There aint no easy way out

In the dark of the sun
Will you save me a place
Give me hope, Give me comfort
Get me to a better place

In The Dark Of The Sun, Tom Petty

 

From: About Social Anxiety

“Does it ever strike you as odd that social anxiety disorder (or SAD, as I will refer to it sometimes on this blog) is among the top three most common mental health conditions (yes, up there with depression and alcoholism), there are science-backed treatments for it that we know work, and yet around a third of people with social anxiety experience symptoms for 10 years or more before seeking help. 10 years? Surely you can do better than that.” 

Arlin Cuncic- Author of the self-help books Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder and 7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety

 

First things first Arlin, 10 YEARS! If only!  I have had anxiety for over 30 years now without ever seeing a GP.  My mum did though and the help was poor, my sister did and the help was poor and my best friend did and the help was poor, often awful. British NHS, I know.Its failing to pieces. If only we could all afford to go private. Perhaps therapists should not charge £40-120 an hour then when normal working class people here are on less than £10 an hour.  Although I  actually read somewhere else that 9 out of 10 people never seek help for social anxiety and most that do only go because of their depression getting worse. In fact that’s the reason I was thinking of going BUT…..

……………….. whenever I actually look at help for Social anxiety  online all therapy basically says is do lots of social exposure stuff on your own and demands you just keep doing it until you get better. Humiliating stuff, embarrassing stuff. Stuff you have avoided your whole life and now you have added depression, paranoia and probably other issues like anger too.  Its hardly surprising life long avoidants are not lining up to be non avoidant and face all their worst fears just because a therapist tells them to.  Doing lots of humiliating stuff on my own isn’t exactly my idea of help. if just me doing everything on my own as I always have and that never before worked did it? Even the so called easiest tasks like smiling at strangers on the street or making small talk with cashiers makes me cringe with the near certainty of being humiliated yet again.

Being told that doing this is the only way to get better and that you are basically a coward for not trying only makes me think actually there is no real help at all.  Therefore its not effective therapy is you cant even convince someone to try it without having to guilt trip or shame them. It looks like it only works for people who are already highly motivated enough to start with  and willing to do anything.  I mean who the F**k would would walk backwards slowly or lay down on the street unless they were brain washed, mentally insane or hypnotised?

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How Will You Go?

Escape is on your mind again
Escape to a far away land
At times it seems there is no end
To long hard nights of drinking

How Will You Go? Crowded House

I think the overwhelming sadness is one of the harder things to cope with. Its always been there since I was a little boy. The not fitting in or feeling normal, the family always being a bit strange and the underlying tension, the complete lack of security as if always standing on a cliff edge and feeling like at any time I would be pushed over. This started at school which I absolutely hated and never really stopped.

Then people say its your fault for not trying hard enough, heaping yet more guilt on a mind racked with self doubt for decades when of course most people dont even have to try that hard because these things are supposed to be normal and available to everyone. You didn’t ask to be this way but if you dont do everything they say to be normal its still all your own fault.

Sometimes I want to lie down and cry and yet no one else must know as they dont really understand and most dont care anyway.  Self pity is reviled from society especially from people who think its all your own fault as you did not work as hard as them. In fact people who have supposedly recovered are often the most critical of all as they were hard on themselves to succeed and so think that gives them the right to be just as hard on you too. It doesn’t, they’re simply selfish ass-holes.  All the hopes and dreams you had for yourself are pretty much gone forever now. You mourn for what you could/should of had, that love you always wanted, the family life and children that would have been yours but for a minor alteration in the wiring of your brain. All those fantasies and hopes you you waited your whole  life for did not happen, they stayed just fantasies.

I dont much care now if its all over. I keep finding myself saying  I want to go quite often as its all becoming tiresome and boring. I dont see much hope for the future and absolutely no self help site, book or person has shown me any whatsoever. In fact for many people optimism seems to be no more than a delusional fantasy based on making things up that they like the sound of. The more I look for hope the more depressed I become as quite simply if you’re mental,weird or different its hard to fit in to normal society as they dont want you. If there is some kind of afterlife or not who cares. Existence in misery is no kind of life at all. The hope of youth, that it would all change and come good one day like the end of a story has vanished long ago. The only thing I have learnt from life is the unfairness and random nature of it.  Some of the worst of mankind have everything while so many good people have nothing.

Social Anxiety AND Depression is MUCH WORSE!

I saw a sparrowhawk out of my bedroom window this morning. It made me feel better for a while. I will try and force myself out to some kind of festival in town later. To be honest being alone in the midst of many strangers often makes me feel worse but its better than staying at home.

I know I have spoken about this before but it still makes me FURIOUS! I still cant quite comprehend the advice and treatment plan which accompanies anxiety WITH depression despite them being so common together. This is quite often even from people who suffered from anxiety themselves. Despite some ignorance in the general population I think lots of people now can at least grasp some concept of depression and the hopelessness that entails, of becoming isolated and not wanting to get out of bed, of wanting it all to end in any way possible. People are encouraged to try to take exercise, do things they used to enjoy and try to integrate back into life again.

