This morning after a night of no sleep, thanks to a pulled muscle from teaching my kids how to do a headstand (don’t ask), I felt I had a very good reason not to take my son to a friends party he’d been invited to. I felt I should find a reason not to go, because that’s what I always do. Welcome to the beautiful world of social anxiety.
Let me mention here, if you don’t know much about social anxiety, it’s basically full of people making plans with you, inviting you or your children somewhere, you saying yes, then on the day, finding any excuse you can, not to go!
You could really want to go to the thing you’ve been invited to, but, as the day looms and the anxiety kicks in, the little niggling feeling you have about going gets worse.
Today, the niggling feeling was telling me not to force myself to be in a situation I’m in every day. I have to go to the school every morning, and now the nursery too. I have no choice, my kids need to go. Today I had a choice-not to force myself to go, resulting in; (to name a few of the delightful symptoms that plague me daily) heart palpitations, horrible tummy cramps, feeling nauseous, hot flushes, panicky feelings-that start at the bottom of my body and work all the way up until I feel like I can’t breathe, bringing me on to-shortness of breath, and, my favourite, the urge to run, hide and cry in a corner.
Now, I suffer from social anxiety on a daily basis, so these feelings are pretty normal for me-I always say if it wasn’t for my children I probably wouldn’t ever leave the house. Thankfully for me, I do have them to keep me going and get my butt moving every day, but today, I had a ready made excuse to not go-the neck pain!
At 11:30 this morning, and hour before we had to leave, I changed my mind. For several reasons……
My son, almost aged 7, unfortunately doesn’t get a lot of invites to parties. He’s a lovely kid (and I’m not just saying that because he’s mine), he’s friends with everyone, very polite, well mannered and clever. So clever in fact, that he now can tell me which of his friends parents don’t like me. I myself, am a very private person when it comes to speaking with my children about personal grown up matters, which, I would hope, most parents are. The fact would then remain that he’s come to this conclusion himself, noticing the tension, hearing things said, or not said, as he often asks me why some of his friends mummies don’t talk to me.
I’ve told him some people just don’t get on-sparing him from the detail that I could go into about the sheer hell I’ve faced for the last two and a half years. In me explaining that, he understands that I’m the reason he doesn’t get invited to things-something his six year old brain doesn’t register as a bad thing yet, but something my 30 year old brain battles with daily, worrying he’ll one day start to resent me, as he gets older, and these issues possibly continue.
For once, he’s been invited to something. How can I take that away from him because I can’t control my mental health issues?!
Another reason I went, (although one of the reasons I at first didn’t want to go), not one I realised until I was there, were my issues with worrying about what others think of me.
For a little while now, I’ve been slowly battling the nagging feeling I have at every event, social occasion or family get together, that people are judging me.
This, is made no better, by sly little whisperers, who judge everything I do, say (and sometimes, wear). I think the change came when I attended my first press event in London at the end of last year. I walked into a room full of people I didn’t know and thought, they’re strangers, they don’t have a preconceived idea of who you are, because they don’t presume to know a stranger they’ve only just met. Tell them who you are, tell them about yourself, then they can judge on factual information, not hearsay others frequently use against you for their own pleasure.
Slowly, since that day, I’ve honestly started to feel sorry for people, and the way they go about their day, negatively, sadly, nastily, angrily.
I used to be a positive person, and I felt sorry for myself for the negative way I started to conduct myself, when faced with people that dedicated their time to putting me down and belittling me. Why was I feeling sorry for myself, when the things being said weren’t even true?
I’m a really nice person when you get to know me. Many years of being battered by dickheads took its toll and I’m not ashamed to say I now take a lot longer to assume someone is my friend. But I am a really good friend, to those that are good to me.
I’m a good mum, a loving wife, I’m a talented writer, and have been nominated for an award in the last month. I’m a good daughter, step daughter, and liked family member amongst those that know me properly.
I’ve never acted out of malice (sometimes I plainly just misread situations and people-something I’m learning the hard way to stop doing).
And through all of this-through all my good traits, even through my bad ones, (because I wouldn’t be so stuck up to profess perfection), I’ve realised one massive thing. One gigantic, stupendous, life changing thing.
I’m happy with who I am.
And those six words, have got me through a fair few school runs, social situations, family get-togethers, and professional events recently.
I won’t be changed, I won’t be beaten. You can try, and once upon a time you would’ve succeeded-you tried so hard, you’ll never understand the damage you did do-but not any more.
I know who my friends are. And most importantly I know who I am. And I won’t let those that try and beat me down, those that don’t know me for who i really am, or stupid social anxiety, win, anymore!
For more information on social anxiety, and how to cope with it-see the social anxiety website-here.