Social Anxiety is Ruining My Life
Social anxiety is ruining my life so I might as well end it myself, right here and right now…
…I was about two seconds away from being smashed by the train when I changed my mind and jumped off the railroad tracks. The train missed me with just a few inches.
Those were my thoughts, right before I almost ended my life, that hot summer day in June 2010.
My name is Bob Castle and I’m about to get a bit personal for a moment…
…let’s talk about social anxiety.
Quick summary of the post
- Brief history about my struggles with social anxiety
- What led me to almost commit suicide and what made me change my mind
- How I turned it around (after more than 20 years of suffering) and started to overcome the anxiety
- What I found to help me (attitude, tools and tricks)
- How I feel today
The Little Worrier
I have always been anxious and I have always been a worrier. I don’t remember it myself but my mother has told me how I one night, when I was six years old, came to their bedroom with tears in my eyes telling them I could not sleep. When mother asked me why, I answered “How am I suppose to know exactly where to get off the train when I’m enlisting in the army?”
In my country military service is mandatory and apparently that was something little Bob had learned earlier that week. The ironic part is, 15 years later, when the time came about, there was no train and no need to figure out where to go, because instead of enlisting I paid my dues in form of civilian service. And so…
…I could stay at home…
…at home where I always wanted to be. Close to mother and father.
I was a anxious but also a very happy child and there was nothing wrong with my childhood. No abusive parents or anything like that and now, as a middle aged man, thinking back at the first years of my life it is with a warm heart and a smile on my face.
I was full of life, running around playing with my toys, building treehouses and all the normal stuff children did back when there were no smartphones and video games. Normal in every way except…
…I never wanted to go on excursions that the school arranged, and when all the other kids jumped up and down of excitement, eager to finally get to go on a trip, I always wanted to stay at home, and so…I never went.
The little worrier became a bigger, more social anxious, worrier
As the years went by I never stopped worrying and when entering puberty I still had all my usual worrying tendencies and in addition to this, it now took a different form as I suddenly became very self conscious.
As soon as I learned that people could make fun of, and laugh at, things that in some way shape or form were considered to be “uncool” like blushing, stuttering and so on, the seed to my social anxiety was planted firmly and deeply into my brain.
Suddenly I could no longer eat or drink in front of other people
The biggest blow to my ego came the day when I, at 20 years of age, suddenly noticed my hands shaking when lifting my glass to drink some water in the schools dining room. I panicked and focused all my energy at my hand, trying to lift the glass once more without shaking…
…only to lose ALL control and shake so violently that the water spilled out on the table, resulting in people around me started to stare and giggle. From that point on I was no longer just “a little anxious” about social situations…
…from that point on I had a full blown phobia of eating with others. It got worse and worse and my brain started to come up with other situations in which my shaky hands could make a fool out of me and, sure enough, it came up with a lot of them.
By now I knew that I had social anxiety and not a day went by without me thinking the thought “social anxiety is ruining my life”
Somehow I managed to keep going…but social anxiety was ruining my life
Since that incident in the dining room I was struggling with life. My social anxiety was worse at times and better at other times but it was always there. For more than 20 years. Somehow I still managed to get through the years by, often, avoiding certain situations, lying about why I could not go to the party, using “safety behaviors” to cope (only filling the coffee cup to about 30% full in order not to spill the coffee) and so on…
…I became a master at creative ways to avoid things without it looking strange. How sad really when the biggest goal in life is NOT to be embarrassed. But that’s the way it was since 80% of my waking hours were spent worrying about where or when I would get “exposed” or revealed as the true failure and mentally sick individual, I thought I was.
I lost potential girlfriends because of this. I couldn’t finish my education so I lost my chances of getting the career I always dreamt of, but worst of all, I lost sleep. I lost a lot of sleep.
I became an “expert” insomniac due to my anxiety and stress levels.
Lack of sleep leads to depression
Just as with the anxiety my periods of insomnia were betters at times and worse at other times and in the end of 2009 I had an all time low that was so bad it lead me to the situation where I was standing on the railroad tracks a half year later. Every night I was anxious about the next day and because of that I could not sleep…
…and the lack of sleep made my anxiety even worse and I started getting afraid of not being able to sleep, and sure enough being nervous about that made sleeping even worse. There were several nights a week when I didn’t get even one minute of sleep.
Days and nights got blurry and I fell into a deep depression as my anxiety now was at an all time high and I was SEVERELY sleep deprived with a brain that could not take it any longer. I could not sleep, yet I was in a nightmare…a livingn waking nightmare hell.
There are no words to describe it. Sometimes I did fall asleep for a short while, and and slept for 1-2 hours, only to go on to another two nights in a row with ZERO sleep…and so it went…on and on…night after night…
…of course I went to the doctor to get help. I got sleeping pills. They worked for about two nights and then they stopped working. NOT good. I got stronger sleeping pills and they also worked for a short period and then…
…they too stopped working and now, I was really f*cked! It culminated with me having a sleepless streak of five nights in a row with ZERO sleep and that’s when the doctors put me on sick leave from everything. I was forbidden to do anything at all. My whole system was so stressed out that I had lost 25 kg of body weight without me being on any diet. I could not sleep and I could not eat.