Yet when you accompany depression with social anxiety its a little different. As the anxiety is often the root cause of depression they think this has to be cured first.  SO they tell you to go out, to talk to strangers to socialise to improve your anxiety. “DO ANYTHING!” All CBT for social anxiety revolves around exposure which is to simply force yourself into a variety of ever more difficult social situations and to do this they demand you smile, make witty banter, approach and talk to everyone. WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY  F**KING IMPOSSIBLE IF YOU HAVE DEPRESSION!  If you try you come across as a miserable bastard and fail which makes you feel even worse! My depression is also accompanied by intense irritability, rage and paranoia. When things go bad I become very upset and either want to get drunk and self harm or attack. So I can’t just learn by my mistakes and carry on regardless. A therapist just telling me to just think differently once a week after all these years will not work.

Because of the depression even leaving the house has become hard. As you may well already have a suicide plan in the back of your mind as you are already at the hopeless stage then there is absolutely no motivation.  There are other problems like trying to find work after long term unemployment when you know full well if you were 100% normal tomorrow it would still be an enormous struggle to get anyone to employ you after many years of doing nothing in a world that treats such people as simply lazy or wasters. I have no children or partner to motivate me to stay on and I am too old to have a family life now anyway so I have no rosy future but more like a desperate struggle for survival into old age.

To make things more complicated therapy for depression alone may not work as it cant re-engage me with a more productive life as I never went anywhere or did anything before I had depression due to my social anxiety.  I never had friends or family or socialised for years before depression hit. Many people cant grasp all these factors and then just get angry at you, say you are just making excuses and that some people just cant be helped. SO THEY GUILT TRIP YOU THINKING IT WILL MAKE YOU TAKE ACTION WHEN ALL IN FACT ITS DOING IS MAKING YOU MORE LIKELY TO COMMIT SUICIDE! Maybe I cant change now and there is no way out now so demanding that there is lots of help available and that your condition is highly treatable is a complete lie. Giving me false hope has angered me even more. Even simple exposure tasks are close to impossible as I cant think of appropriate words or sentences or smile or make jokes or ask questions or act like a normal human being. In fact I act awkward and so make other people feel awkward and want to leave. What a surprise! Then people dislike you and make you feel worse! Its never ending!

They also say you will think differently when you start therapy and yet the anxiety forums are full of people saying that CBT was absolutely useless and their therapist was not a nice or sympathetic person at all but abusive or a bully.

How to lose friends and alienate people.

Almost all advice I read suggests starting off by making small talk to strangers to get over social anxiety. If you are a hermit just go out and talk to people on the street, in shops, in elevators (we don’t have many elevators in this city) at bus stops, just anywhere.  You will get better and better at it and before long it will become second nature .It makes no allowance for depression and being  suicidal, for being older and whether  it’s normal to speak to people of different ages or sexes, for being paranoid and for being socially inept including physical manifestations like blushing, stammering, mind freezing and acting awkward. It makes no allowance for things going badly and keep going badly or for other people being aggressive or nasty back to you. Why on earth do they assume it will just keep getting better? Success breeds confidence, not repeated failure.

You see I thought therapy tried to cure you of all this crap first so that you could go into social situations more confidently when it appears to want you to force yourself into social situations over and over again straight away and work it all out yourself as you go along.

I dont see it possible for me to do therapy as I can’t find any starting ground to begin with. if even the supposedly simple things cause overwhelming anxiety then what the F**k do you do? Drink heavily? If I tried to go round my city tomorrow making small talk to strangers I would be shit. I am miserable, have poor body language, a shit voice and  massive paranoia and apart from the weather which I find a pathetic subject  and exceptionally corny I have no small talk subjects I feel comfortable with whatsoever. As I am well over 40 I would feel uncomfortable speaking to younger women in case I appear creepy and women in general in case they thought I was coming on to them.  I can almost guarantee being ignored or looks of total disdain. If somebody says yes it is crap weather then that is the end of the conversation and awkwardness ensures. I don’t have 50 follow up lines at the ready.  This massively increases feelings of being disliked and a freak and then makes me more avoidant.

What f**king planet do therapists come from when they assume socially inept hermits go round making witty banter to strangers and do great and that failure does not affect them. Absolutely none of the books explain the basics of small talk in detail, they basically just say do it and assume you know it all. Going to a party or meet, you act weird(shy then), you have shit small talk, people avoid you. Staying in a stressful situation for 90 minutes until the anxiety subsides is not really possible without looking a twat and does not actually help you talk to people or make conversation. Do you hang a sign around your neck? Nervous anxious person. Do not disturb for 90 minutes!”

Even more importantly most strangers don’t talk to each other at bus stops or say hello to other strangers on the street anyway. When I was younger and at my worst even when occasionally somebody spoke to me first I could barely think of an intelligent response so no witty banter or conversation happened. I often felt awkward which just made others awkward and then they never spoke to me again. I even get paranoid thinking that if I did it regularly as advised then the same people would see me again and think , “Christ its that weird nutter who speaks total shit about the weather ! Look the other way!” because people hate awkward strange loners and that’s why you stay an awkward strange loner as you are always on the outside looking in.

