Social anxiety is something that definitely for me goes hand in hand with being chronically sick, or at least I can’t put it down to anything else as I haven’t known any other way of life since becoming sick at the age of 10. Although I have noticed that after having both my children it became heightened. I would often describe myself as an introverted extrovert and I know that sounds pretty pretentious but I really believe it’s true.
My husband, friends and family might disagree with that term as to them I am loud, obnoxious (at times) and I used to be quite bubbly; but that isn’t how I view myself and if they could be privy to the thoughts and feelings I have they may think otherwise. The culprit for this is social anxiety.
I was bullied as a preteen/teen so that didn’t help how I viewed myself from the get go, mainly over the way I looked (never being sick thankfully) I used to wear a long black skirt and Dr Martens boots, listen to grunge and punk and even though back in the early 2000’s the skater look was still huge (still should if I’m honest god I miss my giant corduroy multicoloured flares) I got mocked for wearing things that the “popular” girls didn’t like. I also didn’t help myself for being gobby and trying to defend myself, in fact I remember a girl I thought was a friend punched me in the stomach saying I was fat. That set off the eating and body issues I have but also made me less trusting of people.
That started to change when I met Sarah, Vix and Kirstie, each one of them made me feel better about myself in one form or another. Sarah made me realise it was completely okay to be weird and that it made me interesting not a freak. Vix allowed me to accept that being interested in school didn’t make me a swot it made me focused on my future and my education. Kirstie embraced my weird sense of humour and to this day is the ONLY person who has been able to make me laugh so hard that Ribena came out of my nose (I would like to add I was drinking it at the time, it isn’t some crazy party trick) So from the age of 15 to 17 I finally realised I wasn’t just some loser who liked to dress “weird”, listen to shouty music and was sick all the time. I have those three to thank for that.I wanted to share a photo of Vix and Kirstie from the May Ball back in ’03 but to an extent I value my life! School is such a formative part of your life and it can help shape who your are in later life both good and bad; I don’t think I would be half the person I am today if it wasn’t for them, which means I wouldn’t have my family unit as it is now, for the once reason they gave me the confidence to be a prat if I wanted too and 00Steve fell for me because I was prancing round his flat (albeit in essentially a belt not a skirt) to pop punk and not having a care in the world.
It was liberating to feel confident in myself and that I was likeable; this led me to create another great friendship in my blood sister Jeki. We have had many ups and downs but like true friends we work through it and build each other up. She has made me the most comfortable as I transitioned from being a teenager into an adult (or as close as I can be!) she was there every night out, through all the drinking, the promiscuity, the abusive relationships. I’m not sure if I would be alive if it wasn’t for her as she used to come to random houses to check if I was okay and give me the “look” as I rocked back and forth, hands trembling as I tried to smoke. I think it was hard being in as close to remission as I could be after turning 17 and feeling free. I had to be careful what photo I chose here too because I used to take abysmal photos back in t’day, but this photo shows how ridiculous we are together but having fun.
What does any of that (and the photos) have to do with social anxiety you ask? Well I wanted to paint a picture of the fact I wasn’t always what feels to me as a social recluse. I hate going to visit people unless it is my choice, I hate going into a room full of people whether it’s friends, family or strangers. I enjoy being by myself but at the same time I don’t. I am terribly lonely but I also don’t want to do anything social because I have had my personality in absolute jeopardy. I have been told numerous times in the last 8 years to “portion myself out” and about 75% of me screams “WHY THE F*&! SHOULD I?” let’s face it I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but it has taken me a long time to like MYSELF why should how others view me change that? The answer it shouldn’t but it has.
I find myself holding back and then I end up saying or doing something stupid because I have become nervous in social situations. If I do make plans I always expect the other person to cancel on me or not to be invited along to things which isn’t always substantiated but just the fear of it can be enough to prevent me from making plans in the beginning.
I can’t even just tell 00Steve how I feel about things that I should without spending hours trying to build up the courage and my mouth periodically opening like a god damn fish. Now this isn’t his fault as I suffered it with my ex as well and when I do say stuff I end up saying it to him whilst he is asleep as if it is a trial run. As the person I plan to spend the rest of my life with and the father of our children I shouldn’t feel like it is a personal battle to talk to the person who holds my heart.
I know everyone who deals with social anxiety encounters different things and I think it would be nice if we all tried to overcome it together, so feel free to message me on any of my social media channels or in the comments.
Did you catch last weeks instalment on hospital paranoia?