Hi I just want to share a personal recent experience, actually this last Easter weekend.
So for as long as I can remember, probably from 12/ 13 yrs old, I started to develop alongside with my social anxiety, an issue with traveling on social trips. this could be a night away with mates, or short holidays etc... getting older if we drank alcohol this would become even more of an issue as my body became reliant on the stuff, now we can all agree that you cant drink 24/7, so early morning around a breakfast table for example, would be pretty difficult for me as specially if we drank the previous night. To describe it, I just feel so uncomfortable its not even funny, its anxiety at its worst, its not constant but more of a total flooding of adrenaline and cortisol and it can be quite overwhelming and actually just terrible to live through. All you are thinking about is how you are going to get through this and how you wish you were at home..
I have started the tape series on my own, with no therapy group as I live in South Africa, this was just over a year ago and I have made significant progress in my life. In saying this, It has and will always be the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Anyway to get to my point. I went away this last weekend with my wife's family and we all stayed together, about 10 of us for about 3 days. A fair amount of drinking, a fair amount of breakfasts and lunches etc... now usually after the progress I have made, I am fairly comfortable in these situations, but something triggered in my mind ( amazing how intelligent our brains are ) and I had a huge flooding of anxiety come and visit me on day 2. it gets worse if I don't have an escape, like a bathroom or bigger lounge area that's disjointed so I can go read or something when it pops its head in for a visit. We all went for sundowners at a pool area where there was not a way to escape if you know what I mean, and as you can imagine my anxiety became extremely strong. Every thing you have learned seems to be redundant and all you are focusing on is getting through the situation without been exposed, but as hard as you try, you cannot seem to convers, and have got next to nothing to say whilst everyone continues to have a fantastic time. It is horrible and it can make one angry and feel extremely alone. This happened to me in Cape Town a year prior, when I had not started tapes yet, it was one of the worst experiences of my life.
Here is the good part. As we drove back and started the braai, I had a few drinks with everyone and things went ok for me. I was however thinking about the next morning and how I was going to get through it. We also had an early game drive the next day.
So anyway the point to my story is this. I had to start applying what I have learned and understand that this is part of my healing process, I will never be a good traveler if I don't learn how to be ok with these kinds of trips. I started applying all my strategies.. Slow talk, various handouts ie perfect pit, mingling, conversations, focusing externally etc. key word, slowing down, rational talking and as much as possible in terms of what I have learned thus far. What this started to show me was that if I so much as had the slightest thought of trying to " escape " this would fuel the viscous cycle. What I needed to do was get in the middle of it all and pay very close attention. This was done whilst been extremely uncomfortable, however as soon as I started doing this it took the pressure off and I could feel the anxiety reducing even though still there. It became a lot more manageable ! I really think by getting stuck in I made this easier for myself the next time as I need to show my brain that I do not respond to even the most strong and powerful flooding's. Clearly what happened here is I had a set back, which came out of no where and was not even prepared for it. This can be extremely scary and painful with so much discomfort it is hard to do anything.
I learned that when it comes on this strong, one cannot try be the usual self, one needs to work on getting the anxiety down first and then start noticing automatic improvements through strategies and before you know it you will be having a nice convo, laughing etc and anxiety has not choice but to dye down a bit. If you however have the slightest thought of escape you will induce the setback and it will beat you. Whilst doing this I still had discomfort but realizing that there is no legitimate reason to feel this way, helped me get through it. The sad thing is this is a weekend away and you should be enjoying yourself all the time, not been anxious. My honest thoughts were, I cant wait to get home! Even when it got easier, I still wanted to go home. I mean no one would have fun anywhere feeling this way, it is draining and hard work. This is where I needed to realize that this is part of my heeling. And I think that might be the toughest thing to accept, that this disorder will not just go away, your only option is to be patient with it and go through these kinds of things to get better.
Anyway I wonder if anyone can relate with a similar story ? I have never met any one with social anxiety, well not that I know of. I do feel like I would be able to spot it quite easily though, as specially if someone is having a setback.
I live in South Africa if anyone is out there, lets hook up...