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Trying to change my normal

RumTom

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I've just joined the forum having realised my anxiety is a problem. I thought it would be good to be part of a community (something I've always avoided in the offline world) I suppose it would be nice to know how people deal with similar issues to me.

I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder last year. It now turns out I wasn't just shy but had suffered with this my whole life, to the point that I'm realising that a lot of the things I do aren't normal - such as avoiding social situations (or getting very drunk in that situation to have the lack of inhibitions to deal with other people); worrying for days about minor events; being unable to make phone calls out of fear.

I've managed to have jobs, friends, a wife, kids etc but every one of those things I find stressful. I love my job but hate going to work because of the worry that I might encounter an awkward social situation. I love my kids and like taking them to the park but dread bumping into anyone else. I will only meet friends in quiet places where there will be few people around. I enjoyed my wedding day (making it clear I would not be making a speech) until the moment I was handed the microphone in front of everyone and was barely able to talk.

I have let people down on many occasions by not meeting up as planned or finding ways to get out of social events. When I do stuff like that I generally keep really busy around the house - cleaning; DIY; exercise - so that it feels like I've still doing something and don't feel so guilty.

Anyway, this has been 30 years coming and I feel like I've wasted a lot of my life not living life, and not really realising it. I hope I can find ways to try and overcome some of the struggles to start making the most of life!
 

triceps

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Welcome RumTom. I too have GAD and started dealing with it after being diagnosed in my late 20's. Definitely effected my entire childhood although I really didn't know anxiety was the cause. Unfortunately I am still dealing with it in my late 60's. However, there are many more treatment options than I had and am confident you'll fare better than me. Again, welcome, this is a great resource here with great folks who have compassion and understanding of your struggles.
 

MakUSA

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Welcome RumTom, you are not alone. This is the right place to be.
 

RumTom

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I just realised there is an Introductions section - I just saw this and jumped straight in. Thanks for the replies.

What strategies have people found work for them when dealing with social situations? I've been having CBT sessions for over a year and I have found the therapy beneficial in some ways but generally have found I'm no better in social situations and that challenging myself in those situations ends up with me confirming my fear that I can't cope in social situations!

If anyone has found any other techniques that may help I'd be glad to hear them.
 

LotusTree

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It’s been recommended that if you focus less on yourself and more on others that’s a good strategy => ask them questions about themselves because most people like to talk about themselves. And you never know who might be struggling as much inside; people don’t always display it on the outside.
 

Jonathan123

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I just realised there is an Introductions section - I just saw this and jumped straight in. Thanks for the replies.

What strategies have people found work for them when dealing with social situations? I've been having CBT sessions for over a year and I have found the therapy beneficial in some ways but generally have found I'm no better in social situations and that challenging myself in those situations ends up with me confirming my fear that I can't cope in social situations!

If anyone has found any other techniques that may help I'd be glad to hear them.
Hi there, and again a warm welcome. It matters not how you got here but you are here and that's what matters. The guys on this site are great and you will find no judgement or criticism here.
Social anxiety is mostly the lack of self worth, self esteem, but there can be many other reasons for it. Childhood problems can cause it if we come from a dysfunctional household.
What really matters to sufferers is 'what do others think about me'. The other factor is lack of confidence in ones abilities. When you look around don't believe that everyone is self confident and capable. So many suffer as you do, and mostly in silence because they believe it's a weakness or childish, which it decidedly is not! Now for the bad news! There is really only one cure for this problem and that is to do it, no matter how you feel. You need to break through the barrier of self doubt which is keeping you trapped in SA. Not all at once, but do it in steps. Go out but only stay for short periods until you slowly retain confidence. The good news is that counselling can help a lot in this problem. So many good things in life are lost to SA. Does it really matter what others think? You are you, a one off, unique, and have as much right to be here as anyone else.
And once again the word 'struggle' comes up. It's about the last thing you want to do. SA is an anxiety disorder and struggling with it only makes it worse. Accept for the moment you will be like this, but grasp the nettle and try, I say try because I realise how difficult it can be. But making some effort however small is a beginning.
 

MATD

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You are your own worst enemy!. Listen to what you said! “I’m no better in social situations and that challenging myself in those situations ends up with me CONFIRMING MY FEAR THAT I CAN’T COPE in social situations.” This is why. By speaking to yourself in this manner, self defeating, you will never get beyond it. Instead, change your attitude to one of positivity. When you go into a social situation, have no expectations, leave them at the door. You aren’t there to be put on display, but to just enjoy a casual conversation. Stop expecting yourself to be more than you can be in that moment. Give yourself CREDIT for trying, stop JUDGING your performance. Don’t sentence yourself to a life of misery over one encounter. I’m trying to impress on you that your statement is exactly why you can’t cope. You aren’t giving yourself credit, you are judging yourself. No one could possibly succeed with that mind set. Time to change it, cause it’s keeping you down. Listen to Jonathan.
 

Cuchculan

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One thing I always tell myself is there is no rush to do anything. Why? Because with anxiety we always tend to want to get everything done so quickly. This is were we can mess up. For years I would stutter my way through social situations. Meaning I didn't actually have a stutter. But in a shop it simply happened. Because I was anxious talking to a worker or whoever. Then I told myself to slow down. Take a step backwards. It is not a race. In other words things would be done at my own pace. If that meant others had to wait until I was ready to talk, then so be it. Bit like that back control of things. That stutter went away. Which in turn gave me more confidence. These days I am fine in shops. Talk the hind legs off a donkey. Used to be bad on the phone too. All is good now. Same approach. Deep breath. Step backwards. Slow everything down. Do things at my own pace. Meaning no pressure at all. Can be all about how we view things. What we imagine others expect of us. That is putting pressure on ourselves to be that person we imagine others want us to be. When we stop doing that we release all that pressure. Just be your true self. I honestly don't care what people think of me. Gave up doing that and started to improve in many ways in life.
 