A whole load of social skills need to be learnt before you even start to make regular small talk with strangers and even then you still need to be motivated and enthusiastic to force yourself to go into situations repeatedly. Its pretty hard to fake confidence though and that is vital to start with. And of course if you have no family, no job and never leave the house your range of subjects and interest to other people is going to be limited anyway.

Want to Travel Abroad? Not if you’re shy.

That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream

I have never been abroad which is highly unusual for someone in the UK. My parents were obviously crackers and never took us many places when I was young although we did go on holiday on the East coast when I was in my teens for several years. But Skegness is hardly the same as the Caribbean. In fact I seldom left my own county apart from the yearly school day trips. I also never learnt to drive due to anxiety and so only really started travelling in the UK more when I got made redundant.  I quite enjoyed it although anyone travelling on UK trains and buses can understand the expense and the often crappy service. Even so I could rarely travel further than the Midlands due to the time constrictions and arranging to get back in the same day. I remember going to Wales via 3 trains once just so I could say I had left England once in my life.  I went once again on a coach trip with a family member but am unlikely now to ever get to anywhere more exciting.

I would have loved to have visited iconic places like Rome, Paris and America at least once in my lifetime if only for the photography opportunities. There are some locations that have always seemed magical since seeing them on TV as a child. Yosemite and Yellowstone in the US are two such places and also have amazing wildlife. Even though unlikely it would still have been an ultimate dream of mine to travel one day. Something to dream of and motivate me if ever I managed to make a recovery and attain anything like a normal life.

However even if I wanted to apply for a passport now in the UK its basically illegal for me to attain one as very shy  or socially anxious people are not allowed out the country. Yes, its almost impossible for someone with extreme social anxiety to get a passport even if they wanted to one day travel aboard and chase their dreams. Thats because you must have someone countersign your application.  These people must have known you for two or more years and they must also have a professional occupation. Oh they even said it cant be your own doctor any more although I think they used to allow this.

As I speak to no one for months and have virtually no other human contact its completely impossible. I have never even known people with professional level jobs in my life.  Therefore the only way I could legally travel abroad is to find and deliberately befriend someone in a professional level job and then keep in contact with them for over two years before I could even apply, that’s if even if they agree to sign it. How the F**K does everyone else find it so easy to get a passport? Surely there must be some kind of scam going on. I am not sure if its just as hard to get a driving license as well but looking on their website it says you need a passport as proof or you then also need a signatory who knows you well so it would also be impossible for me to learn to drive even if I wanted to. Its strange how even the most simple and basis things  are made impossible by anxiety yet are completely dismissed as excuses or irrelevant. As said before once on the bottom rung of life society keeps you there and does not allow you to recover. After all we dont want mental people going abroad or learning to drive! We already have enough of them in the house of commons!

Hard to Believe in Anything at All

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Getting hard to breathe, It’s getting so hard to believe
To believe in anything at all, but FEAR

Peter Gabriel , Mother of Violence.

 

I had wanted to phone the doctor today and make an appointment about my madness. But of course I didn’t.  Even that requires motivation, optimism, the belief that there is possibly a way out of this pain, some kind of escape. I think its after yesterday reading through some online books on social anxiety again and thinking all the advice to be totally  preposterous and in no way any help to me at all. Social anxiety websites and books all convince me that there is absolutely no help or way out whatsoever and that death is a certainty. I then think about all this mixed up shit until the early hours, have difficulty sleeping and have stressful dreams. And this is before I even do therapy. F**k relaxation exercises and mindfulness.  You may as well tell someone who is going to be burned alive at the stake tomorrow to try and relax.

As a result I felt jumpy and irritable well into the afternoon. I went to the supermarket later on and although the tills were empty I deliberately went to the self service just so I would not have to talk to a stranger or have any interaction at all. The idea of exposure therapy and that i should force myself to approach cashiers or shop staff ,smile and make pleasant conversation about the weather is so absurd it has started to make me think therapist are actually insane themselves. An awkward man just irritates people so they show you contempt or irritation and that makes you feel worse. God knows why they think that things always go better than you imagine.Every failure makes me want to self harm or die. I have absolutely no conviction anyway as all this shit is forced and completely insincere with no belief.

As a result I am actually starting to drink even more and punch myself in the head again, because I looked for help. I am also getting pains in the chest and shortness of breathe which I have never had before. I dont believe that social anxiety is highly treatable at all with CBT as it requires blind obedience. It also only seems to work on  people who are already highly motivated and not depressed and tries to shame or guilt trip you into action thus making self harm more likely for those that cant do it. Even this may not last in the long term according to research.

 

Video on Living With Social Anxiety

This is very good and a highly accurate depiction of social anxiety. In fact its just about the best video I have seen on the subject. Its from Kat Napiorkowska I have not come across her before so dont know if she is the one suffering from SA or just playing the part as the video is so professionally made rather than the usual thing shot in somebody’s bedroom. She has several other vids up about mental health and seems to be real.

“Social anxiety doesn’t just ruin your life. It stops you from living it at all.”

How very true.

Its even sadder when you are older and your chances may have probably slipped away for ever.