Hi everyone! How are you? On my last post HERE I asked for your help in whether or not I should post this. I told you how nervous I have been about admitting in the past how I had bad social anxiety and my reasons why I tried to label it as just being “shy”. Following that post I received such lovely comments that bit away at my nerves so much that I wrote this introduction and realized that this post could truly help someone and that there is nothing wrong with admitting it at all. Only good can come of it so here it goes!
Before I start, know that this is incredibly difficult for me to even think about (you probably already know that 🙈😂) it’s something I have tried to avoid as its not nice to think pain has somewhat changed me. It changed me into a more socially awkward person than I was but after a couple of years it made me stronger and brought me back to being shy again (and shyness has always been a part of me I have accepted).
For as long as I can remember I have always found social interactions tough. I have a distant memory of 4 year old me in junior infants being upset about not being able to find the right words and feeling like my feet were stuck to the ground. I would continuously run off to find my sister at lunch who I didn’t want to annoy but could not see any other way without bursting into tears. It did not get any easier when my family and I moved over to Ireland and I started a new school where yet again I was regarded as the “shy” one. Whenever I tried to speak throughout my whole time leading up to and including the half time I was in secondary school hardly anything would come out as in my head nothing sounded appropriate and I could find fault in it all. In classes I was perfectly fine reading out loud in a clear voice that I could tell surprised some 😂 but one on one conversations with others was terrifying. The perfect thing to say always seemed to come when the conversation had died out. When I was little before I was diagnosed with reflux I would throw up on the way to school because of my nerves (don’t worry I have reflux tablets to stop that now 😂 although I still get nervous and feel pukey even when I’m on my way to see my friend).
Even before I started getting symptoms of my Undiagnosed Chronic Illness (when I was 10/11) my life wasn’t empty of the pain that kept me from being in social situations. my reflux, TMJ (which I wrote of how I got HERE and was only diagnosed with a year or so ago) were starting to go strong alonside it. I used to think everyone felt my various migraines, chronic fatigue, joint pains and twitches/fizzes and that they were normal until I realized there was something sinister going on and I delved into feeling not like everyone else around me, especially when I couldn’t be told what was wrong with me. It was never a simple routine check-up with answers and I hated/and still do hate having to describe it in person to someone who doesn’t understand that not everyone can be told straight away what is wrong with them. What could I say “Some of us have to wait 7/8 years?” 😂. Alongside missing school because of my flare-ups and appointments my mum was unwell on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant (which at the time we did not believe she would receive as she was getting really sick) we would travel up to the IKA (Irish Kidney association) centre by her hospital and stay there every so often while she was having her treatment (she was on a home machine so it would all be checked over) before she received her kidney in 2011 after 5 years of waiting! (I wrote of the magical night HERE). I didn’t hang out with many people my age and I was wrongly okay with that as I was anxious about it anyway.
When I started being homeschooled because of my illness I started to worry that things would never change and I would never be comfortable around/or even get out to see other people. At this point I was unable to go into school as my pain had gotten worse and I suprisingly started to think “I want to be around people my age and I don’t care about how it used to make me feel. If I can feel this pain then I can surely go out there and find a way to be more confident”. My pain started to make me stronger. I would go days and weeks without seeing people’s faces (other than my family,my tutor and friends) and it couldn’t and still can’t be helped. All of it gave me time to lay there and think (I couldn’t move so it’s like my body was saying “you’re going to lie here and learn how cope right now! 😂”), I would think about my future and how I don’t want it to be. I don’t want to be forever cooped up with pain and there’s nothing I can change about the days where that does happen but it makes me savour the moments when I am able to go out and walk with my shoulders back and head held high (my mum always used to say “shoulders back tits out!!” 🙈 (Can’t believe I wrote that) 😂 Really loud as soon as we set foot in a shop so I guess I automatically do it now so as to avoid that! 😂).
I have mentioned on here before that I always feel like I go on and on when I speak (even if other people don’t seem to notice) because of my British accent. I feel out of place and like people talk faster than me over here and I’m dragging the words out. I do feel like I will never get the chance to fully pull myself out of finding socializing hard because it’s not like I can go to college (as I found out the hard way my body can’t hack it because of my pain),living in the countryside there is also nowhere to go and my health is not on my side to make the decision. I’m not standing still in my life though. I am going to start my home course I wrote of HERE and am so excited to get going on it.
