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

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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.

2017: the year of applying to Hogwarts while being an adult under a stack of pillows

Well, hey there 2017. I was going to post yesterday but I got too stuck in the black hole of WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE AND IM NEVER DRINKING AGAIN. I spent most of the day in bed. And eating. And continuing to ponder my life choices. But for real, I actually did give up drinking as my New Years resolution and so far I’m about 36 hours in. I’m doing okay. Now onto bigger things.

After the 50-something jobs I’ve applied for and 15 or more interviews I’ve gone to, I’ve realized how soul sucking all of these dead-end jobs are so maybe 2017 is the year I decide to crawl out of the hole of soul sucking retail and food service jobs and be a big girl. And apply for grad school. To do something. Like, writing? Why do I have to go to school for that when it’s something I already do? Oh yeah, your name means nothing with out a Ph.D or M.S./M.A. next to it. So okay, step 1: school research. FOUND SOME AWESOME ONES….

Oh yeah. The GRE. My recurring nightmare. Continue reading “2017: the year of applying to Hogwarts while being an adult under a stack of pillows”

The Official 2016 Wrap Up and My Unofficial Resolutions

My mom sent me an email this evening (okay like 20 minutes ago) wishing me happy new year and that she said (and I quote)

Hi! Am home this evening. No plans, but I have always hated New Years. –  too many expectations and unfulfilled resolutions. Am going to clean out my file cabinet in the den, as I always do for NY, and run the wood stove.
Yup. That’s my mom. She spends every new years eve/day cleaning out one filing cabinet in her house. Meanwhile, I’m doing laundry and plan on shaving for the first time in 2 months while consuming some NOT $5 wine and rewriting the lyrics to Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day (obviously, to be titled Wake Me Up When 2016 Ends). This may end up in a Green Day listening marathon and trying to awfully cover some Green Day songs on my guitar. Check the Instagram feed on the right side of this blog if you wanna see what happens after I’m through a couple of glasses. Sorry, Mom. I love you. I hate New Years too.
As far as resolutions go? Well, I did look back at my resolutions from last year (thank you, Facebook) and they go as follows:
1. Get back into yoga and running (I did not)
2. Stop buying $4 bottles of wine (any of previous posts will prove that didn’t happen. Sorry, but I’m a broke, unemployed alcoholic)
3. Graduate and move to Colorado (THAT I TOTALLY DID DO, where is my diploma UMBC???)
So I set some more realistic expectations for this year.
1. Seriously stop buying $4 bottles of wine
2. Reinvent my guitar career (via my room and entertaining my stuffed animals and boyfriend)
3. Overcome social anxiety (not sure how realistic that is, but we’ll see)
4. Climb a 14r. Definitely doable out here.
5. Don’t associate with sociopaths and fuckboys (definitely doable)
6. Get off of my klonopin
7. Stop vaping so I stop looking like such a douchebag
8. Not chop off my hair into a pixie cut so I regret it for the entirety of growing it out
9. Visit potential cities to move to (maybe just “city,” I’ll start with Seattle or Portland, maybe somewhere in Cali)
10. Quit therapy
11. Get serious about my writing career (you guys are reading my blog, aren’t you?)
12. Taxidermy something
13. Go to a music festival and actually have fun
Less realistic expectations:
1. Join Americorps
2. Move away from Colorado (yeeeahhhh we’ll see)
3. Overcome social anxiety (I put this in both categories, because let’s be honest, I’m such a social flaky croissant wreck)
4. Get tattooed by Kat Von D
5. Take the GRE (HAHAHAHHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
6. Quit drinking…………………………
I should really rethink these but really, I would like to thank for anyone who read my blog this year. You guys are awesome and deserve to be furiously happy with a cupcake and cherry on top. Unless you’re already there. Good for you.
And for real, RIP to everyone who died this year, especially my two 4 legged friends, Zeke and Gonzo who died in the same month.
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They didn’t like each other. But they were still my babies nonetheless and died quite tragically (Gonzo of pneumonia, and Zeke of an ear tumor).
Happy New Year everyone, I’ll be here with Xander and Finn and a bottle of wine.

A letter to my friends who think I’m a huge flake but I’m actually just a social flaky croissant shaped trainwreck

I guess that title said it all. I am the flakiest friend that if I was a pie, I would literally just crumble into a pile of dust. Pie dust. I guess you could sprinkle me on a more stable pie and then it’d be like, some serious pie on pie action. Or any kind of pastry. Except that I hate pastries. So there’s that. Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah. I’m the definition of a flake, and I don’t mean to be. I really do love my friends. They’re great people. But I have reached a point in my social anxiety where being around more than 1 person at a time (maybe 2, and that’s pushing it) is basically a nightmare for me. Get some alcohol in me and I’m fine. But otherwise I’m just a gross flaky croissant from Safeway or King Soopers (seriously Safeway, your “croissants” are just a curly lump of buttery, over salted dough with burned flakes that get f**king everywhere).