Then a prescription drug worked
I got an antidepressant called mirtazapine (remeron) and lo and behold that worked for sleep and the first night I took it I slept for 23 hours straight. But after so many months of severe insomnia I was in a very bad shape, mentally and physically, and my brain was still severely sleep deprived.
My brain was so messed up that I could not read even one sentence in the news paper without racing thoughts getting in the way. I tried many times but I literally could not read a sentence and understand, or even remember, what I just had been trying to read.
Very slowly I got better as the drug helped me sleep at night but I was still in very bad shape, with my whole body shaking nonstop, and my resting heart rate never below 110 bpm when I was awake.
I spent most of my days under the blanket on my living room sofa, crying and worrying about the future. My anxiety had never until that point been this dark and strong before. I remember thinking of the anxiety as a black hole sucking me in and squeezing every ounce of hope out my poor, dreadful soul…
…it was unbearable. It was so indescribable horrible that I decided I had to tap out. I had to escape…
…escape from life itself. I just could not take it any more and I decided that I would take my own life.
Social anxiety is ruining my life… and so we are back on the railroad tracks, continuing from the beginning of the post…
I took my car and drove out to my favorite place in the woods. This time, however, I did not get any sense of wellbeing from being there at all because now the only thing that occupied my mind was finding a way out.
I knew there was a railroad close to the place I use to park my car and so that’s where I was headed. The train would do the job. It would be quick and pain free.
It took me only about one minute of walking to get from the car to the railroad and once there I did not hesitate at all and went stright up on the tracks and started walking on it. Mindlessly walking in a daze…
…waiting for the train, and sure enough, It did not take long until I could hear one coming. Luckily the railroad turned slightly behind the trees so the conductor would not be able to see me before it was too late.
Then something clicked in my brain
As I was walking there I remember thinking, social anxiety is ruining my life so I’m really doing this now. This is it for me. Then a strange and kind of funny thought hit me…
…”kind of funny that I can be so sick and tired of everything that I am able to walk right under a train but I’m too scared to show my anxiety to people” I mean, if I’m so sick and tired that I don’t care that I’m about to get smashed in a few seconds then I should be able to be so sick and tired that I don’t care if people see me blush…or shake…or stutter…
…this is when something really clicked for me and my thoughts continued, “why not just go ALL IN with life and commit social suicide instead, not giving a f*ck about if people notice that I’m anxious”?
After all, I have all the time in the world to be dead later so that’s no problem (like for an eternity) and life only lasts about 70 years or so…
…again, why not go all in with life and see what happens here.
I could sell my stocks, use the money I have saved and just go crazy, drink beer, try all kinds of anxiety supplements for thousands of dollars and just live like I don’t care any more. There will be plenty of time being dead later anyway so why rush it.
For the first time in months something inside me actually got a small hope and for the first time in months I actually had some kind of a plan. A very strange plan but a plan nevertheless. By now I had changed my mind and that was not a second too soon because the train was already about 10 meters in front of me approaching with lightning speed…
…and I jumped off the tracks with being no more than a couple of seconds away from death.
I landed on the rocks on the side of the railroad, scratching my hand so it started bleeding. I looked at my hand and laughed. “Damn I’m fucked up” I said, loudly. I looked down at my legs and saw that I had thorn a hole on the knee. Social anxiety is ruining my life AND my pants, I said out loud again.
This was a turning point for me. NOW I went to attack against my social anxiety BIG TIME
As I was walking back to my car I noticed that I was hungry. I had not been hungry in months.
Ok, if I’m able to say fuck it and walk under a train I can say fuck it and go after some food, even with a bloody hand and a hole in my trousers.
15 minutes later I parked at the McDonalds parking lot and went inside. I went straight to the desk and said “I would like a Big Mac meal please”…
…”oh and one more thing, I’m tired and shaky and I also have social anxiety and panic attacks so could you please help me an carry the tray with my food to the table?… I’m afraid I’ll drop it on the floor if I do it myself”.
Wow, I jumped under the “social suicide train” instead and just told her about my social anxiety. I have never done something like that before. She was really nice and said “of course I can help you”.
As I sat there I felt strange. I think I knew, right then and there, that from that point on I would face my social anxiety head on and be open about it to people….
…I ate all my food but I didn’t want all of that soft drink so when I stood up I pushed it on the floor on purpose and said, oops!!…look at that! ,again jumping under the social suicide train (in a social phobics brain), took my napkin to wipe it up and walked out the door.
It was a turning point but not a sudden shift
After being on sick leave from my job for 6 months, and with the help of mirtazapine, getting back on track with my sleep, I went back to my job. I started to tell people that I suffered from social anxiety and panic attacks. Not that I walked around and talked about it all the time but I was open with it. I even wrote it publicly on my Facebook page.
From here on I took these additional steps and tools to really crush my anxiety:
I still had panic attacks and social anxiety but the big difference was that NOW I started accepting it more.
