Social Anxiety/Phobia Support – Towards Social Confidence
I can always remember being shy and quiet even within my own family. I played a lot of sport which I found was great socially because I didn’t need to talk much. As I grew up and found myself at high school, I became lost in the crowd. Still shy and quiet but without my friends. I found it tremendously hard to make new friends. I found it difficult to talk. I spent a lot of time on my own and became withdrawn.
For English we had to do a certain amount of speeches for the year. This absolutely terrified me, for standing up in front of people was one of my worst fears. I wrote my speeches ok, practiced at home to time myself, and then the day would come to do it. So I bunked. The speeches would run for a couple of periods, so I spent quite a few days off bunking. Actually I took off the whole week. I couldn’t risk getting called up to do it !!!
My home life changed dramatically when I was ten years old. My parents separated. My father left my brother and I with our homebound agoraphobic mother. I learned agoraphobia traits very quickly and then over the years became agoraphobic myself.
Going to school became hard as I didn’t want to leave the house. But once I got there I was ok. After school holidays and even weekends, I found returning very challenging. My school reports always had a high absentee rate.
I got help for my agoraphobia through the Anxiety Disorders team. I repeated the treatment course and with much success as I am now 90% free of any traces of agoraphobia. Life without it is amazing and it really can be beaten.
Being shy made social situations difficult, so much that I avoided most of them. When I did go out socially I learnt that if I drank alcohol I would be more likely to talk. I did this so well that I am now an alcoholic. I became reliant on alcohol to talk, for my whole life. It loosened me up, but then I had another problem to sort out. Today I am 10 years and 3 months sober.
I really had to work my ass off to overcome my social phobia. The Anxiety Disorders team once again came to the party and gave me the confidence to join in a 12 week course for social phobia. Changing my thinking, rational thinking, practising exposure tasks all worked for me. It took some time I might add!! I went from a sweaty, nervous, panicky woman at shopping malls to a confident shopper who can try on clothing, return goods and eat in malls at peak time. I can go to a party and join in conversations, start up conversations and stay calm and relaxed. I enjoy social occasions now and even look forward to them. Working on my Social Phobia has changed my life. All of those graded exposures, small steps have lead me to a wonderful place amongst other people. I feel like I fit in now and am happy within myself.
I became a member of the Towards Social Confidence committee nearly one year ago and am also learning the role of Secretary. I enjoy giving something back as I feel I have come a long way.