Have you ever found yourself having a panic attack while being surrounded by group of close friends? Have you ever felt like drowning or imploding?
Maybe while sitting on the sofa, you suddenly slinked into it and started praying no one noticed you, no one asked you questions, no one payed attention to you? Maybe you came up with a perfect excuse (or really bad one) to storm out the pub or friend’s place… wanting so much to be alone, at home, finally at peace.
Have you ever felt your heart pounding? Was your chest heavy, stomach shrunken, hands shaking, irritation and impatience arising. Have everyone around you suddenly started looking at you, thinking about you, talking about you, criticising you, laughing at you, being bored or disgusted with you… all of those thoughts in your head, while in reality they probably didn’t even know you exist?
That’s how I feel sometimes. Not that often as I used to, anyway… But when it comes back it’s like it was the first time ever. And some don’t believe me, some even think it’s coquetting, because there is such a big gap between my external image and internal emotional state. I can look pretty, nice and fresh, I can even smile and do brave things, while deep inside I shake and wish I was invisible.
The gap gets bigger, though, when I play the role of a team leader or a public speaker. Because you know what? I am fine! I don’t have panic attacks all the time! I am not depressed! I am not miserable! I don’t want to cry, or scream, or run from you! I am not like that ALL THE TIME. I am totally capable of doing brave, social things or be your fun friend, competent boss or business owner.
My friends very often ask why I am so sad, or why I am not talking much, why I don’t want to go to the club, why I don’t want to get drunk, why I am leaving early… why why why… There is no good answer! Not instant, anyway! I am not sad, nor depressed – I just don’t feel comfortable, I don’t want to explain in front of everyone what is that I feel inside! I just want to go home! So please, let me go home!
But what we must not forget: We need to work on it, so we can get better! Sure, it’s easier to go home, sure it’s easier to hide or cancel the meeting. It’s not the way, though. …Unless you are perfectly comfortable with the vision of losing contact with the last social piece of your life and becoming unable to go out and speak to people at all. The choice is yours.
You might think there is no hope…
Four in 10 Canadians believe they anxiety disorders are not curable! What a terrible, terrible waste of beautiful people with a potential to be calm, happy and have colourful social lives… What a lack of proper information and easy access to helpful tools!
Most common anxiety distortions are: Filtering, Black and White” Thinking, Overgeneralization, Jumping to Conclusions, Catastrophizing, Personalization, Blaming, Shoulds, Emotional Reasoning, Labelling…
I believe social anxiety IS CURABLE and depending on how much your condition is advanced you can help yourself by using appropriate tools or asking your therapist or coach for their support.
Alone or not start with the table below. This table based on Cognitive-Behavioural therapy will help you to log your emotions and link them to particular situations that you react to in an anxious way.
Define and analyse your feelings, keep a daily log, be mindful on what your dominant thoughts are. Once you’ve got this, you can focus on methods that will help you relax and face your anxieties (such as mindfulness, meditation, practice of breathing).