My Sweet Lord

So I stayed with a friend for a few days. It felt strange going to pubs and cafes and shopping with another person.(although I never go to pubs on my own either of course!) My confidence was better, I did not feel so much paranoia like people were looking at me, i did not talk to myself like a mad person. Good God! This is what it must be like to be normal, although I keep getting told there is no such thing as normal. (yeah right!) Most people have been doing things like this their whole lives but much more often, no wonder they have so much more confidence and no paranoia.

Of course on coming home on thursday and back in the usual routine and the same boring afternoon walks I feel much worse again and have already started talking to myself. After a few weeks of this and my sanity will be back in the gutter again. Most things didn’t work as they assume doing stuff creates confidence when it has often shattered mine. Thats because people(yes those normal ones again)take the piss out of weirdos or strange behavior. I keep picturing myself as a limping wildebeest on the plains of Africa as the lions move in for the kill.Evolution, survival of the fittest, selfish genes, Richard Dawkins,etc. Humans dont get eaten by lions in England much these days even in Leicester Perhaps they get made homeless, never have a relationship or pass on their genes and still die younger than the normal people.Perhaps the end result is thus the same anyway.Perhaps none of it even matters. Its often hard to tell.

Death by…………….. shyness?

George Best is acknowledged as one of the greatest footballers of all time.He died due to problems stemming from alcoholism. However one comment from a former friend and colleague on the radio shortly after his death particularly stuck with me.  He said “shyness killed George.” At first its hard to believe that the man who went out with a former miss world and was the hero to millions was so shy. This comment has not really been taken up by the media much, content to blame everything on drink. However as soon as you start to examine his life you see that he did indeed have a deep shyness that never really left him and he turned to the drink as a way of coping with so much fame and public attention.

 “George never really changed from being the shy person he was when he left Belfast.”

 “And one of the key characteristics for Best for me was his shyness.”

“Best was feeling similarly anxious, but was not so readily able to voice it due to his immense shyness.”

Many people with intense shyness of course turn to drink, I did for insomnia which is a common problem linked with anxiety.Some may take various drugs. Again I have with sleeping pills and allergy tablets. People suffering intense anxiety are much less likely to get a fulfilling job often talking anything they can, less likely to have friends or a support network, a stable relationship, children, less likely to eat healthily and more likely to have other mental health problems like depression.  In short they are much less likely to be happy and much more likely to die earlier so in fact Death by Shyness is in no way an over the top title for this blog.  Shyness itself may not actually always kill you but the side effects can definitely still be lethal over time.This is of course also ignoring the people who actually self harm and commit suicide due to their problems stemming from shyness in which case shyness is a killer although depression is often given as the real reason.

Yet you hardly ever hear any mention of this as an issue in the media. Some people on forums even claim their doctor treated them with contempt when mentioning shyness as a problem and saying they would just grow out of it. Much of the meds are no different than those for depression and even therapy only appears to work for  some people and is hit and miss, many people on anxiety forums still having severe problems well into middle age and later.Despite our modern technology it makes you realise that in other regards human understanding even of ourselves is still in its infancy, Look at how the mentally ill were treated even 25 years ago for instance.Many more shy people will probably die far too young before anything significant happens in the world of mental health, if ever. The only advice for most people with social anxiety is still “Go out and try doing stuff!” In fact that’s pretty much the main concept of CBT therapy.

 

 

 

 

The Power Of The Heart

 

 

Its been a bad few years. Watching my elderly mother wither away both mentally and physically until she ceased to be was a quite hideous experience. If you have been through this I have nothing but sympathy and praise for you.I still have bad dreams about trying to keep her alive. One of the few people I spoke to answered with”Everyone has their parents die at some time.” as if that was supposed to comfort me. He does not live in the same house as his parents or care for them in any way so of course he does not know.

I think I basically shut down as a coping mechanism. This has been magnified greatly by near total isolation after being made redundant after 20 years in the same job. Even making simple replies on the internet on my flickr site became so hard that I stopped, shutting myself off and going into a vicious circle of becoming more and more isolated and with little contact. Social anxiety combined with depression and hopelessness offer total despair and a downward spiral into oblivion.

Yet of course the anxiety forums demand optimism,demand enthusiasm,demand action. They ridicule people as lazy or cowardly for not making an effort,for not trying hard enough. I think much of the so called advice on these forums is as little use as someone telling the chronically depressed to “Just cheer up!” In fact I think social anxiety forums heap intense guilt upon those already racked with guilt and may make such people self harm or even suicidal. Many on these forums try to bully people to be social almost like a sergeant major and pretend its a tough love approach and is for your own good.

Again this makes me believe that lots of people on social anxiety forums are shy and not socially phobic at all and dont have any idea what real debilitating anxiety is and its side effects. The effects on your self esteem, if male the humiliation to your manhood in a world where even today the male is expected to chat girls up as if to prove himself and intensely ridiculed if he is still a virgin past a certain age. If you do force yourself to socialise and fail they then blame you for not doing things right or being negative so they might as well blame you for acting shy.

