Self-care isn’t always about manicures, bubble baths and healthy food. Sometimes it is forcing yourself to get out of bed, take a shower and participate in life again. – Meredith Marple

So I want to talk a little about social anxiety, social introversion and the importance of those little acts of self-preservation.

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For as long as I know I have had a certain battery life when it comes to being social. I can very easily stay at home, close my curtains and watch endless episodes of Netflix for my whole life but I recognise that it is not okay for me to do that. It damages my friendships and it damages my self-esteem and mood even more than making myself go out and be social and face the big social anxiety monster.

But, it exhausts me. The mental and emotional effort it takes for me to attend social events can sometimes knock me out for the following days.

Knowing and recognising this about myself has been a bit of a journey but, now that I do know, I have started to learn how to look after myself and monitor my social battery and the resulting anxiety that accompanies a large amount of socialising or the aftermath of a busy time.

Without a doubt we live in an anxious world. We are bombarded with countless disasters in the news, constant ads, crazy expectations – it comes as no surprise that worldwide diagnosis of anxiety is at an all-time high. As someone who has come through PTSD, social anxiety and the resultant depressive episodes are something I have learned strategies to deal with and strategies to cope with.

Feelings of fear have a purpose, they are designed to help us survive scary situations we might encounter. Historically, they made us quicker to respond to the threat of being eaten alive; forcing us to run, hide or for those who are a bit more courageous, throw a stone… the ‘fight-or-flight’ response which causes the heart to speed up, hyperventilation, and an increased blood flow to the muscles.

Social anxiety takes that fear and attaches it to social situations. This often results in finding yourself worrying about other people’s reactions, extreme nervousness and anxiousness, insecurity when taking part in social situations, sometimes paranoia and avoiding social situations altogether.

Since recognising that what is going on with me is actually social anxiety, I have found ways of looking after myself. The first thing being – tell people about it! My friends are familiar with my ‘closed curtain days’. Hiding or suppressing anxiety actually produces more anxiety and I have found that telling people that I am struggling has often helped me to be able to process my feelings a lot more. The media often leads people to believe that mental illness is a weakness, which makes people less likely to admit to themselves and others what they are going through. We all have mental health and it is reported that up to 1 in 3 of us, will at some point experience a mental health issue. It’s okay and important to talk about it.

Self-care isn’t always about manicures, bubble baths and healthy food. Sometimes it is forcing yourself to get out of bed, take a shower and participate in life again. – Meredith Marple

As much as avoiding social situations will make me feel better for a moment – it’s only a short term solution. Sometimes facing my fear and forcing myself to participate again is part of the process. You see, anxiety has a way of grabbing your attention and turning it inward upon yourself, making you not only self-critical but forgetting that there is a whole world out there. It’s easy to forget that no one is perfect when we live in a world that aspires to achieve perfection. It’s also easy to forget that not everyone will like us nor does everyone need to. It’s also often forgotten that it’s okay to make mistakes as it makes us human.

Yes, my closed curtain days are important – it’s like resetting the battery. But being there with people and in the moment is so important too. Even with the mammoth effort it takes for me to do so.

So if I cancel plans, please do not take it to heart. There is always the possibility that I have used up my quota of social battery for this week and needed to recharge. Let me recharge, check in on me, and I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’m trying.  I promise.

 

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2014 in review – blog stats!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

On believing in love in a world that doesn’t….

I was brought up reading fairytales. As a little girl I was fed a strong intellectual diet of true love, dragon slaying, fairy godmothers and a sprinkling of magic. Little girls are brought up believing in fairytales and believing that love conquers all.

Yet, at some point, once that little girl has grown into an adult, faced with the real world, that belief starts to fade.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a symptom of the world we live in, that people stop believing in love.

As a 30 year old, single woman, in days gone by I would have been relegated to the shelf and given the ‘spinster’ label. Having done my fair share of dating, been rejected, or done the rejecting, met people who I have fallen in love with, and seen that love come to an end, it’s easy to see how I could become cynical and give up on the idea of ‘love’ altogether.

We are faced with depressing facts about love all the time — rising divorce rates, technology ruining relationships and even clinical heartbreak. It’s hard, desperately hard sometimes, to truly keep believing. Every new person you meet who lights that fire inside of you, and holds your interest, only to then lose them through circumstances, time or simply through their or your own choices…..sometimes you wonder just how much your heart can take.

At what point do people give up? At what point do they decide that’s just enough heartbreak for one lifetime, and close up shop, resigned to the idea of being on their own? “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” wrote the poet John Donne in the 17th Century. We’re not meant to be on our own. Connectedness is a part of being human, and the closest and most connected any two people can be is through love.

Yet, I still believe. I completely believe in love. I believe because, without love, what are we even doing here? When our money has gone, when our careers have come to an end, when our material possessions are no longer ours, what remains is what keeps us going. What remains is love.

“You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate… It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”
Neil Gaiman, Stardust

I believe in love because I’ve seen it. My grandparents on both my mother and my father’s side met, fell in love and celebrated 25, 30, 50-odd years of marriage. They lived, laughed and loved through every crisis and event that life threw at them. And they loved deeply – it was clear to see for anyone who ever met them. I remember my Gran saying, when my Granda died suddenly following a heart attack, that she couldn’t imagine life without him. That he was her soulmate. Every year since he passed away (20 years ago) she has quietly marked another year without him and spoken of looking forward to being reunited with him in heaven. Soulmates.

How can you stop believing in love when that exists in the world?