What you need to know about people with social anxiety

I haven’t been able to answer the question of “How are you?” with a truthful “I’m good!” in about 2 months. I’m never really okay. Sure, some days are better than others, and sometimes it might look like I’m doing just fine because I’m smiling and I still go to work. So clearly, I’m totally okay.

I’m not.

Over the past few months while tapering off my klonopin, I reached a new level of anxiety: completely debilitating social anxiety. No, socially anxious people aren’t just “socially awkward.” It’s a complete fear of other people. Fear of being judged or ignored or disliked.

Just because I don’t answer your text right away doesn’t mean I’m mad at you. I’m just afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Just because I can barely go to the grocery store without having a small panic attack doesn’t mean I’m weird.

Not being able to be around a bunch of people I don’t know doesn’t make me antisocial. It’s just not comfortable.

Dominant personalities terrify me. I go by a script to talk to customers at work and it’s really hard to deviate from that without panicking.

Just because I’m “here” doesn’t mean I’m “here.”

It’s really hard to hold a job. I stopped going to one of my jobs because it made me so anxious and I was too scared to call my boss and call out or quit. I left her a voicemail.

I’m easily irritated. It’s hardly ever personal.

I’m really bad at starting conversations with new people. That doesn’t mean I don’t like you. You’re probably pretty cool and I just can’t think of anything to say.

I’m easily startled.

I really don’t want pity. Don’t tell me I’m falling apart, I know I am.

What am I trying to say here? Society needs to be more aware of how they treat other people. If someone looks like they’re not okay, they’re probably not, so please treat them that way. Quiet people don’t need your dominant personality thrown in their face. I’m not asking for special treatment, I’m just asking for people as a whole to be more considerate of others because you don’t know what someone is going through.

Some days are better than others. Sometimes I can go out and run errands and be okay, and other days I don’t leave my apartment unless I absolutely have to. When I completely stopped taking my klonopin, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep at night. Truth is, I sleep like a baby now because I put so much energy into trying to act normal when I go out, that when I get home, I’m mentally and physically exhausted.

I know that it’s just withdrawal anxiety, and eventually it won’t be as bad. But in the mean time, I’m okay with not holding a full-time job and spending my Saturday nights alone.

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Let me paint you a picture

What does anxiety look like? Well, it looks a lot like this

IMG_3595

Yep, that’s me yesterday hiking in Horsetooth park. Now that the weather has started to perk up for the summer time, I decided it’s time to get back outside to remind myself why I came out to Colorado in the first place. So, I did the same loop I did about 4 months ago on Christmas Eve, which takes me through the falls, and then up to the top of Horsetooth Rock. Well, actually I didn’t. This photo was taken about halfway through the planned route before I started having a panic attack and made it to about 15 minutes away from the top and decided that I couldn’t do it.

Moral of that story? Don’t believe that everyone who posts these nice selfies on Instagram and Facebook are “happy.”

So here’s what anxiety really looks like. It started with yesterday, going for a nice hike and overall okay despite the fact that it was my first day without a single dose of my anxiety medications. I was about 15 minutes away from getting to the top of the rock when I decided that I wanted to go climb up another rock to sit and eat my snack and drink my “summit beer” (usually these things happen at the actual top, or the “summit,” and it’s always definitely a good idea to bring something that’s low ABV, which in this case was 4.5%). That’s when the anxiety set in. Suddenly, everything felt different. A sense of dread and everything seemed foreign, despite the fact that I’ve done this hike probably half a dozen times in the past year. I felt shaky and out of my body. Despite all this, I wanted to make it to the top of the mountain since it was easy. I climbed down from my rock and proceeded to hike, and then decided, nope, I wanted to go home. I wanted to crawl into bed in my sweatpants and watch Netflix by myself. And that’s what I did. A really exciting end to that part of the story.

I sat in bed trying to drown out my sense of dread and anxiety with Netflix and another beer, really not looking forward to waking up early for work the next day, which I really didn’t want to go to. I just started this job and was super excited about it because it meant that I was able to leave the job I hated and be involved in something I liked: locally sourced food. As a vegan and an advocate for natural, locally sourced food, I took a job in a new market opening up in town that sounded like it could be my new home, where I could thrive a bit being around something that I’m legitimately passionate about. But it’s ended up being a sense of dread because I hate being bored and being around new people and in particular, new bosses whom I’m convinced dislike me. There’s no real reason for that, just a feeling. The anxiety talking to me. Either way, I tried to drown out my anxiety with a Netflix binge, some yoga, seeing D, and trying to get some sleep.

But I couldn’t sleep.

I kept trying to think of a million reasons to not go to work. Tired. Sick. Klonopin withdrawal. I could find another job. I could pick up more shifts at my other job to get by. ¬†Eventually, the tiny dose I take of klonopin at night kicked in and fell asleep to wake up to the day I dreaded. I tried not to think about it as I got ready for the day, but I still found myself sitting in silence for minutes at a time (good thing I get up early) just thinking and thinking and thinking and wondering how I could possibly get out of going to work, how I could get on with my life, what I should even do with my life in general. Why am I here? Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I out here doing jobs I don’t like to go on adventures that I don’t want to go on anymore and in the end, being semi-broke, hating myself and my life.

