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Gettin' Better... Much Better

I've had my own struggles with social anxiety for most of my life.  I always knew that there were some people out there who genuinely liked me and were attracted to me, but I never knew why.  Also I thought that I had something to prove to almost everybody that I spoke with, that I was constantly being judged and any slips meant rejection.  I had a hard time liking myself because I was extremely critical with myself and everybody around me.  And, worst, I was constantly trapped in my own head with feelings based loosely on reality.

These struggles went mostly unnoticed because it was just chalked up to nervous energy.  About a year ago, I was made it a point to talk to everybody around me and my social skills were getting much better.  I built up a really conscious set of social skills where I did more than just express my feelings.  I figured out the most effective and appropriate way to do it in almost every situation so I would always appear confident and comfortable.  Girls I used to be terrified of (any girl that doesn't take tons of initiative with me, basically) were showing they always thought I was pretty cool.  I was making friends with people that certainly would've intimidated me in the past.  I thought I had my nervous energy beat for good.

But, it proved to have developed into something more when I went through a major panic episode a few months ago (at my job as a salesman, believe that ha).  I had been working for a month or so with no out-of-the-ordinary troubles but when some extra stressors got introduced, it all just ramped up.  It was really just a week of living in terror when in the presence of anybody.  Just the thought of having to talk to someone else made my heart race.  If I hadn't built up such a conscious set of social skills, I would've been hopeless.  I could hide the trembling and still say something witty, but I decided there had to be something more than just nervousness.  I couldn't live with a racing heart forever, so I saw my pediatrician who had known me since childhood.  He said that he had suspected I had social anxiety or a panic disorder was for quite some time.

I went through some cognitive therapy and I'm taking medication (100 mg of setraline for the curious) and the situation for me has gotten a lot better.  I still get nerves sometimes and I haven't quite reached my goal of being socially capable enough to handle any situation (aim high, right?).  But, my confidence has gone up, my reactivity has gone down, and my screwed up cognition has taken strides of improvement.

Where I am now is better than any place I've been.  I've always had people like me, but my anxiety shifted from "will they like me" to "will they like the REAL me" because there were times I felt like a living lie.  Now, I feel natural in most situations and that I can be the real me.  I still mess up and act a bit less friendly than I can sometimes, but I feel good about who I am and I have great confidence in my potential.

It's an uphill battle, but it can be beat and I'm extremely optimistic.  I wouldn't even say I'd rather not have gone through this... what didn't kill me definitely made me stronger.

heyMayne heyMayne 18-21, M 28 Responses Sep 3, 2009

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I just wrote an article about Social Anxiety disorder it is very interesting I am a loner but feel comfortable with it I can interact with other people when I am in the mood I do not have the disorder but can understand it more now that I did some research on it You have the right answer Work on it and you will see your dreams

we learn early through our fears to look at people for those fearsw and analyze what they may look at or think about us. when your in a car & comfortable do you ever make sport of people with family or freinds of yours? Its a fair question. I think we are simply judgemental and shouldn't care about being noticed for our self. how can it hurt, we don't talk to anyone anyway. I'm doing well and getting my sense of humor back as a perk. do folks ever get together to share laughs and try to help each other.

I can relate to ur story, my dads in the military so we move around a lot so I constantly changed schools but now I'm going to be at this one high school for hopefully till I graduate but it SO hard to make friends. Ive always been shy and anxious so having to courage to talk to someone can be extremely difficult. I've been getting better though, Im slowly being more able to say what's on my mind and to reach out to people. Two years ago I eat lunch all by myself and I had some "friends" but they choose me to be their friend, I didn't like them so much. I hope we can both get better social skills and friends, good luck!