Insomnia

Much of my insomnia and resulting anxiety is caused by outside noise. In an effort to do anything to sleep I have taken hayfever allergy tablets with alcohol,various painkillers and scoured the internet for sleeping tablets unavailable from the UK.(probably because they are banned!) The one time I saw a doctor he would only give me 1(YES ONE!) tablet as he did not want me to get addicted and his advice was pathetic so once again there is absolutely no point in even seeing him. So I became a semi/alcoholic. Nice work doctor! I remember once having a 3 litre box of cheap red wine by my bed which I would glug down at 3 AM in the hope it would knock me out. I hated the taste. I did not even drink until this insomnia started. I would have drunk my dogs urine instead if it had worked.

I also use ear plugs similar to these every night. I start to panic if I can’t find them.

and sometimes sleep with workmans ear protectors like these over the top.

Of course this can be very uncomfortable and means you almost certainly have to lie on your back. You get hot and sweaty in summer too. The head strap thing has also broke meaning I have to hold the ear cups on with an elastic headband which was originally an eye mask but is often so tight now it hurts my eyes and my vision is going.

Yes, all this just to try and get some sleep. It must seem quite mad to normal people but to the insomniac virtually anything is preferable to the hours of tossing and turning and anxiety and also the terrible feelings the next day.

 

Mr Miserable

If your SA is combined with depression and other mental problems is it then much harder to cure? Does your depression or misery have to be cured first before you can tackle your SA?  Its just that there is a relentless barrage of advice on anxiety forums of “Go Out! Do Stuff! Go Out! Do Stuff! Go Out! Do Stuff!” This is the anything is better than doing nothing philosophy and often implies that people who dont keep trying stuff are just cowards or deserve to suffer.

However my biggest problem with this is my misery. After years of increasing isolation and depression I dont have  witty banter. I dont have jokes, I dont go anywhere or do anything interesting. I feel irritated and often aggressive and want to push people out of the way and just walk off. Watching my elderly mother slowly wither away and die drained me mentally and physically. If I therefore force myself to go on a meet with other people its not only my anxiety I am fighting. In fact even if I fail to exhibit any social anxiety behavior at all I am still as miserable as hell so am likely to be terrible company. Most nights I have bad dreams and have trouble sleeping and think about death and dying regularly as if my life is as good as over.

You see again the myth portrayed on SA forums is that you are probably just a little bit shy but if you can be forced to try things then you will probably have a great time and burst forth into witty fluent conversation and never have SA again. Bollocks. I used to stutter blush, mind blank, lose control of my jaw, my voice would become inaudible and I would just sit there like a zombie. Then people disliked me or thought I was strange,rude unfriendly and didn’t want to see me again, I would go home and want to kill myself and never want to leave the house again. Thats the reality of chronic  shyness or social anxiety.  Its not just a little thing that you can get over with a helpful kick up the backside, if you force yourself into social situations.  I’ve realised that the people who do think this and who populate the anxiety forums so much probably have minor to moderate shyness and then just assume its identical for everyone else. They have done stuff and its often worked for them so hey, you are just a coward for not doing as much as them! In their eyes you then deserve to suffer.

Would you want to go out for a coffee with someone as miserable as this? No, of course not, Nor would I if I was normal.  This leads me on to my problem. If my isolation and loneliness have created this intense misery and hopelessness then how do I cure my misery first so I can then go out and cure my SA. If I went out to meet people and the atmosphere was terrible, I felt I was disliked due to my sadness I would then feel worse so would not want to ever go out again.  Thats why just going out to socialise does not cure SA for everyone. SA is far more complicated than that. To get over SA you have to gain confidence so your social situations that you put yourself in have to be a success. If every outing is a failure you are just reinforcing your SA and negative feelings.  When you force yourself to go out and still act very shy and awkward you then get blamed for not making the effort as if all you have to do is open your mouth and great conversation comes out without thinking.  A classic example is the advice given to any male ever who is interested in a female of; “JUST GO TALK TO HER!”

Of course talking means flirting, flirting means jokes and laughter and confidence and fun and happiness and no awkwardness and knowing what to say.  Saying this to a chronically shy person is like saying “just go juggle some chainsaws!”without any prior practice. its impossible. No jokes or witty banter happens. Just awkwardness, sometimes stuttering and blushing and awkward silences as lets face it lots of girls just expect the man to do all the work and chat them up and impress them. Often the humiliation of failure is so bad the man is afraid to even try again for years if ever. Some men who are very awkward and try this are often labeled as creepy or losers thus keeping them in their place and not allowing them to fit it. I said how cruel human behavior can be to outsiders before. This kind of talk is not paranoia, it happens all the while if you start to watch other people. You see several references to such behavior a week just watching the TV. Its in our culture.

Same as it ever was.