Biking to work helps. Except for when I get super anxious when I’m in the middle of traffic and I’m scared that everyone on the road hates “that stupid biker that I almost hit.” I try to drown it out and know that everyone who drives in Fort Collins knows that there are cyclists everywhere. Most of the main roads are bike friendly, but I road through the backroads and neighborhoods to avoid traffic. I got to work and had to take a moment to collect myself while locking up my bike, telling myself that I was gonna make it to 2pm. Only 6 hours, that’s not a long work day. I’ve done worse.

But I got to work and immediately zoned out and couldn’t focus on anything. One of my bosses finally came up and asked me to go to the walk-in fridge/freezer to seal up popsicle wrappers. This basically involved me standing in the walk-in fridge for about 30 minutes using a heat press to seal the ends of popsicle wrappers (my bosses also run a pop shop a couple streets over). About 10 minutes into this, I got really cold. Like REALLY cold. And then I realized I was stuck in there for I don’t even know how long because I’m a wimp and hate cold, and I started to panic. I could feel myself getting sick but didn’t want to say anything to my boss because I didn’t want him to think that I actually was a wimp and couldn’t stand being in a 40ish degree fridge for short periods of time. But I stuck with it, despite telling one of my co-workers that I felt sick and I have a hypersensitivity to cold. She responded with “Do you have bad circulation or something?” To which, because it totally made the best sense and would give me a reason to not be in the fridge, I responded “yeah, I have low blood pressure,” which is actually true.

After finishing up in the fridge, I sat out behind the counter with some hot coffee for a while, feeling light headed, weak, and a bit panicky. I kept wondering how the hell I was going to make it to 2 o’clock when it was barely 10am and I already needed to leave. After a while, I finally mentioned to another coworker that I felt a bit sick from being in the fridge and told her I was probably going to ask to go home. She told me to just go home. So I did. I felt bad. I felt everything and nothing. I hated my job, but I hated myself more. Still feeling legitimately a bit sick, I started to bike home, which really sucks when you feel lightheaded. I was panicky the whole way home. Shaky and barely able to stay in the bike lane. When I got home I crawled into bed and hid. Hid from everything. Myself, my job, my roommates, my entire world. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I stared at Craigslist Jobs and Indeed for about an hour before I stressed myself out even more by wondering what the fuck I was doing with my entire life.

And so ends my 24 hour long panic attack. I’m still trying to figure out how I can get out of work tomorrow, and if I do go, can I make it? I can’t leave work early 2 days in a row. I don’t want people to think I’m weak, because in the hindsight of it all, I’m not. I just feel things more strongly than others. I feel life and its stresses clearer, not always in the best way, but sometimes logical when need be. I know the things I can do, the things I can’t, and the things that I’m still not sure of.

But I know I can take a selfie and look like I’m doing more than alright.

that time I ended my blog hiatus and stopped trusting medical doctors

Hey what’s up guys? I know I went on a bender and decided that I wasn’t going to blog anymore and never gave a reason. But let me explain. Have I lost everyone?

Long story short: I’m sick. About a month ago I started feeling unusually tired to the point that I was taking naps every day and getting 10 hours of sleep and still feeling tired. I attributed this to a medication I had recently increased the dose of so I stopped taking it. But it kept going.. and going.. I was sleeping my life away it felt like. And then other things started happening. I started getting weird slight vertigo, light headedness and overall muscle fatigue. My visual perception was off. I felt like I was in wonderland because everything looked so far away or too close or too small or too big than it should. I looked drunk most of the time because I was getting so clumsy (or more than usual). I felt so useless and started feeling depressed constantly. I was crying every day because I just felt like I couldn’t do anything anymore. I could barely keep my food down. Of course I asked Blob what it sounded like (yay for knowing nutritionists on a personal level) and he had no idea. I had no idea either. About 3 weeks into this, I finally decided to go to my doctor to get my blood tested because I figured that maybe I was anemic, or lacking some nutrient in my body. I was at the point where getting through my work shift was excruciatingly exhausting. Well here’s how the doctor visit went

Doc: what are you major symptoms?
Me: Well, I’ve been a lot more tired than usual, I can’t keep my food down and I feel weak and lightheaded. Can I get my blood tested? I think my vitamin D levels are low or I’m anemic or something.
Doc: Sounds like allergies. I’ve had a lot of patients have these kinds of symptoms for allergies. Drink more water and here’s a prescription for vertigo.
Me: Um… I don’t have allergies.
Doc: Then what do you think it is?
Me: (did you not just hear what I said?) I think I’m deficient in something. Can I please just get my blood tested????
Doc: …fine. But your insurance won’t cover it probably.

