Category Archives: Social Phobia

Talking and Connection During Lockdown.

I am relieved that I’m starting to feel a little better. The weather has suddenly jumped from an average of 0 degrees C, to about 9, so I’m actually looking forward to my dog walk today.

I’d been grumpy with my husband all day Saturday, which I wrote about in my last post, and feeling shame about it. But Sunday started well as we both gave each other Valentine’s cards and little gifts, so that cheered me up and we opened up about the day before. He said he’d been very stressed about a situation at work, and suddenly everything clicked into place. That was why I was avoiding being around him on Saturday! I was feeling his stress as something I couldn’t face going near. Normally I can give support over these things, but because I have been feeling depressed for a few weeks, I just didn’t have the emotional strength or energy to deal with his problems.

I felt relieved to know that was what had been the issue (the trials of the highly sensitive empath), and once we talked about his work problem, we both felt much better, which relaxed the energy between us.

Then I actually felt strong enough to ring my parents- yes, it takes strength due to childhood traumas still lingering between us. They can be fun to talk to and are certainly better now I’m an adult, so that actually cheered me up, as I think I’d been missing chatting to people. Lockdown has certainly made me feel more isolated, and I’m really not great at picking up the phone to chat to friends (I’m phone phobic!). I definitely have social anxiety but also a need for some connection and conversation.

I feel lucky that I have hugs and affection everyday. If I lived alone, I’d definitely be missing those.

So Valentine’s Day was actually really good and we ended up with gorgeous steaks for dinner, (for once I didn’t overcook them) and watched the original X Men on Disney Plus.

It’s a total cliche, but I think a hot bath helped, as well as the Bach Flower Remedy Mustard (for depression with no known cause), and the essential oil Petitgrain. Lots of little things all adding up- that’s the way to improve my mood!

I think starting to write on here again has helped too. I haven’t really been very in touch with myself over the last year or two. I had been writing in my journal sporadically, but not like I used to. This is helping me to feel more human again. I forget how talking about things can help, even if I’m talking to cyberspace! I really do appreciate people reading this- so thank you if you are here!

Lockdown Depression

Depression SOS: Bach Flower Remedies

Bach Flower Remedies for Depression- Mustard and Gentian. (You Tube Video)

Emerging Shadow Aspects of the Soul

Working with shadow parts is always something that makes me feel apprehensive, even though I know it shouldn’t as it is just the lower vibrational aspects of our soul arising to be released.

It is scary when I find out things about myself that I really don’t like. Knowing that they need love and healing helps a little. Also observing them rather than attaching to them helps to quell any judgement of myself that naturally stirs.

Just because we know how we don’t want to feel or be, doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t feel those things or have those aspects in our personalities.

Recently I’ve been noticing cowardly parts of myself. Actually that’s quite a judgemental word, I think I prefer fearful. I’ve noticed that I am far too happy to stay indoors and away from people in light of the current coronavirus outbreak. Things have just ramped up a notch here in the UK, and we’re now told to only go out for essential purposes.

At the moment this hasn’t bothered me one bit. I love being at home, it’s peaceful to me, and in my current recovery from Coeliacs Disease I still have little energy (an earlier boost a few weeks ago has unfortunately subsided). I am an introvert at heart, but one who needs and loves being around people in small doses.

The new imposed limits in contact have awoken in me a realisation that I am greatly relieved to have an excuse not to socialise. Like seriously relieved! This really surprised me. I’ve always been aware that I’m very socially anxious, but I didn’t realise by how much, or how much it has been affecting me.

What scares me so much about socialising with other people?

I find it all too intense. Other people’s energy seems very “loud” if that makes any sense to you? I feel very overwhelmed by it very quickly. At some point I even questioned if I have Aspergers. I certainly fit some of the criteria, but not enough for a diagnosis I don’t think.

The overwhelm doesn’t just come from the other people, but also the environment we are in: noise, visuals, other energies around us.