I can relate to ur story, my dads in the military so we move around a lot so I constantly changed schools but now I'm going to be at this one high school for hopefully till I graduate but it SO hard to make friends. Ive always been shy and anxious so having to courage to talk to someone can be extremely difficult. I've been getting better though, Im slowly being more able to say what's on my mind and to reach out to people. Two years ago I eat lunch all by myself and I had some "friends" but they choose me to be their friend, I didn't like them so much. I hope we can both get better social skills and friends, good luck!

i have the same exact problems and agree with you

I have this sort of problem too; I know how awful and terrifying it can be and I'm so glad you're beginning to get rid of your social anxiety! =) You've inspired me to try harder to fix myself. Good luck, I hope you're able to fully overcome this!

Thank you to each and every one of you! Your stories, sharing, and kind words of support are so needed to those of us going through these issues. I do not share these feelings with anyone other than my psychiatrist and therapist because until you have experienced the problems yourself, you cannot understand, be empathetic, or offer sincere words of encouragement. By contributing, you are all changing the world....one little step at a time ~

I have social anxiety also, at times I find myself just being overly-critical of everything I do. I feel like I always have something to prove to others.



I like that you mentioned Cognitive Therapy. I just made a post recently under "I Am Battling Depression" and mentioned how CBT really helped me. I feel that severe self-criticism is a learned behavior that can be changed with proper training, not just pills.



Thank you for sharing this :)

I have social anxiety also, at times I find myself just being overly-critical of everything I do. I feel like I always have something to prove to others.



I like that you mentioned Cognitive Therapy. I just made a post recently under "I Am Battling Depression" and mentioned how CBT really helped me. I feel that severe self-criticism is a learned behavior that can be changed with proper training, not just pills.



Thank you for sharing this :)

Just come across your post now mate, and I have lived the exact same experiences. Good on you for developing a new set of social skills however, takes alot of balls! Perhaps thats where i need to get working...

Thanks for sharing your story and congratulations!

I'm very glad you shared this story. It gives myself and I'm sure many others some hope.

I've always had social anxiety, though throughout most of my life I've been able to master it. But I had a major depressive episode last year and that worsened my anxiety. I know what it feels like to have "built up a conscious set of social skills", as it's how I operated throughout most of 2009. I know what it feels like to be almost outrageously insecure about interaction with other people - e.g., always watching yourself to make sure you don't do something 'foolish', etc, and I know what it's like to have a flimsy grasp of the reality of a situation. Depression, of course, turned what was my mostly mild neuroticism into some serious social anxiety. But I wanted to change, so once the depression started to lift, I made a point of saying yes to every opportunity to interact with people, people I don't know that well, or even don't know at all. I'm making a point of coming out of the woodwork, and the more you do it, the easier it gets. I'm glad that I made the effort.

Thank you for posting this - I can relate to so much of what you've mentioned - and even if it feels like the worst is over, it's nice to know you're not the only one in the world who has felt like that.

you seem like a good person. you're a good person. hey don't live to please others! you can never please anyone ...just be happy! smile often! sorry to hear your going through so much to deal with society! i can't say i fully understand you BUT you don't have to try hard to be liked...i like you already!!! i'd like to be your friend (^_^) don't be sad! i hope you get better!!!

Congratulations you have conquered it.

Its a horrible feeling when it happens but you have to be real, thats what its about

ello HeyMayne

you know life is just a battlefield and we must always struggle for happiness.so just keep it up and keep fighting to achieve your goals. its in human nature to be complex so dont think that u r sick or whatever.u just need time to adapt to others.Be always positive whatever happens.tke care.

How I admire your courage, strength, determination, maturity and dynamism!!! Truly, you ARE a very special person! Keep it up!

An old " anxiety disorder" victim who had to wait to be over 50 to overcome it (partially!)

Hey, guess what? Life is a strange little thing and even something like social anxiety which seems to completely rule your life can decide to take a hike one day. I had social anxiety for 6 years and i've also had panic attacks...believe it or not, today I'm a flight attendant! LOL Look, I get your struggle and I know what you mean by living in your head with feelings based loosely on reality. You have an entire future of social anxiety-free life ahead of you, I know it's hard to believe when you're in the middle of the jungle. But now I look back and that thing which seemed like an eight-headed, fire-spitting monster back then nowadays can be likened to a small kitten that maybe gets overexcited and tries to scratch you now and then. Certainly not anything that can control you, know what I mean?