- I stopped trying to desperately be an extrovert, for example when sitting at the coffee table at my job. In fact I liked my introverted self and, often, found the extroverts, with their loud shouting voices, to be somewhat annoying. I felt no need to be like them. Didn’t even want to.
- I started realizing that not everything I say needs to be of very high value, super intelligent and mind blowingly entertaining. Small talk is mostly garbage anyway and that’s the way it’s suppose to be. Besides people like when they find someone who is a great listener and not feel the need to talk all the time. By learning this, after a while, I noticed that I actually HAD more clever and better stuff to say than most people.
- I started being OK with not filling my coffee cup all the way up. My hands ARE shaky and I don’t want to spill coffee on the table, what’s so strange with that? I no longer try to FORCE myself to have to practice drinking from a full cup… if I don’t feel like it.
This is where the paradox enters the picture
The paradox being, by becoming more and more OKAY with having social anxiety the social anxiety starts to lose it’s power. How ironic!
When I finally say:
Okay then Mr Anxiety, you win, I will be stuck with you for the rest of my life, but you know what?… you can actually stay here if you want….
…well, then Mr. Anxiety does not want to stay so bad anymore. Don’t get me wrong. The anxiety did not go away for many months after this but it gradually started to get weaker. Some days it was back with full force again though. And so where my panic attacks…
…but perhaps you remember what I was thinking on the railroad track? That I would spend all my money, if need bee, trying out tools and tricks, collecting more and more weapons against the anxiety!
A few tools that helped me even further improve my social anxiety:
I continued this new mental attitude that I have gained. That “ok so I have anxiety issues, so fucking what attitude”, and on the days I were very anxious I tried to be OK with that. I also found a few anxiety supplements that helped me significantly.
I tried everything and spent A LOT of money. Most of the supplements I bought were crap, with ZERO effects, but some of them actually worked and two of them were so powerful and helpful that I still use them to this day, 8 years later…
…not every day but…
…nowadays when my anxiety comes back for a short visit, which it does from time to time, I give it hell with the help of the natural anxiety supplement Provanax
ProVanax is a natural anxiety supplemet tht actually works. For being natural it is even pretty effective and I would definitely recommend it…
…of all the supplements I’ve tried, nothing even comes close to being as effective for reducing my anxiety as this supplement.
It has been a true life saver for me and the best part is: it helps with sleep as well…
…and that, let me tell you, is something that feels very good for me to know….
…if I ever start to think about my periods with months without sleep, and I start to get nervous thinking “what if it happens again?” then I know I have something that helps in my kitchen drawer and that is all natural, unlike the prescription medications.
ProVanax is a natural anxiety supplement that I highly recommend because I honestly think it saved my life. If you would like to try provanax for your own anxiety or if you would like to know more about it you can click here to read I review I wrote about it
Of course I collected A LOT more tools and this article is getting long enough without me sharing them all here. If you want to read some more about them then I have written a blog post called 16 natural ways to deal with anxiety, that you can read if you feel like it. It is about mental tools and tricks as well as biological hacks…
…and so on!
In addition to the anti anxiety supplements I started meditating daily and started taking daily walks as well. All this in combination with my newfound attitude really helped me to significantly take control over my social anxiety.
Social anxiety is ruining my life…Or is it?
How I feel today, or…
The worrier became a warrior!
It has now been almost 8 years since I walked the railroad tracks and I feel good. I’m still shaky but that’s even when not having anxiety. My hands are shaky but so what? I still don’t fill my coffee cup to be 100% full but that’s not because of high anxiety levels. It’s because it’s easier to drink from a 75% full cup than it is from a 100% full cup if you have shaky hands.
In fact I believe that my whole nervous system is “sensitive” or is running in “high speed” compared to other people, and I honestly believe that to be a factor in why I developed social anxiety in the first place…
…one of the factors. There are many of course.
I still get some anxiety from time to time today but I can usually get it under control very quickly using provanax for example. I also get panic attacks every now and then. I do, however, not give a f*ck about what people might be thinking about my anxiety, or about me, for that matter.
So when it comes to shyness and social anxiety, it is safe to say I’m atl least 80% free from that today.
With that said, if I don’t take good care of myself, if I’m going many days in a row with junk food or eating bad in general my anxiety quickly gets worse. The same goes for if I use too much alcohol or if I skip exercising…
…if I stop taking good care of me in other words. And this leads me to the conclusion of the post “social anxiety is ruining my life”…
Conclusion: While I’m confident that we can change ourselves, practice and become more or less of a certain way, I do believe that we have a “default” program in our genes. We can turn that progam off and instead run another program that we have practiced…
…but if we are not careful it will easily turn itself back on. That’s why I need to be a “good boy” and take good care of myself because I will NEVER go back to the way things were years ago.
Thank you for reading the post “social anxiety is ruining my life”….
…now I’m hungry and, speaking of junk food, I think I will take a trip to Mc Donalds today. This time, however, there is no need for the girl at the desk to carry my food 😉