I am a 32 year old man, and I am looking at SAI online support groups, after having tried CBASP psychotherapy in the past. I've just listened to Max's story from the videos, and I have to say, it sounds very familiar. And reading the other stories here, I can relate.
I guess it all started when I was maybe 8. I remember going through a period where I would refuse to go to school, crying and holding on to furniture so I couldn't be taken, but my parents dragged me. Obviously I realise this isn't normal behaviour for an 8 year old, and at that point, nobody got any help for me, instead blaming me. But what I was feeling was intense anxiety, to the point where I didn't want to leave the house. I was bullied from a young age, as I was overweight. The more the anxiety got worse, the more overweight I got. My parents weren't committed at all to helping me with weight, they would make token efforts but ultimately it would always come back to blaming me for not eating right.
As I got into high school (age of 12 here), I developed gynaecomastia, mainly due to my weight. What made it worse was that we were forced to get changed after gym class in a crowded locker room. I literally had to endure 2 years of being humiliated three times a week, with maybe 40 kids chanting my name as I got changed, due to the gynaecomastia. I was terrified of being exposed like that, and to this day have very deep anxiety about any body exposure in public. The teachers heard all of this, and I ended up getting detention several times (on the basis that I must have been doing something for this to happen).
I was very academic, a straight A student, but I never really fitted in with the "nerds". The school I was at was distinctly unacademic, with heavy emphasis on sport, and as such tended to be a bit of a loner. My parents descended into alcoholism during my teenage years, meaning my evenings were spent with them passed out on the couch. My older brothers went to university, and I got left to be the dogsbody of the house. My parents also had severe guilt about my oldest brothers' introversion, to the point where they would push him to be more outspoken, ignoring the impact some of these things had on me.
I went to dental school aged 17, desperate to escape the hell that I found myself in. I went to university, and very quickly became moderately happy, surrounded by people who were equally looking to meet new people and have a good time. Access to alcohol eased my inhibitions, and I used it extensively to cover up my anxiety (becoming regularly extremely drunk - something I realise was very damaging now). After the first year, I got introduced to cannabis, and while I wouldn't encourage others to partake, I found it gave almost immediate and full relief of my anxiety. But this immediate and full relief had the flip side - I ended up reliant upon it to feel able to leave the house. So I stopped using it.
Throughout my student years I was treated at various points for stubborn depression... I think I must have had every antidepressant available, but none of them worked, at least not in the long term. Then towards the end of my studies I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, had that treated and found my mood improved... for a while. I was fortunate enough to do an international exchange and met my wonderful wife on that. God knows how I would have met another woman had I not been fortunate enough to do that exchange. No shortage of interest from women, just that I was paralysed with fear whenever trying to speak to anybody.
I've now been working for 10 years. I've struggled at various points throughout my career due to social anxiety. My first job was good, I was able to socialise quite well. But after that, I ended up in jobs where there was somebody trying to assume the "authority role" - which is exactly the wrong thing to do, as it freaks me out and means that I "freeze", meaning that anything they want to do becomes ineffective. The funny thing is that the more I froze, the more they tried to ramp up their authority, making the problem worse. I met my closest friend working in such a place, where we both found the attempts to wrestle authority to be absurd... but we all have issues, and for some feeling "in control" is important, I guess.
I now own a practice with another person. I find it extremely difficult... he does the same thing, of trying to establish authority, but often in much more indirect ways (backstabbing, essentially) and then when I try to speak to him about any issue, he stands close and over me (he is about 4 inches/10cm taller), obviously trying to intimidate. So I try to stay out of his way... And the other staff, I really struggle with. One has created all kinds of problems recently, and I just can't deal with it.
As to the social anxiety, I feel like a robot. It's really odd, because I can do my work, meeting people, speaking, and it's tolerable. But as soon as I leave, I just can't deal with it. Somebody asks me a question, and I panic and can't think. Even when I do want to speak, I have no idea what to say, 32 years of underdeveloped social skills means that I can't hold a conversation. I don't really connect with anybody in any meaningful way, so even the conversations I have are superficial.
I feel depressed and often suicidal. I am very mentally tough, but that means that equally I don't show the damage people do with throwaway comments. Antidepressants make the anxiety worse without alleviating the depression. I have tried CBASP and the "one-size-fits-all" CBT that I was provided with by my GP, but they failed to provide lasting effects. So now I find myself at SAI. I'm unsure whether to start as I've been promised things in the past only to find that it didn't work.
Hopefully I will be able to stick with it.