I don’t suffer from social anxiety, but…

Content notice: Guilt syndrome, fear of conflict, extreme nervousness, hyperventilation.

… I was bordering on the edge of anxiety in the weeks before the conference, to the point where I even considered cancelling our trip.

Having anxiety can be very crippling, depending on how bad of a case you have it. This is because anxiety is long-term. Anxiety follows you wherever you go. You can go awhile without really actually feeling comfortable. This is the main difference between anxiety and nervousness. Nervousness is usually triggered by something and goes away somewhat quickly.
Nervousness is a natural response to an event that stresses you out, like public speaking. It’s temporary and resolves once the situation has passed. It’s much easier to control than being anxious. Even if you’re someone who easily gets nervous.
~ Anxious vs Nervous: What’s the difference?

I can’t imagine what it is to be suffering from anxiety, but I have heard from friends who do, and read about how crippling it can be. Therefore, because in no way I want to diminish the effect anxiety can have on people and their daily lives, I prefer to call what I have nervousness, and not anxiety.

Like 99% of the world population, I too get nervous when I know I have to talk in public. That is what was going to happen this weekend, as I was going to have a session on The Value of Feedback. Yes, my nerves were definitely playing up because of that, but I am passionate about the subject of feedback, and I had prepared well. Also, back when I did my bachelor, my specialization was in teaching, and where I told them I had no desire to stand in front of a class, they did ask me to reconsider because apparently I was good. I took that as a compliment and discarded it after, as even with the compliment, I still had no desire to stand in front of a class. What would possibly have happened with my session is the same that had always happened with exams: the moment it starts, my nerves calm down.

My extreme nerves for the conference started after some heated conversations on social media. In some of them I was involved, in others I was not, but it all caused me to withdraw. It made me feel insecure; unsafe. Guilty.

I tend to pull guilt towards me, and I remember a psychologist telling me that this comes because of my father, and the way he punished us (I am not going to go into those details here). My ‘guilt syndrome’ is so bad, that back when I was in school and our sports team lost at athletics (the entire school was divided into three teams, and everyone had to participate, whether in sport, or as supporters), I felt guilty for weeks. I believed it was my fault, because I was part of the team. It just so happened that the first year I was part of the team, was the first year that they lost in many years, which strengthened my guilty feelings. When two friends had a fight, I felt like it was my fault. When my mom or dad was unhappy about something that happened, my guilt played up even if I wasn’t part of it. It got so bad, that it happened once that the mom of a friend was angry with us (me and the friend) and my friend lied to her mom. Because I was afraid of her mom being angry, I took the guilt on me, and I still remember to this day that I did. I was fourteen.

As an adult I have learned to reason about the guilt I should feel, but if I feel but a bit of guilt, I can’t seem to quiet the voices inside down. It’s a constant fight between the rational thoughts and the voices deep down, and in the dark of the night, those damn voices always win. What happened had me upset for weeks. Crying. Not sleeping well, and when I slept, every time I woke up the thoughts went round and round and round in my head, preventing me from falling asleep again. I fought to catch my breath, noticed I was hyperventilating, felt my heart beat in my throat and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my heartbeat to slow down. I had the same lump in my throat as I had for months before I had my burnout (and as I write this, that very lump is present again, and my heart is beating a bit too fast, my breathing too shallow).

As said above, I had even considered to cancel our trip, but that’s just not me. Once I have committed to something, I do it. Also, staying away would only make it worse. Worse in the way that it would get even more difficult to make the trip next year. I needed to push through, to face whatever it is that my mind told me I had to face. Panic invaded my head and replaced my brain when I thought of the conflict I could be confronted with; the way I can’t ‘think on my feet’ in a heated conversation. I tend to shut down, and just capitulate.

But, I had to do this; had to come to the conference. I had promised Master T to do it. He has been my rock in the past weeks, talking to me and telling me over and over again that I am not a bad person, and that I should put behind me that I felt let down by some.

And then the conference was cancelled…

There was some relief, but then again there wasn’t. We traveled to London despite the conference not going through, and are still hooking up with people who also traveled here. In a way I am relieved I don’t have to speak, because deep down I was afraid my fear of seeing people looking at me with hateful expressions and me not being able to remember what I wanted to talk about. Please remember, this is all me. This is my brain lying to me; creating an image in my mind, which I know isn’t true, but still I fear it, especially in the dark of night. On the other hand I am disappointed that I am not speaking, as I wanted to face that fear, wanted to show those stupid voices that what it told me wasn’t true. That I am safe. Some of these feelings will still surface this weekend, as we venture out to meet people, but as long as I remember who I am, remember that I am not a bad person (Master T is still telling me this), and remember to always stay true to myself, I am sure my breathing will gradually grow normal, and my heartbeat will finally slow down.

They say we suffer the most from the things we fear, and I am sure when I am on that plane back home, I will realize just how true that is.

© Rebel’s Notes

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15 thoughts on “I don’t suffer from social anxiety, but…

  1. I am so glad you did do your session. Even though it was to a much smaller group. You were articulate, prepared and warm. All of us there gained so much from what you said. Thank you for being prepared to say yes when I asked you.

    1. And thank you for asking me, Eye. I was really nervous and it’s good to hear that my ‘story’ came across xox

  2. How brave were u to conquer your anxiety and go – even thou it was cancelled u still turned it around – with others – and made it positive. Shows such strength of character.
    xx

    1. Thank you, May. I do prefer to concentrate on the positive rather than the negative, and to make the best of a bad situation xox

  3. I see in your words a strong & responsible woman. You wanted to face your fears and that takes strength. You are responsible & dependable, you made a commitment to do something and you followed through with or without the anxiety.
    I know its difficult to believe it…You are a wonderful person with a good heart. I’m probably over 5000 miles away and I can see that in your words.
    Thank you for sharing and showing your support for SB4MH

  4. I love this post! Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts and feelings. Most of us have “been there, done that” where nervousness, anxiety and those lying thoughts come into play. I know I have, too many times to count!
    You are an amazing person, a wonderful friend and you are loved‼️♥️ xx

  5. You’re definitely not a bad person. I’m proud to call you my blog mom and a friend. I recognise a lot of it and I find it an interesting approach. Might start calling it nervousness as well. I know those voices all too well and I’ve adapted to sometimes use that uncomfortable feeling to know I’m doing something that is worth doing. It takes strenght and courage to defy those thoughts and to venture out into the world feeling uncomfortable but making a difference. You’re an awesome person, rock on. Love you <3

  6. You may not have stood up in front of a room of people, but you were prepared to and that’s all that can be asked of yourself in the circumstances. You were there, ready to face your nerves or anxiety and when you fly home with Master T, I hope you’ll recognise that with some pride.

    ??

    1. I forgot to look back on the moments where I did speak when we were on our return flight, not because I wasn’t proud, but because of the situation we were in. When I look back now, I am proud 🙂 xox

  7. This is such an open and honest post and I have respect for you in your decision to share your feelings. I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here and think that it is common for people to think the worst and feel anxious in social situations where there has been some sort of conflict already. I am sure that your talk would have been fantastic and I am disappointed not to be able to hear it or to spend time with you this weekend but hopefully we can arrange something else for later in the year once things have settled down. I hope that you will sleep better and feel more relaxed now that the pressure is off. ❤️

    1. My good sleep has returned, thankfully, even though there is still a part of me that waits for a bomb to drop. But I know I have done what should’ve been done, and I am proud of that. And, as for seeing each other later in the year, yes please! xox

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