But even in a peaceful environment, one-on-one with a friend, I can only manage a small amount of time before I feel overstimulated.

I am constantly aware of how the other person sees me, perceives, judges. I am constantly monitoring myself and them for signs of doing something socially inappropriate or upsetting to someone.

No wonder I get so overstimulated, and fearful also. I put myself under a microscope and am super-conscious of everything I do.

Exploring my fear has helped me judge myself less. I almost feel I am observing a frightened child, one who hasn’t managed to learn how to accommodate her sensitivities, and judges herself harshly for not fitting in, and not wanting to socialise. It feels easier to be kinder and compassionate towards her.

I find online friendships helpful. They create a little bit of distance and I like that I can reply in writing, which I can take more time over, and am not in a situation I find pressurising.

This social anxiety has greatly impacted my ability to hold down a regular job, coupled with bipolar. I think when the anxiety is all the time, everyday at a job, and I am constantly exhausted from it, that is when the mood swings kick in and bipolar cycles begin and escalate.

I wonder if part of me, maybe part of my ancestral karma, is extremely judgemental of mental illness. It shocks me to think so, but I feel emotional at this realisation, which makes me think there is some truth in it.

It’s slightly horrifying seeing as mental health conditions are so rife in my family.

Perhaps we have ancestors or past lives that involve severe judgement or abuse of the mentally ill. Of course I seriously hope not, but there is definitely part of me that judges myself harshly for not being “normal” (I don’t see others’ mental health issues in this way at all) and sometimes I think I do bully myself. I feel ashamed that I’ve always found adulthood extremely difficult- dealing with a job, plus housework, cooking, washing etc. In fact the last three alone I find challenging enough.

I feel ashamed when people ask me “so what do you do Rachel?”. I never know what to say really. I don’t have a job. At the moment I don’t use my time very wisely either- too much TV and internet, not enough writing, art, piano and flute. I think I do try and bully myself into doing them, which inevitably makes me not want to do them. I’m extremely judgemental of myself when I do participate and am a perfectionist. Not much fun!

Then on top of all that I feel like I’m putting myself into a position of powerlessness by attaching to beliefs about being a victim.

I just can’t win! 😂

So, it would appear I need to do a whole lot of release of judgement, and a whole lot of forgiveness. I know these things take time, and it happens in baby steps. I’ve identified the problem, so now I can do something about it by being much more compassionate with myself, much kinder and gentler. One step at a time.

It’s funny. I asked my husband once what he most loved about me and he said that I am kind and caring. Not to myself it would seem, but hopefully I will be able to turn those qualities inwards.

N.B It has occurred to me that just by acknowledging and accepting our shadow qualities, we are being courageous.

From Overcare for Others’ Opinions, to Self Discovery.

One of my unhealthy patterns, throughout life thus far, has been to care about what other’s think of me way too much. All the time.

I think many, many people do this: dare I say- particularly women?! But I guess there are those that just worry a little about what everyone will think of their new outfit, and those who care so much about what others think that it affects their life decision-making process, and causes great anxiety (possibly Social Phobia), even shame.

I fall into the latter category.

There are many ways I’ve allowed this anxiety over the opinions of others to affect me, but two really stand out.

Jobs

I’ve allowed my care for what other people think of me to push me into many unsuitable jobs. Jobs that I got just to prove to others that yes I could work and that I wasn’t just going to “sponge off the government”. This usually led to barely controllable Bipolar symptoms.

(I don’t believe it is sponging off the government now. I know I truly was ill with Bipolar and had a genuine need for that financial support. There are many who genuinely need this support).

Body Image

Caring so much for the opinions of others led me to a fairly appalling view of my body- I think I thought this kept me slim and healthy. It did for a while, but not anymore. My self esteem was, and still is, massively affected by how I think others perceive my body. I worried about what other people thought about what I ate. In fact I still have issues about eating in front of other people.

