I KNOW, it feels like it will ALWAYS be scary, but it slowly goes away. Exposure is the only way to treat it.

I used to ride public transportation for hours at a time so that I could sit across from people and next to people knowing that I would feel that voice in my head screaming " AHHHH this person knows thinks I am awkward, they think I'm crazy, get outta hear you fool, why are you just sitting there!?!" But eventually the voice goes away. You can just relax and be comfortable. YOu just gotta sit through the pain to get to the pleasure. It's the only way. Don't try and change or manipulate the situation just sit in it or do it until it goes away.

 Now I know that I it is easier said than done. But do it. Do it everyday. Join a public speaking club, join up with random people on meetup.com, bottom line is it will be painful now but there will be relief. 

I also recommend finding out what you enjoy and doing it. Art, hiking, music, reading, sports, excercise, etc. Making your life more full and well rounded will take your focus in life away from anxiety. My life used to revolve around my social anxiety and getting rid of it. But the harder I pushed the harder it pushed back. The more I wanted to change it the less it changed. The trick I learned was to let it be there and just ignore it. Give it it's space. let it scream and cry and try and get my attention but I would simply ignore it and eventually it just stopped trying and I could live my life in peace.

I used to tense up anytime anyone said the words weird, awkward, anytime someone sat next to me on the bus, or wanted to talk to me, anytime I walked down a street I would feel self concious and aware of every movement. But it all goes away, it slowly just becomes background info your brain fliters out as unimportant details. It just takes dedication and courage. You're not perfect and don't have to be, SO gather yourself and go out there and do what you are afraid of because you only have one life and you deserve to make it a happy and full one.



PS: I highly recommend the book: Dying of Embarassment


Comments (6)add comment

Irish said:

You found what works for you and that's what the best thing was that I found in this blog. It will also be a method for some of the others now that they have read your blog. Of course, it won't work for many because we are all different and have to try different ways. Thanks for sharing what works for you. It's inspirational...Ed
August 22, 2009
Votes: +2

substance said:

thanks for the book tip! im always looking for new books to read
September 16, 2009
Votes: +2

SkyBird said:

Karl, well said. Also being 24 I can relate so much to your story. When I found more things to occupy my time, my social anxiety went down and my panic attacks went from 5 days a week to once a month. No more anticipatory anxiety where I sit around thinking about panic what-ifs. My next step is to tackle the social anxiety as I still tend to avoid people I don't know or may want to talk to. I'll have to check that book out.
September 28, 2009
Votes: +3

Neednangel said:

Hey everyone!

I just signed up on this site. I too suffer from Social A
Anxiety. I've been sitting at home all day, watching
movies and wishing I wasn't the way I am.
January 29, 2010
Votes: +1

Neednangel said:

Karl, I really liked your blog.I just lost my car, my
shield from the world and now have to take public transportation.
I feel like I wanna kick and scream. People freak me out most of the time. Some days are better than others, and I have been dealing withthis anxiety for years now. Everyday is a stuggle and Im getting tired of trying. How do you keep pushing forward!!!?
January 29, 2010
Votes: +1

Raederle said:

The Sluice Pipe
" Here is the painful yet simple truth; We simply must do that which we fear until we learn that it is really nothing to fear." -- That is something my Dad always taught me. He was terrified of confined spaces, and so at the age of seven or eight he crawled through a tiny little sluice pipe to get over the fear. It's one of his favorite stories to tell. (His user name is ishtarmuz on twitter and wordpress if you wanted to talk to him about it.)

I used to get very dizzy on a regular basis, as well as suddenly feel short of breath, or pains in the center of my chest (within my heart, as I have come to understand.) These symptoms were often in combination with "stitches" in my side (sharp pains running through the sides, somewhat forward from the direct middle of my sides).

When I told my mom about some of these symptoms (it was ages eight through sixteen that I had them the most often) she became very concerned. (I told her about it at length at the age of nine, I believe.) She told me that chest pains could be very serious, and that if I ever felt them I should sit down immediately and calm my breathing. She told me that if I didn't, it was possible that I could die (depending, of course, on what the pains meant.)

I grew up believing more and more firmly that I had a serious disease that I would die from at a young age. Around the age of eleven my mom began to suspect I had lupus, but the doctors wouldn't credit her theory.

At the age of sixteen I told my mother that I didn't really believe I'd live past the age of twenty-seven. The number "felt like" it had "significance," and I believed that feeling meant I would die at that age. Secretly I hoped that meant that I would find prince charming at that age, because after-all, that would be a much more enjoyable outcome even it meant waiting so many years for it to happen.

As it turns out, when I began to change my diet at the age of sixteen many of the symptoms began to go away. The dizziness came less often, and the splitting headaches began to lessen, the side pains lessened. I became encouraged to do more food research to see if I could eliminate some of my symptoms. Today, after six years of altering my diet in stages (based on more and more continual research on a nearly daily basis for several of those years), I never randomly feel dizzy. My heart doesn't just begin to hurt out of no where anymore. I don't suddenly feel like I can't breath anymore. As well as many other issues I used to have dissipating.

This leads me to believe that many other people with "panic attacks" could be cured the same way I was. I wrote more about it here: http://reallyrawraederle.blogs...tacks.html
December 01, 2010 | url
Votes: +0

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