This is from a movie I love, Amelie Poulain, if you haven't watched it DO IT because I know you'll relate, the guy who says it in the movie is an old man who had a young woman with social anxiety as a friend. She's falling in love with a guy but obviously doesn't have the courage to do anything about it:



"So, my little Amelie, your bones aren't made of glass. You can take life's knocks. If you let this chance go by, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So go ahead, dammit"



In other words, soon enough you'll surprise yourself with everything you're capable of. Your bones aren't made of glass, you can take so much more than you imagine, and social situations will become the least of your worries.



You'll do fine with your struggle, I and so many other people have, and we wish you all the best. You'll have strength when you thought there was none, and surprising little things will happen to help you in your path, because the entire universe conspires when you're working towards a goal. Embrace life and it will embrace you.



Cheers and I loved reading your story.

Rajiv, you sound like a great motivational speaker, or a really good therapist. I was inspired by your encouragement and advice. I struggle a lot with the same things as HeyMayne. Thanks. Working on it.

I "listen" to you and i see myself, a few years ago! Like you i'm much better now, but must take Efexor everyday! I'm 45 and finaly i do what i want and can tkink of me as " person" and be selfish if it needed ! (sometimes it is)! I'm much happier now and i belive you will bee too!

I wish you the best for your life!

But i never stop thinking: why do i must depend on drugs to be " normal"? Why? And why me?

Best of everything for you!

Hello HeyMayne,



I will definitely write to you and try to help you out :)



I hope that what I will say in the following message really gets you totally out of this problem.



It is obviously complicated to explain fully the human mind.



I believe there are 2 running modes of the mind.. one which is active and one which is inactive.. a bit like a fridge.. Notice a fridge it starts working actively for a few minutes... it makes noise.. then it stops making the noise for a long while.. and the process goes on...



Let's relate it to the human mind.



When the fridge is making noise.. this is you getting conscious over things.. you do it on purpose.. you try to learn new things and develop new things... then after a while.. you just go on stride mode.. where you just carry on with what you set yourself with... it is a bit like a lazy mode in which our moods are no more affected by what we think.. but mostly on the surrounding.



Now the other complicated thing is habit. If you devise a strong reason to do something.. and repeat it over and over... it becomes an habit.. and this habit will work perfectly during your lazy modes.. I can give you an example.. washing dishes right after a meal. I never miss it now koz i developed the habit of doing it. I first had to develop a strong reason for doing it. Then i remember perfectly being lazy to do it over and over again.. but i defeated this laziness and still did it. Now.. it just comes automatically.. i do it all the time..



So the KEY to solving your problem.. is to actually learn to do things properly.. learn everything to yourself. Take a nap.. take a rest.. get relaxed.. and learn the things to yourself.. take off the old patterns of fear one by by one.. and replace them with more convincing images of yourself doing things the better way.. you have to imagine it.. it is an active process of learning..some people are so used to doing it.. then it becomes an automatic habit.. and they just keep on like this all the time.. this is why they seem to be more pleasant and outgoing.. because they dont do it ... just like that.. they have actually taken the pain to learn how to do it by themselves observing others.. or just inventing themselves.. that is they learnt by themselves how to be social.



One thing that i was taught ..which is quite incredible.. is.. humans have to teach themselves everything. I was told that even a baby does not know how to drink milk from the breast of the mum. The mum has to make the baby learn to drink the milk. So how do you expect to overcome any kind of social anxiety.. skills. etc.. if you dont consciously learn them and develop a habit..? So from now on.. all you have to do..is work hard.. practice.. get inside a quiet room... practice talking.. practice approaching people.. learnt how you will talk to them.. learn what you will talk to them... it is not like when you meet people.. it is now that you will try to think.. what to say.. no .. you must be prepared.. for some reason.. because of fear.. your mind has been preoccupied with fearing and doubting yourself.. instead of just learning things naturally like many people.



