Social Anxiety stole my personality, or did it?

Katy asked on Facebook, “Does anyone with social anxiety feel like they have no personality? I feel like social anxiety and depression from an early age has taken my personality or it didn’t grow like other people’s.”

fb question
This comment got 56 likes and 35 comments, so obviously Katy is not alone.

And I could personally¬†relate to that question myself…In fact I used to worry about how anxiety affected my personality a lot when I was younger.

Today I am going to show you how I can be all pity potty about something like this and also how I can help myself and not get sucked into negativity. Today we will use the Pity Pot Monster and the good and benevolent Voice of Reason. This should be interesting and I hope helpful to you as well ūüėČ

Let me start by saying I am feeling better after being sick for a month, and man did my anxiety ever kick up while I was not feeling well. It really sucked! ūüôĀ

I remember being at work in the throws of feeling anxious as if I was on the very brink of sanity. I remember feeling so scared of being there and wondering could I handle staying at work for the duration of my shift. Being so all consumed with the tortuous thoughts. Those old repetitive thoughts that play over and over in my head like a broken record that, when I’m vulnerable can render me almost incapacitated, feeling like I look like a blithering idiot.¬† And in the background I could hear people talking and laughing and joking and carrying on. I recall wishing so badly that I could join in and feel light and free, but I¬†could not.

And even when the acute feelings of irrational fear would pass, how I still could not shake off the social jitters. I was aware of feeling socially awkward and not feeling capable of holding a rational conversation. It really was a sad thing, it felt so isolating to be trapped and alone in fear and misery.

Like Katy above, I too have had times in my life when I thought I didn’t have a personality. I too felt it had been stolen because of this awful thing anxiety.

Pity pot: Poor me. I have it so bad. My anxiety is a tremendous crutch and a burden. I have suffered for decades and it looks like there’s¬†no end in sight. When everyone was socializing at work and I was mute, this was proof I have no personality.

Voice of Reason: That’s a bunch of crap Jill. Anxiety has certainly been your cross to bear. And when it acts up acutely, this is the time to buckle down and be vigilant with your mind. You have wonderful books to reference and all sorts of self help tools to use.

That you continued to feel bad week after week was certainly part of being sick and under the weather. But think about it, did you really do everything in your power to help yourself?

Jill: Uh, no. Not really. I just laid around and felt like crap and let the crap feelings compound on themselves. To the point where I felt so anxious I was truly miserable.

Voice of Reason:  Bingo.

be kind to yourself

During this month of hell I also did a few rounds with acute loneliness. I felt very distant¬†from my sister. When we did talk over the last month, it was really just surface level conversation, how is the wife, how are her¬†kids, are you good, ok, yes we’re good, ok¬†then¬†have a good week…

I also felt isolated from my husband. He is all consumed with his health woes and job stress and honestly after 20 plus years together, he is set in his ways. He is a good person, but not what you would call a soft spot to fall. If I ever have something going on, it could just never compare to how bad he has it. Even when I was sick with 101 fever and out of work, all conversations turn to him and what he goes through. While I feel bad for him, I truly get sick of hearing about how bad his life is. Especially since he really doesn’t do anything to help himself, except complain and get depressed.

During the peak of feeling sick I truly felt I wanted to¬†divorce his ass. Not that I had the energy to do it, but I just was so done with him and his misery. I had enough of my own for god’s sake…

Pity pot:  Oh you poor thing. No one understands you. No one. Not your sister, not your husband. You are truly all alone in this cold cruel world.

Voice of Reason: Well it certainly feels that way, especially when you are in a downward spiral. But listen to me, and I know this sounds harsh, but¬†you get what you give. When you treat your sister or your husband with silence and don’t say what you really feel, you lose. You close yourself off from any real connections. And you may not love how Bob acts but he has been through a hell of a lot in the past few years.¬†You still have to be kind to him.

If Bob thinks he’s sicker than you, that’s ok!¬†So he wins the sick contest. Do you really want to win that one¬†anyways?

Jill: uh, no. Of course not.

Voice of Reason: Tell me, what did you do when you were feeling so out of touch with others and so lonely? Did you ask your sister to talk to you when you were down and out? Did you make any phone calls to her?

Jill: No I laid on the couch and felt miserable and watched a lot of TV and felt sorry for myself. I waited for her to call me on the weekends and then felt angry because I never said anything to her about how I was feeling.

Voice of Reason: Bingo.

Back to the Facebook question. Here is a statement that I can really relate to:

fb reply

The thing with me and my anxiety is I feel I am always hiding. Hiding who I really am, what I really feel. Hiding from the outside world. When It is bad, I put on a false mask faking that everything is ok. But I can’t interact and feel I either come off as boring, disinterested, or worse, stuck up.

On the other hand, when I am not anxious, I think i have a pretty ok personality. I find a lot of things funny, I love to relate and interact with my friends and acquaintances. Like Claire, I too feel I would have been a social butterfly if not for stupid anxiety..

Pity pot:¬†¬†Your life is ruined because you hide from the world. What a horrible thing to bear. No one has it as bad as you….No one understands you or can relate to you. Your life really sucks!!.

Voice of Reason: You are not boring, disinterested in other people, or stuck up. Again, those are just negative feelings. Do not go there. Do not beat yourself up when you are down. Do not listen in to the Pitty Pot monster. You do not hide from the world, you just go quiet sometimes. Its not a mortal sin. And your life doesn’t suck either.

It’s just that, when you are in crisis, your objective is to stay laser focused on the present. If you fail in one moment, you can try again in the next moment. Stay focused on the here and now. Some days are harder than others, and some times are harder than others. That is the nature of life. This is nothing you can’t handle or can’t bounce back from.

You will have plently of opportunities to laugh and interact when your body returns back to its state of relaxation and you are not so anxious.

You know that these times always pass and you always feel better again.

Jill: Thanks I feel better. I know I have so much to be grateful for, not the least of which is that this sickness passed. I have my health back and today is sunny and beautiful. I don’t feel anxious at all.

Thank you for helping me get my perspective back. Things are better again, and Spring is coming too – hurray! ūüėÄ

And you, can you relate to feeling like anxiety has affected your personality? Can you see that you do yourself no favors by giving into pity and despair? Can you see that once an acute anxiety episode has passed and your body can relax again, you feel more like yourself? Can you see how if you are kind to yourself and others while going through an anxious time, how this can only help make things easier?

I wish you peace,

JIll

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