I don’t think I will ever be an incredibly social person and I’m okay with that as it’s not in me to want to be that way but I know for sure that I overcame the majority of my social anxiety. Even though I can tell you it used to be much worse and there is always going to be a situation where it comes back again because I’m not exposed to many social situations to be able to know or not if it’s fully gone, I know that I find them easier. I want to be able to walk in somewhere by myself and that is my next step for when I feel okay. I can already do things I would never have thought possible, I can ask for help in shops (I asked a shop assistant where the salad cream was after looking for it and she turned and they were stacked up tall and proud right next to us 🙈😂 we both laughed and I actually didn’t find it embarrassing just very funny 😂), I can speak on the phone which I hate doing anyway 😂 (I was on the phone to my friend the other day and I was so proud with myself afterwards for the lack of silence on my part 😂), I can hold eye contact! (I don’t know when this happened but it’s one of those things where you give yourself an invisible pat on the back 😂), I also smile at anyone I catch looking at me (unless it would be weird to do so of course! 😂 Occasionally people stare rudely as to some I look out of place here being mixed race and then I open my mouth and have a strong British accent which I’m always nervous about and if you just smile back at them they look embarrassed 😂) Once I smiled at a stranger at a friend’s party after it was quiet when I went inside, I blurted out “it’s freezing” and she offered me tea and later my dad told me she had said I was beautiful and have a lovely smile 🙈…I never heard the end of that one from my family! 😂. The thing that has come as the biggest surprise to me is that I started this blog though! In the past I wouldn’t have been able to even write to a stranger let alone speak like this so I believe this is a massive turning point for me. I dream of one day meeting my blogging friends and the amazing thing is, in this dream I’m not nervous, I feel like I already know you and if I keep calm and focus on not letting my mind get the better of me I will be okay.
I find that if I focus on one thing at a time leading up to a moment around people it is easier. I’m fine in shops and stuff (because then you’re buying stuff! 😂) and when I’m not on my own (as I can be myself when I’m around people who know me) but if I’m going to a friend’s house (I still feel anxious and pukey about this in the car on the way there and breathing techniques just make it worse 😂 but as soon as I see her I’m fine!) or on the days I did get into college I focused on the door as I walked up and channeled my worry into whether or not i would push or pull as it’s one of those stupid ones with no sign 😂 and then once I was inside I would try not to let my eyes fall to the floor, I would look up and take in my surroundings. If I catched anyone’s eye and they looked friendly I would smile at them (this calms me for some reason, especially when they smile back! 😂) and I emptied my mind before it did so itself leaving me with enough space to think of what I would do next. It’s all steps. It’s hard not to think of the next one and get nervous about what is to come. The few days I was in college I would get in and focus on the work and try not to worry about the people. The tutor would ask us to do group work and I would find myself turning to them and putting on an act. Its all an act and that’s all it has to be until you believe in yourself enough to realize you are behind the act, you are talking, you’re not being quiet and you’ve got this! I would turn to them and just talk about the work and relax as I realized it wasnt as hard as my mind had built it up to be. I would never start a conversation only if we were asked to which I hope I will one day find the courage to do. In the classes I would feel my pain coming on and I would get annoyed with myself for how tense I thought my words sounded but I didn’t give up. I would collapse when we got home 😂 but I would be proud of myself for achieving what in my eyes had been the unachievable. One day when I have my diagnosis I will hopefully walk into a place on my own and feel in control of what I am doing and not like my time will be cut short because i feel unwell. I will have time to practice how to cope more and not have an outer body experience that horribly mirrors how I feel when I’m in bed unable to move and begging for it all to disappear.
I’m glad my pain has helped me overcome the largest portion of my social anxiety. Because it’s the last thing I need ontop of it. The hardest but best thing to do through anything in life is to not ignore the reality of the situation. I worry that if I ever do receive a diagnosis I will revert back into social anxiety as I’m used to the pain as I’ve had it for years, it feels strange when I’m okay but I know that I am stronger with or without it because I am going through it. Even if it cannot be seen as I have learnt that even if your pain is physical it doesn’t mean you are believed or treated the way you deserve. I hope I can spread awareness of what it is like to be undiagnosed and help people going through anything at all stand up and know that if something is not right (no matter what other people may or may not think) you deserve to be heard and respected.
Thank you for reading! 😉💗 Have a lovely day!