Not Knowing or Trusting Myself

With my mind constantly obsessing and analysing myself from the perspective of how others perceived me, I lost that real sense of knowing who I am. I still don’t trust myself to make good decisions (someone once said to me that there is no right or wrong decision- only the effects of that decision to deal with). Lack of Identity is a core feature of Borderline Personality Disorder and I believe present in Bipolar too (see Bipolar/Borderline Sensitivity & Loss of Identity)

What do I want from life? This is such a tough question to answer. I’m so used to thinking I must follow the set path laid out for me by society: school, university, career, marriage, babies. Anything less would be a failure right?

But Bipolar has made me reframe my perspective. It prevented me from progressing further down this pre-determined social path. I had to reassess what I believed success to be.

Does it really matter that I’m not going to be a doctor or teacher? I might never be married or have children. Does this matter? Was this really what I wanted in the first place? I don’t know!!! I don’t know what I want. I’m in the process of finding out.

Self Discovery 

Self Discovery is a term I really like. It makes the whole process sound more subjective and a bit of an adventure. There is room for expansion and exploration.

Self Discovery also requires that we are mindful of our thoughts and feelings towards things. You can’t discover what you like or don’t like unless you pay attention to your own reactions. This may sound simplistic but, believe me, I’ve been studying everybody else’s reactions for so long it can really be a challenge to listen to myself.

(Mindfulness is a well known tool in managing depression and anxiety, so allowing this process of self discovery can only be a positive thing).

Individual Needs

I’m enjoying exploring my innate NEED to write, to learn and to analyse things in a psychological way (sometimes this is a good thing, other times it can lead to rumination on the negative). I have a lot of passion in me- for art, music, causes, people, animals, many things.

Everyone has needs that I never knew existed and are completely different from one person to the next. My partner has a need for physical exertion, for engaging in sports like football and cycling. His method of relaxing is through challenges and using skill, for example he loves playing pool.

I’ve never really viewed these things as NEEDS before, more as indulgence and a luxury. I’m learning they are actually essential to our health as a “whole” being-: physical, mental and at a soul-level. All these facets are important in creating a balance in our lives.

I’m learning that I have many sides to myself that all need equal attention: there’s Rachel the artist, Rachel the writer, Rachel the philosopher, Rachel the musician, Rachel the student, Rachel the child who needs to play, laugh and have fun, Rachel the explorer who needs to be out there trying new things and going to new places.

Managing These Needs

These are all needs that I never really knew I had in me. They all need attention which sometimes feels completely overwhelming.

I think organisation might be the key here, which, when you’re a creative person, feels a bit boring and sensible as there is also that yearning for spontaneous creative flow. But I’m learning that you need to put in the structure, discipline and work before you even get to the creative flow. I have to put in the time playing scales on the piano to allow my fingers to work with skill and efficiency when playing the more desirable pieces of music.

Motivation Through Inspiration

I also need to devote time to inspiration. This comes to me when I’m watching ballet, listening to music or out in nature. I always used to view spending time on these things as selfish. But I now know I NEED them!!

Whilst watching the Olympic Gymnasts I was inspired by their beauty, grace and power, but also by their total commitment and dedication to gruelling training, and hours and hours of hard graft in the gym. It is this discipline and mental strength in overcoming self-doubt and discomfort that I find so admirable. It is lacking from my character and something I would like to develop. They are great role models for me and provide motivation.

I’m learning that I do have control of my life- I don’t just have to let it happen to me. I can take it by the reins and steer it in the direction I want it to go, no matter whether other people approve of this direction or not.

Resources

How to Stop Worrying What Other People Think

Social Phobia

Bipolar: The Identity Thief

Who Am I? Borderline Personality Disorder and Identity Problems

How You See Yourself is What Matters (blog post in relation to the writer’s eating disorder and Complex-PTSD)

Photo Credits: Girl & Apple by Imagery Majestic; Cartwheel by Imagery Majestic via freedigitalphotos.net.