My misery and depression only magnify more with time. I see no way out of my present situation or any hope for the future. i think never speaking to any human being for most days only increases my feelings of isolation and depression. When i do scour the main UK SA forum I find almost no relevance or empathy or indeed any connection with any of the people on there despite supposedly having the same problem with social anxiety. Perhaps I am just too old again. The world and evolution is I have found youth obsessed.

 

As if I did not have enough problems £300 has been taken out of my Barclays account by some kind of debit card fraud which led to many phone calls and being kept on call waiting for vast quantities of time. I have to fill in forms but if they do not like my answers will not reimburse my money despite the fact that 5 of the transactions were from a Paypal account in Luxembourg and I not only have never opened a paypal account but have never ever been abroad or had a passport. Barclays even had the nerve to charge me 13p extra for supposedly using my card from abroad. Shall I make a claim for that too? 

There ain’t no more, you’ve taken everything.

There’s nothing left, all gone and run away
Maybe you’ll tarry for a while
It’s just a test, a game for us to play
Win or lose, it’s hard to smile
Resist, resist, it’s from yourself you have to hide.

 

Appalling sleep pattern again . It makes you realise that when your sleeping goes haywire the rest of your sanity quickly follows. I feel intense anger and rage and yet and totally incapable of doing much as I want to just hide away and crawl into a ball again. Monday morning.In another act of desperation I took a cetirizine hydrochloride tablet(allergy) with alcohol at about 1.30AM. They often work in getting me to sleep but the next day can be quite hard to handle as they also make me irritable,abusive and paranoid. I did want to go for a walk this afternoon as the weather for the rest of the week looks quite bad but walking far in such a poor mental state is often hard and almost painful.

If I was a student…….

I just watched The Secret Life of students on channel 4. I only watched because it was about students in Leicester where I live. Someone on SAUk just the other day was talking about their regrets and wish they had been a student, gone away to Uni and made great friends, lived the dream, etc. etc. I often think the same after having a mental breakdown after only 2 days at college and never going to Uni.

After watching that program student life now appears worse than ever for an outsider or someone not quite one of the crowd. The whole thing made it look as if its about getting laid and pissed all the time with just a few lessons to fill the other hours left in the day. I know students have always had the reputation for nothing but drinking and shagging but now they have facebook and mobile phones they do little else but gossip to each other online.

One young bloke came across as a total tosser, arrogant obnoxious yet of course having huge quantities of confidence still got him plenty of friends, sex,oh and chlamydia (what a shame!) the history girl by contrast was totally  out of her depth although thankfully she seemed to be coping better after a few weeks. They almost mocked her for only having 400 friends on facebook!

Feck me, for someone without much confidence the whole place and atmosphere looked hideous. Groups of young people going around drinking and trying t get f**ked every night. Its pretty obvious at 18 that I would have been shut in my room all the time and never have left. Feel the fear and doing it anyway in these circumstances does not always help. In fact I think going  away to a Uni like this place would have made me a gibbering wreck and almost suicidal. You really have to see a painfully shy person in the flesh to see how debilitating it is and how it wrecks much of their life. You also see the contempt and dislike normal young people show to them and how they are ostracised and not even allowed to join a group or gang so made to stay alone even when they do try and occasionally join in.

 

If you are different in a negative way such as mental illness people dont want t know you. Stop pretending its all the shy persons fault for never joining in. If you try when you are considered weird then people dont want to know you.

Red as a Beetroot

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And through the grief

Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars

Oh, I still believe

I used to blush quite badly and uncontrollably in certain social situations. Another reason SA is not as simple as just feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I dont know why it stopped but I dont normally get it anymore. However at one stage it was so highly activated that I was starting to do it talking to anyone I knew including family and I thought i was going quite mad.

The advice on anxiety forums was to ignore it and carry on as if everything was normal. Again useless advice, for me, anyway. Ignoring a scarlet red face usually accompanied by sweating and a nervous awkward manner was like asking me to ignore a screwdriver stuck in my head. The other anxiety behavior was the cause of the blushing so it could not be ignored and yet I still speak and behave normally.

I think our mindset is a key to a lot of SA recovery.(yes I know, probably obvious.) Almost everyone in emergencies can overcome SA to a degree at least to ask for help. I have when dealing with family emergencies and so have other people on the SA website. An extreme example is King Charles I who had a bad stammer. Apparently when he was about to be beheaded he gave the best speech of his life with no stammer. Certain situations especially big ones cause the brain to act differently and the SA is pushed away as not as important compared to life or death.Sometimes getting angry helps but then we can come across as an agressive arsehole all the time to other people.

Maybe remembering that we and everyone we know are not going to be here forever and every memory is gone so quickly and before you know it we are at the end of our lives looking back, wishing we had done so much more. Caring about life but learning to not care about SA or what others think of us so much. After all it’s only usually the ignorant, stupid people and children who mock people with problems.

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