Also.. if you can.. try to improve your self image to yourself. for example.. combing.. shaving the face etc try to improve your appearance to yourself and to others by " grooming" so that you look at yourself in the mirror and say.. yes i am keeping myself well.. my appearance is okay. If you think you still look dull.. then there is a whole lot of things you can do.. it will only work as much motivation as you feel. Start a regime of sport.. develop other healthy habits.. to get the energy out of your body and become more active.. all this you need to develop. Nothing will just come to yourself just like this.. there is a whole world out there of things you can do to get the better out of yourself.



Also from this point.. keep an habit of motivating yourself and rewarding yourself with convincing words.. life can be a whole lot more fun than living a nightmare. People are a whole lot fun than you think. Also one key thing is... people tend to like you the way you like yourself.. this is something i have no idea why it is like this.. you just need to like yourself and people will like you.. it is like if you can convince yourself that you are likable to yourself.. people buy it and they like you.. it is like you market yourself to others.. if you dont like your own product.. how will people.. who know you even less..like you? The only hint people get from you.. is what you tell them or give them..



Now the other thing is.. once you set yourself on such a mission of self improvement.. it is actually a nice idea to read self improvements books... I can recommend a few... Get the giant within by Anthony Robbins.. there are many books out there... where people try to explain to you how they got themselves out of bad patterns and put themselves into better ones and this got their lives onto a whole new level. It is an highly active process... this is when you are truly.. making the most of your life.. and you are feeling fullfilled inside... you will see.. your health will get better and better.. and life will look like it could not have felt any better.



The key in all that is lots of hard work.. and also practice.. even if it needs to learn how to shake hands and say the most simple thing.. hello.. go on and learn it.. Due to fear and doubt you need to unlearn all the wrong way of doing things as well and get over with new better ways that you must keep repeating to yourself ... it will work out.. just go and get the better out of yourself... learn to smile as well. Make facial grimaces to you everyday in the morning to get the face muscles working.. learn to smile.. look in the mirror and improve it everyday.. it all works in the end with the hard work and keep going on... motivate yourself matter how many times you fall..



When things dont work out.. it simply means there must be another way.. just try to think of it..



All the best....



Kind regards,



Rajiv.

Thanks for sharing your story! I can relate to that fear of wondering if people will like the "real" you. I agree that this is an uphill battle but I also feel optimistic! I'm so happy for you that you're still working toward your goal and things are starting to feel more natural for you. Best wishes :)

My first wife was terrified of people in groups. Consequently, we had virtually no social life outside the family. I was OK with this for a lot of years. But, as the years passed I began to look back and realize all I was missing by avoiding people.



This may seem odd to those who know me - I love being alone, even require some alone time. I've always worked alone. But, I balance this with real fellowship, real contact with others. One place I found a home was in my Lodge - I'm a Freemason. Don't mistake that, I belong to other groups as well. And I even write about being alone: solotreks.com



I don't believe anyone should enter a relationship, especially marriage, without full disclosure of personality traits. Sooner or later resentment will set in and all will come crashing down.



All in my opinion of course.

Most days, yes

Well hey, how's it like for you? For me I was really reactive, every encounter had to go perfect unless fear would kick in. Are you having a worse time than normal?

Very good advise, but, right now I'm just about to admit it.

Hey thanks and you keep up the fight too. :] I don't know about physically running away, but hey everybody needs a break in the battle sometimes. Just gotta remember to get back in it and don't admit defeat.

Congratulations!!!! I feel like that from time to time. Right now I just want to run away. Probably not a good thing because nothing will have changed except my space. Keep up the fight.