Social Anxiety and Me

I went through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) over the course of five months to treat social anxiety disorder. And although I’m not a therapist, or a qualified mental health professional, I do think there’s always some value in sharing an experience, and so that’s why I’m writing this.

For a bit of backstory, I was an awkward child, didn’t have many friends throughout primary and secondary, I couldn’t start conversations, and if anybody started a conversation with me I tried my best to end it as quickly as possible, and I displayed all the anxiety symptoms during social interactions, perspiration / sweaty palms, a feeling of sickness, trembling (especially in my legs) and a few more. I was bad to the point where, often to my mum’s annoyance, I couldn’t even go up to the counter in McDonalds and ask for a barbecue dip until I was about fourteen years old. In college I was a little bit better, I could make friends with the people that spoke to me first and were willing to put a bit of effort into trying to be friends with me, and once I turned 18, I started to rely on using alcohol as a social lubricant. An issue that I have since resolved. 

But I was bad, I have a vivid recollection of being fifteen years of age and having to do a presentation in a school assembly with one other student. It ended with me standing at the front awkwardly, not saying a single word, while I started to get more and more of a cloudy head and clammy hands until the assembly finished and I genuinely felt like crying, it was an awful experience to say the least. 

I finally went to get help at the age of nineteen, while I was working on a construction site, I got put on medication, but it made me ill, I was lightheaded and dizzy and couldn’t complete my work, so I went back and was offered therapy. I was hesitant at first, but I went along with it, and it ended up being undoubtedly, one of the best decisions I had ever made, I went once a week, for an hour, I had to take Tuesday’s off work (I was working about an hour’s drive away and I didn’t have a car) and I’m pretty certain that my absence was the main reason I ended up losing that job – although I didn’t enjoy it so I think it was really a blessing in disguise anyway.

But anyway, this article is really about what happened after therapy, and how it’s impacted my life. For how hesitant I was about going, the day I got discharged from therapy was actually quite scary, I didn’t have that safe haven to retreat to once a week to work through all my issues, but I was confident in the fact that my therapist, for whom I am extremely grateful, had equipped me with the tools and strategies to cope on my own at this point. 

I really started pushing myself after therapy to improve my social skills, I’d always wanted to be a more social person, I like people, I like talking to people, I was just always too scared to do it. I started off doing small things, like commenting on reddit posts of strangers. Then I worked up to starting conversations with people at work I hadn’t spoken to before. They weren’t anything interesting, they probably even thought I was a bit weird, awkwardly asking them questions and forcing conversations, but the point was that I started to care less and less what they thought, and once I started to evolve the skill of not caring what people thought, that’s when my confidence came in. 

My biggest fear was contributing to a group, if I was out with more than two other people, my behaviour was comparable to that of Raj from the early series’ of The Big Bang Theory, and if I was going to meet a group of people in town, I’d arrive early, and go somewhere else first so I could have a couple of drinks to calm myself down. But even that became easier and easier over time as my confidence grew and I was applying the techniques and thought processes that my therapist taught me. It wasn’t constant improvements, some days the thought of social interactions still made me feel physically sick, but I was seeing progress, and actually, that’s where this whole website and blog came from, I’d always liked writing and this started just as a way for me to put my work in the public eye. I didn’t expect it to get any views, and then some short stories I’d written actually did, then I got a like on one and it was such an amazing feeling, I remember uploading something and waking up and it got something like ten likes and I was absolutely over the moon for about a week. 

Even to this day, my last two posts have got something like nine likes between them at the time I’m writing this, but the fact that they’re up, and people can see them gives me a feeling of confidence and empowerment, and the fact that people are getting an insight into my mind and they’re actually liking the stuff they’re reading, that does give me a sense of pride that I never could’ve imagined feeling even six months ago. 

I’m still trying to improve my social skills, but I’m at a point now where I can talk to a complete stranger like I’ve known them my whole life, I can address a group, and  if I had to go back and redo that assembly, or if I was asked to address a crowd of people for any other reason, I’m confident that I’d be able to do it, and that’s what really matters to me.

I’ve had some pretty big aspirations in my life, and throughout the years little fads have come and gone, but there has been some core values that I’ve always tried my best to stay true to, they’re what the Strength Camp owner Elliott Hulse would probably describe as “Soul goals”, and for me my main “soul goals” have always revolved around other people. I always wanted to help people, in any way I can, whether it was by teaching them something, helping them in some way, or even just as simple as trying to be that smiling face that can make them laugh in a tough time (that’s why I think positivity is such a big thing to me, and of course I can’t keep it up consistently, that’s inhuman, but I always try my best to be positive, and not let negativity overwhelm me). 

That’s another reason this whole thing started, not only because it was a challenge for me, but also because having social anxiety was very inhibiting considering the stuff that really matters to me in life involves human interaction. It’s impossible to help somebody or teach somebody something if you have no way of interacting with them. 

A lot of my posts are about Stoic philosophy because that is something I find interesting, and it’s something applicable, it’s something I’ve deemed worth sharing, and I am going to diversify and talk about other subjects, and just offer my insight into different matters, and I would encourage anybody reading this to do the same. Just because you might not be an expert at something, doesn’t mean you can’t offer a valuable input, or a different way of looking at a problem, Joe Rogan isn’t an expert at a lot of things, but he still offers his opinion and listens to his guests opinions and that’s one of the things that I think a lot of people like about him, he’s not intimidating to listen to when he talks to the likes of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Elon Musk, because he’s offering his perspective knowing full well he isn’t an astrophysicist or an engineer. 

And that’s really what I’d like to do , I’m interested in a lot of things ranging from poetry, to psychology, to sports, to mathematics and engineering, and in researching them I can learn more about them for myself, and then in sharing the information on this platform, I can hopefully educate or even spark an interest in somebody else about the subject, but also I can use that as a testament to myself not being anxious to put my thoughts and ideas forward to the world and open myself up to criticism. 

And I hope that this bit of backstory provided an at least somewhat useful insight into myself and this website, and feel free to leave any questions in the comments or contact me via Instagram @crxl_online or via email at contactcrxl@gmail.com

Thanks for reading,

Ryan

Published by Ryan

Always push boundaries.

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