Mental Health

In the eye of a social anxiety storm

As soon as I left my house last Wednesday, I felt pressure in my chest rising and panic in my mind surfacing loudly. Despite my efforts to counteract, the shallow breathing left me out of breath, working me into a tighter knot.

Driving, lights, people, interactions, sounds, roads, birds, music.

Decisions, fear, expectations.

My brain wasn’t filtering out the unimportant and instead amplified every moment of it. By the time I reached the waiting room, my eyes were leaking with the overwhelming upswing of it all. AlI wanted to do was flee, and run and run and run and hide.

I never really knew what social anxiety felt like until this year. As an introvert, I have always preferred solitude over socialising, but social anxiety is another game altogether. It’s not just about avoiding people and struggling to cope in a social context. Simply leaving my apartment was enough to send me into such a frenzy that I began to fear for the wellbeing of my head and my heart (NOTE: I am still terrified that my heart is going to explode at any moment, AS IF I NEEDED ANYTHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT).

Once I’m out there in the big, bad world, I can’t help but avoid eye contact due to the fear of someone staring right into my soul. I dread being spoken to, shrinking away from the gaze of those around me, dare I actually have to formulate a response to what they say. I feel insecure and out of place, I blush and shake and will myself to be anywhere but there.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

Being in the outside world involves so much mental stimulation that my brain does not, at this point in time, have the energy or capacity to deal with it. Every moment of driving or working involves a decision, when I am incapable of decision making. Every interaction with another human being requires a level of cognition that my head can’t quite grasp. Every question, every transaction, every interpretation. It’s all too much.

And as one thing piles onto another and another and another, my body starts to respond chaotically. My heart races faster than I can count, my neck and shoulders tense so hard it cracks my spine, my stomach twists in on itself, making me sick. My mind is so afire with thought that my chances of deep sleep are slim. The physical and mental fatigue become insurmountable, sending me into total overload like a burnt out, overheated hard drive that urgently needs a software upgrade.

Surely, I think, there is only so much one can take.

Social anxiety is the pits. I’m not sure where or how mine started but I suspect part of it is to do with being triggered by the loss of someone who I know was feeling the same way. Empathy pain, lordy lord, I hope it isn’t here to stay.

One thing it has forced me to do is really take each and every day as it comes and completely lower my expectations of myself in order to simply, survive the storm.

Much love to my anxious divas,

Laura x