I’ll stop talking about pastries now. Because they’re gross. Especially eclairs which are basically a phallic cream filled ball of especially disgusting dough. Case in point.

I didn’t really realize how much of a flake I’ve been until D texted me and pointed out that I’ve been bailing on my friends a lot and asked me if I’m okay. Answer? Absolutely not.

It’s not that I don’t want to see my friends, I really do. Since D has been back home in Maryland the past couple weeks, I’ve been really lonely. I told myself that I was gonna use this time that he’s away as an excuse to see my friends, but instead, Netflix and my bed and a bottle of wine have been the only friends I want to see (side story: don’t drink a 1.5 liter bottle of wine in one sitting. Or attempt to. I don’t think I need to expand on that story actually. But please, for your own health and sanity, don’t do it).

I know that I should push myself to get out of the house more and socialize more, but I’m kind of just okay with not being okay right now. Yeah, social withdrawal is one of the biggest signs of depression, but by pushing myself out into the great unknown of socializing, that just makes everything worse. I’ve also reached a point where I’ve bailed on everything I was invited to this week to the point where my friends are threatening to kidnap me. I guess that’s what makes them good friends.

If you know someone with this kind of anxiety, don’t make them socialize if they’re literally hiding in bed crying about it and comparing themselves to flaky pie dough. Text them so they don’t have to talk on the phone. Bring them their favorite food and watch Netflix with them so they don’t have to leave the house. Social anxiety isn’t just being awkward around people. It’s a legitimate fear of engaging in social activities. It’s the fear of not having an escape route for when I need to climb back into my anxiety cave.

So, I’m sorry friends that I’ve bailed on every holiday thing that happened this week. This isn’t a good time for me. I love you all. Come kidnap me if you wish.

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Today sucked. It’s okay.

Ok so where should I begin without ranting too much?

Let’s just start out with when I get mad, I looked like a fat red baby about to have a tantrum (which I was, regression for the win). I can’t say anything. I know that if say even more than one sentence, then I will be screaming, crying, and possibly Hulk-like aggressiveness (not kidding, testosterone runs in my veins when I’m angry. Might explain a lot of things).

So I sat in silence.

As they told me everything that is wrong with me. Continue reading “Today sucked. It’s okay.”

that time I French kissed a goat

But actually I kind of did. Goat selfies all day. This is Malcolm.

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Some days you just have to push yourself out of bed to do the simplest things. Even if it’s just reaching for your laptop so that you can read over notes from class for a test, or get up and make yourself coffee.

Today was a lot different. I got out of bed for social interaction right off the bat. And it was totally worth it.

Big group outings are not my thing, obviously. As the socially anxious person that I am, group outings are terrifying even if I know everyone there. Today was just a day out with my coworkers who I am totally comfortable with at work and usually I enjoy their company outside of working. You guys are great, really. Despite my hatred of hardcore vegans, some of us are actually pretty chill about it. And get way too excited when we find vegan donuts (that was them, not me. I’m the freak that doesn’t like donuts), play with farm animals for a few hours, and binge on veggie sushi (who said that you can’t od on vegetables? I mean maybe you can). Us vegans can be very chill creatures. We just like animals.

So anyway, I woke up this morning and told myself “Yeah, you can go out!” And I did. Wow. We all made a trek down to a farm animal sanctuary to visit some rescued farm animals and I have to say that it was totally worth all the anxiety I had about getting out of the house. And yes it’s true: a goat totally licked me on the mouth as I was kissing it. I’ve always loved goats. As a kid, my mom worked on a farm that had about 20 goats, a cow and several ducks and geese. My favorite thing to do was hang out with the goats, which today then brought out the goat lover that I am. And animal lover. And I never wanted to ever say this, I understand this whole “being vegan” thing now. Not that that actually has anything to do with how I eat, but embracing that vegan lifestyle is really about loving all animals in every way you can. That includes hangin’ with some farm animals. I can’t argue with that.

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Yep, that is me cuddling with a goat. He was happy. I was happy. Anxiety gone. I could do this everyday. Thanks to Sara E. for the photo.

What else happened today? I signed a lease for an apartment in Colorado. As of August, I am actually going to be living in Colorado! There’s plenty of farms with goats there too, right? Being outside makes me feel more alive than I ever have (despite the wicked sunburn I got. I’m actually a lobster) and oh boy will I get outside into the beautiful Colorado mountains whenever I’m able to once I’m there. Adventure is out there! I just had to make that big step.

I guess I could say that today was a good day. That’s really all I need in my life right now: good days, one at a time.

This post is brought to you by me finding several missing pieces of myself in a single day. Without alcohol.