Did I mention that she didn’t even ask me about my diet (vegan), alcohol consumption, drug use, exercise, anything like that? Well I ended up getting my blood tested and guess who was right?

I don’t even need WebMD to figure these things out. My Vitamin D levels came back as low, and my white blood cell count abnormally high which “may indicate a viral infection.” BUT WHAT KIND OF VIRAL INFECTION WAY TO BE SPECIFIC. So here I still am with some kind of viral infection in my system and taking Vitamin D supplements which have helped a little, and now that the sun has decided to be a thing again I’ve at least managed to crawl out of my depression hole a little bit. Moral of the story? Don’t trust doctors. Go with your gut. But not mine because it’ll reject anything you put into it. Except bananas. I can eat an absurd amount of bananas without feeling sick. At least bananas are cheap so I can buy 5 pounds of them and not spend over $10 on my food for the week. Well thank god for that. By the way, did you know that bananas are actually a seed and not a fruit? Mind. Blown.

I don’t even really get depressed that much. Not depressed to the point where I wake up crying for no reason and shaking and throwing up almost daily. It’s been really great. Whatever this virus is, if you could kindly escort yourself out of my body… that’d be great. Depression for me usually last maybe a day and then the next day I’ll feel more than amazing. But this was persistent. Persistent, choking depression and anxiety that was taking over my life. Honestly, I blame the weather. I thought I lived in Maryland, not Seattle. ITS MAY WHY HAS IT BEEN RAINING AND COLD FOR THE PAST 3 WEEKS. But it’s sunny and WARM today. I’m enjoying my moment of just going outside and finally feeling the warmth of the sun hit my face.

I’m on my road to recovery, eventually. I’ve been able to play with my hula hoops a little more lately without tiring out within 30 minutes, some foods (besides bananas) don’t make me physically hurt and drain my energy, and that heavy depression cloud is starting to lift.

Some days are better than others. I’ll make it through with my unknown viral sickness. Thanks, Doc.

that time I realized that I am Jack’s cold sweat

Good days for me are the ones where I accomplish things. And by accomplish things I mean I went to the gym, ate breakfast, showered, and went to work. A really productive day would be that, but I also went to the bank, put gas in my car and even bothered to shave my legs while in the shower. That was today. I am exhausted. If I make time to see someone somewhere in the midst of all that then, damn, that was a really good day. But you know, people like me who have the most crippling social anxiety are just proud of themselves for shaving their legs or making it through the work day while maintaining a good mood.

I’m just going to tell myself that today was really productive because I studied for an exam I have this week, but really, I kind of just glanced over my notes and read them and I’m telling myself that that is better than nothing but knowing that when I get to that test, I am going to have no idea what is what. And then there’s that anxiety of knowing that but being kind of unmotivated while also overanxious about having to study in the first place. See, this is anxiety. Anxieties have anxieties and it’s always a downward spiral. So how do you stop it? Anyone?

In the past, my anxiety could be avoided by me saying goodbye to the world for a few hours while my alternate personalities take on my life for me. Now it’s just me and my brain. My overly emotional, hypersensitive, overly anxious brain. It’s a really dark place in here. Earlier this week I felt great about myself. I knew that yeah, I have a lot of issues, but damn my makeup is on point and I felt alive and free being outside playing with a hula hoop. Now I look at that hula hoop and I feel sad because I’m frustrated about it. I have social events I’m supposed to participate in this week that I’ve had several months notice about but I just can’t bring myself to go.

So I decided that eating a whole box of cookies and writing would be a better option than hooping for a bit, having a glass of wine, listening to good music and then getting some possibly well-deserved sleep. And now I’m having anxiety over the fact that I just ate a whole box of cookies and that’s why I’ve been gaining weight lately. The worst part is that anxiety isn’t even really an emotion. I don’t feel sad or depressed. Anxiety is just this state of being.

And then there’s social anxiety. In the past, I’m normally saved by alcohol. If there’s going to be alcohol involved, then yeah, I got this. Funny, charismatic Emily brought to you by Alcohol. If there’s not alcohol involved? Well.. Maybe I’m just gonna have to either bring a flask or flake at last minute. I am that notorious friend who flakes last minute. I guess that makes me what they call a “flake.” It’s not that I’m a “flake,” I just can’t do social situations that don’t involve alcohol. Clearly, I’m a social drinker.. or maybe I’m just an alcoholic. You decide. We all remember that time in Fell’s Point when I had 10 drinks and.. oh yeah that time at the Phoenix when several beers in.. and that other time when I ran away from my boyfriend at the time.. oh and I guess everyone definitely remembers that time I drank too much tequila and took some Xanax and ended up in the hospital for 3 days.

And now there’s that time when it took drinking a whole bottle of wine just to write a fucking blog post, play with my hula hoop, and say “yeah! I’ll be there tomorrow!”

I am Jack’s wasted life.