I used to have severely bad social-anxiety. At university, my panic attacks were so unbearable to cope with that I had to reach out for help.
I booked a session with my school counsellor at university, and we had a session on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I was taught how to alter my anxious thoughts and my emotions, and with the information I was given, I knew I couldn’t just stop there, so I challenged myself. I knew that the only way I could do this was putting myself in real-life and uncomfortable situations each day. I obviously didn’t want to put myself in these situations, but I knew that discomfort would help me understand my triggers better.
A fear I had was being late to my lecture with over 300 people. Being around a lot of people made me fearful at the time, and it would trigger a panic attack (and yes, I have ran out of a lecture a few times due to panic attacks) but did I survive? Yes. Was I more anxious after people saw me randomly leave the lecture? Correct. Was it the end of the world? No.
But that was definitely a flight rather than a fight. (Was that funny or am I just overtired? Oh well).
Anyways, back to the serious stuff. I would purposely be late a few times to each of my different lectures to overcome the fear that my anxiety created. As I walked into my lecture, I put the knowledge that I gained from counselling and put CBT into practice, where I altered my negative thoughts and monitored my emotions. Eventually, I learned how to make peace with this fear. Through these challenges I became mentally stronger and I gained more confidence within myself.
As frightening and uncomfortable as it was to put myself in these situations, and for some this might not sound challenging (but it was for me at the time), it was these little steps that I took each day that brought me closer to understanding my anxiety and being able to cope with it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still live with anxiety and it does challenge me every single day, but I’m now comfortable with communicating, presenting, and being in front of people. However, I still struggle with insomnia, panic attacks, posting on social media, feeling creatively free, and the list goes on.
I think it’s important to surround yourself with people that understand you and your anxiety. So, shout-out to all of my friends who might be reading this, and who are patient with me.
I’m thankful my friends can read me when I’m anxious, or who know that when I’m distant I’m going through things and I’ll call them when I’m better. My friends know that I have trouble sleeping, due to my insomnia (as I’m writing this at 7:15am). So thank you again for all of the melatonin you have when I come over.
The amount of times I’ll leave my friends in my dark basement to go sleep in my bed so I can put on a meditation on to listen, is almost mean at this point. It’s all love though, I’m sure they’ll laugh at this, cause I am laughing writing it.
Have you ever had someone lay beside you and pretend to be one of those meditators on YouTube? “In through your noise, out through your mouth.” If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Overall, it’s important to surround with people that are patient with you, and who tell you you’re “safe” when you think the world is ending. I struggle every single day behind closed doors, and I do tend to suffer in silence, but I’m happy I recently started therapy to get through to the deeper issues in my life, and find other anxiety coping mechanisms.
The thing is, anxiety is such an internal battle, that no one from the external world can truly understand what you’re truly going through. We must be reminded that help is out there, if you just reach out. It’s all about taking that first step.
Overall, there are endless amounts of scenarios of why people do certain things due to their anxiety. People must remember to have this open-minded approach when interacting with anyone, not to make judgments assumptions, and to be reminded that everyone is struggling with something.
So to my anxious people out there, I totally understand you. My best advice is to reach out for help, take baby-steps each stay to step out of your comfort zone and to surround yourself with people who are patient with you, and that understand both you and your anxiety.
Sending you love.