Social Anxiety.....Onward and Upward!
So....what is it?
Social anxiety.....you know the pain, or at least you know someone who feels it.
Most of us, truthfully, feel a little bit of anxiety in social situations. What guy/girl hasn't felt nervous about walking up - and talking to - a cute girl or guy? Some may even have a fear of public speaking, exasperated so greatly during lovely English classes whereas the teacher made us stand in front of a crowd and give a book report.
Those are all part of the human experience.
What I'm talking about with social anxiety, however, transcends those experiences and delves into something rather debilitating; the fear that social situations will produce such horrific results that one avoids socializing almost altogether - sometimes to the point of being home bound.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Social anxiety - sometimes called Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), is a disorder that can have a multitude of causes but usually has several symptoms, including being very nervous and embarrassed while in the company of others, will stay away from places where others congregate, and having a very difficult time engaging in conversation, no matter how large the desire to be able to do so.
Now, the web is full of clinical information about different types of psychotherapy techniques and medications used to treat Social Anxiety.
I believe that every form of healing has its place and my approach is of the non-clinical and non-medication type. In other words, I happen to believe in ways of overcoming the effects of social anxiety that move beyond medication and psychotherapy.
Recover, Recover, Recover...
In my experience as a recovery-based Peer Specialist, I routinely come across people who suffer some form of social anxiety. It just comes with the territory of working in Mental Health.
Though the social anxieties that my clients encounter comes in a variety of forms, most have suffered to the point of being home-bound.
Being home-bound is a result of a fear of going out to mingle amongst others. Most of the reasons for staying at home that I hear of consist of an intense fear of being judged or watched by others - as if they don't "measure up" to society.
Upon the early onset of helping my clients gain the courage to venture out into the community, the familiar themes of low self-confidence and judgement ring all too familiar.
Most of my clients have spent some amount of time in the Mental Health system and, in their minds, are all too used to being judged to the point where they would rather avoid some - or all - human contact aside from extremely close family and friends.
For most of the people I know, that "comfort level" breeds a lot of loneliness, leaving them feeling "trapped" by their own fears.
Recovery from Social Anxiey is possible. It is possible to be the "social butterfly" you want to be or to be more "likeable" or "normal."
It is possible to be, say, "socially confident."
I should know.
Having grown up with Asperger's and been made fun of for a greater portion of my life, I know what it's like to be "socially awkward."
Now however, I'm the one giving advice to others. I'm the one counseling others through social anxiety.
How did I do it? Well, love from my family had a part to do with it - in other ways, though, I immersed myself in social situations. I learned, through doing (and some professional counseling) what to "do" and what not to "do" and how to act in certain situations and.....well, how not to act.
As well, I have a healthy sense of being myself and caring very little of what others think of me.
It's not that I'm rude - rather, it's that I have my own version of humor - and relating to others.
And, it 's working out. I have a nice network of "acquaintances" and a small - but loyal - group of friends.
Do I still deal with Social Anxiety? You bet. Do I feel the discomforts of it, the "shame" of guilt and the "sting" of social rejection?
It's just that now, really, I love myself - and have come to realize who I am and what I am.
That, my friends, is true recovery for me - and you too can find your own meaning - and existence of - recovery from social anxiety.
Go on! Do it! And if you need me, I'll be here to walk with you on your journey.