Archives for Social Anxiety
I consciously try to avoid BuzzFeed articles because it's so damn easy to get lost on their website for hours. I jump from posts like "Thirty Adorable Cats" to "Celebrities Without Makeup" to "Adorable Cats WITH Makeup" and then BAM -- somehow, three hours have passed. But today, something truly worth my while popped up: a collection of web comics describing the frustration of anxiety disorders.
For those of you with social anxiety, what's more anxiety inducing: leaving a party after saying goodbye to all the guests, or just sort of skipping out unnoticed? I suspect that many of you will choose the latter. After all, saying goodbye to people could be kind of awkward. How should you bid farewell? Should you shake hands? Are your fellow partygoers huggable? What if you break some sort of social protocol and hug someone who just recently met -- someone who finds your way of saying adieu uncomfortable? What will they think of you? And what if you say goodbye to some people, but forget others? Will anyone be offended?
Yes, I'm being sarcastic here, folks. You can't overcome social anxiety at the drop of a hat by "just" deciding to suddenly "be social". And Emily McLain over at emclainable knows this. Every once in awhile, I find a great webcomic that I identify with so strongly that all I can do is wave my pointer finger at the screen and yell "This!" to no one in particular. And so... THIS:
(Note: the following is a guest post written by Kayley Eshenaur, a 21-year-old senior at Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA. I haven't done much yet in this blog to address the anxiety that many young women feel when it comes to body image. I thought Kayley's well-written piece -- originally published in The Lycourier, the student newspaper that I advise -- would help to fill that gap.) Growing up in today’s society can be strenuous on a woman considering the ideology of unrealistic female body types. Everywhere she looks there are magazines with bold headlines shouting the same reoccurring words, “loose twenty pounds in two weeks,” or “achieve radiant and perfect hair by using this product!” The television does not offer an escape from this call to “perfection” either; specials like the E-Entertainment “30 best and worst beach bodies” pinpoint all the rights and wrongs of the female body. The messages that the media is sending out to girls today is that they need to have the perfect hair, clothing, and body; overall they should be gorgeous. The media coverage on the female body puts a lot of stress on a woman’s appearance which deflates her self-confidence and leads some to self-destruction.
"But you don't look sick." Yeah. I've heard that one before. Have you? There's migraine. Fibromyalgia. Lupus. The pain and autoimmune problems aren't immediately visible. Within the mental health spectrum, there's panic disorder. There's depression. There's bipolar disorder, PTSD, and OCD. It's not easy for others to visually see our suffering. But just because an illness isn't showing doesn't mean it's not legitimate! THIS STUFF IS FOR REAL When I have a bad migraine, the only overt evidence of my suffering is the pair of sunglasses I'm probably wearing indoors. Also, I tend to walk very lightly on my tiptoes in a futile attempt to suppress the gnawing, throbbing, and stabbing pain on the right side of my skull. But a big pair of sunglasses coupled with a delicate walk? I look more like some cross between a drunk ballerina and a celebrity-in-hiding. I don't look like I'm suffering. It's the same thing with panic: if I have an attack in the middle of the grocery store, there's no good visual indicator that I'm suffering. Sure, I'll probably abandon my cart and walk quickly toward the exit -- but how does that make me different than any other woman who has forgotten her wallet in the car?
(This is the twelfth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Last week, we met "Jemima," a woman living in Brooklyn who has been dealing with various forms of anxiety since childhood. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with OCD and has discovered that her anxiety manifests differently now as an adult. Her main triggers are interpersonal conflicts and romantic relationships. Our last interview left off with Jemima describing her anxiety as "relationship-induced": Relationship-induced? Can you go into detail on what you mean by that? I hate to say it, but I think the biggest anxiety trigger for me is men. The first time I was hit with anxiety that prevented me from functioning, it was my first serious relationship. I knew that my boyfriend made me anxious, but was able to convince myself it was just something I had to work through to enjoy the relationship.
(This is the eleventh post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) In my last post, we met Jemima Puddleduck -- not the duck from the Beatrix Potter story, but a woman in her late-twenties (who enjoys creatively quirky pseudonyms) who lives in Brooklyn and deals with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was officially diagnosed with OCD when she was a teenager. We left off last time talking about the rituals she performed before bed each night during her childhood years. (To catch up, you can check out the first part of the interview here.) Our conversation continues below. Now, you're an adult. How's the OCD these days? The OCD is pretty much totally under control. I may double- or triple-check that the toaster is unplugged and the door is locked before I leave my apartment in the morning, but it's nothing that gets in the way of living my life, just safety precautions. There are small things... like alphabetizing my CD collection or organizing my bookshelves according to genre, but I think that has more to do with personal preference regarding organization. I don't completely lose my mind if something is out of place...but I do have to fix it!
(This is the tenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Meet Jemima Puddleduck. If that name sounds silly, know this: even anxiety sufferers can have a sense of humor when it comes to creating a pseudonym for a blog interview! And, if that name sounds familiar, know this: the original Jemima Puddleduck was brought to life by Beatrix Potter, famed author of children's books. Not everyone is comfortable with sharing their real name on the internet. I respect that decision -- especially when the information they provide can help others to better cope with mental illness. I feel that it's better to share anonymously instead of not sharing at all. Jemima is in her late twenties and works in television production. She describes herself as a "lover of anything with a beating heart," but quickly notes that bears are the sole exception to this rule. Jemima also loves running, playing trivia games, and blogging about dating and relationships. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Is it ever possible to happily embrace your anxiety disorder? I think about this question often. I mean, we tend to frame our disorders with war-based terminology: I'm battling agoraphobia. John is struggling with panic disorder lately. Casey struggles from social anxiety disorder and gains ground every time he makes a telephone call. Amy is fighting her PTSD in an attempt to resume a normal life after fighting in Iraq. This kind of semantic habit isn't limited to anxiety disorders, of course. We use war-based metaphors for so many illnesses: depression, the common cold, cancer...the list goes on for miles. Miles upon which an infantry of other illnesses can march. So, how can we ever embrace anxiety -- or any other illness, for that matter -- when we view the illness as the enemy?
(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.) LET'S RECAP In case you missed my last post, here's Rule #4: Describe what is happening. Notice what is really happening in your body right now...not what you fear might happen. WHY THIS IS SO DIFFICULT Look over my little elevator monologue. Only one of my thoughts comes even close to describing the "what is." The rest only describes the "what if." (If you had trouble picking out the single "what is," I'll point it out: "I'm already feeling tense...") If you've been playing the "what if" game forever, it's not easy to shake. It's automatic. My brownie girl scout handbook told me 22 years ago to be prepared, and I've taken that lesson to heart. WHY THIS IS SO EASY But here's the thing about being "prepared" (and yes, if you heard me read that sentence aloud in real life, I would do air quotes for "prepared"): it's not always good to be prepared for everything. Yes, you heard me right: sometimes, being prepared is not a good thing. Sometimes, being prepared can take us away from the present moment.