MATD

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One thing I always tell myself is there is no rush to do anything. Why? Because with anxiety we always tend to want to get everything done so quickly. This is were we can mess up. For years I would stutter my way through social situations. Meaning I didn't actually have a stutter. But in a shop it simply happened. Because I was anxious talking to a worker or whoever. Then I told myself to slow down. Take a step backwards. It is not a race. In other words things would be done at my own pace. If that meant others had to wait until I was ready to talk, then so be it. Bit like that back control of things. That stutter went away. Which in turn gave me more confidence. These days I am fine in shops. Talk the hind legs off a donkey. Used to be bad on the phone too. All is good now. Same approach. Deep breath. Step backwards. Slow everything down. Do things at my own pace. Meaning no pressure at all. Can be all about how we view things. What we imagine others expect of us. That is putting pressure on ourselves to be that person we imagine others want us to be. When we stop doing that we release all that pressure. Just be your true self. I honestly don't care what people think of me. Gave up doing that and started to improve in many ways in life.
Very good advice
 

Jonathan123

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You are your own worst enemy!. Listen to what you said! “I’m no better in social situations and that challenging myself in those situations ends up with me CONFIRMING MY FEAR THAT I CAN’T COPE in social situations.” This is why. By speaking to yourself in this manner, self defeating, you will never get beyond it. Instead, change your attitude to one of positivity. When you go into a social situation, have no expectations, leave them at the door. You aren’t there to be put on display, but to just enjoy a casual conversation. Stop expecting yourself to be more than you can be in that moment. Give yourself CREDIT for trying, stop JUDGING your performance. Don’t sentence yourself to a life of misery over one encounter. I’m trying to impress on you that your statement is exactly why you can’t cope. You aren’t giving yourself credit, you are judging yourself. No one could possibly succeed with that mind set. Time to change it, cause it’s keeping you down. Listen to Jonathan.
Absolutely!!! Thanks MAT!. Self defeatism is so common in anxiety. We impress upon ourselves it can't be done, and so the mind shuts off from any positive approach.
 

RumTom

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Some really great advice there.

MATD - I had thought I was doing the right thing by putting myself in those situations I feel awkward in but you're right - and I had never thought of it that way before - all I was doing is using that as an opportunity to embed that bad things can happen. It feels impossible at the moment after decades of coping through avoidance. In fact, my anxiety extends to the online world too strangely. I don't think I've ever posted in a forum before - for the same reasons as in life, I think the replies will be negative or no one will reply. I need to change that mindset, and by posting here that actually does feel like an achievement for me.

Cuchculan - As for the advice about slowing down, that is something I definitely need to follow. Going into social situations I am wound up with things to say or do to not feel awkward, then I'm completely unprepared if things change as I'm so focused on what I went in to do. I have started taking medication (pregabalin) which does actually seem to be helping in day to day life - I feel able to slow down around the house. Although I still haven't put my social skills into practice for a while!

Jonathan - Really sound advice, thank you. Self esteem is an issue!

Does anyone find any benefit in doing mindfulness exercises?
 

MATD

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The fact that you posted here shows COURAGE. I’m sorry I had to call you out on your attitude. But I felt I needed to bring it to your attention to show you what you were doing to yourself. I am definitely on your side. Do you remember seeing hysterical women get slapped in the face in old movies to get their attention? Consider that’s what my intention was, to get your attention. To get involved with being social again, take it in small steps and leave your expectations out of it. You don’t have to be the life of the party or the smartest guy in the group. All that is required is that you be you. If all you can offer in a situation is a small laugh or some small statement, that’s good enough. Give yourself CREDIT for trying. That’s good enough. Don’t expect miracles on your first try, just continue in small steps and I guarantee these will turn into bigger ones. DO NOT CRITICIZE YOURSELF, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t develop your confidence in a day either. GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF TIME.
 

Jonathan123

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Yes indeed Mat. Be yourself! So many try and put on an act to please others. In the old days of Greek tragedy one actor would play all the parts, and would come on stage wearing a different mask to suit whatever part he was playing. We tend to do that. If we remove all the masks and be ourselves life would be much easier. The masks are not us. It's what others have placed on us over the years. We will never please all the people all of the time so it's not worth trying. If we act out of kindness and consideration for others we can do no more. If we offer those virtues and they are rejected it's not our problem. If they write on my tombstone 'He did his best' that will be good enough for me.
 

RumTom

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I nearly started with "I wish I had joined this forum long ago" - but caught myself. The negative use of language is so ingrained so I am trying to pick up on it. Firstly, I can't change the fact I didn't join long ago and secondly, trying to be in the present. So, thanks for the slap in the face - it's been beneficial!

I suppose with lack of self esteem and coping mechanisms for anxiety pleasing people becomes an easy option - less chance of confrontation or social awkwardness and also makes it easier to fit in. And, like you say Mat, I don't need to try and be someone I'm not to overcome this. Acceptance of who I am is a good starting point.

I've recently started, through therapy, trying to name feelings and thoughts. I've found it really helpful in understanding my anxiety, and metaphors and visual imagery seem to work well for me when trying to get to grips with things. The masks comparison is a good way of seeing how it has shaped me, and I thought it was so normal to behave in that way. I assumed everyone did it, and perhaps people do to a certain extent but what has happened is I put my life aside for the sake of avoiding situations that felt uncomfortable.

I'm definitely trying to make sense of it all and get to grips with it. There is still plenty of life to live so I want to get the most out of it.
I read an article in the paper today about Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I'm not particularly into football but I read his autobiography and he has had a tough upbringing and is a fascinating person!) , who had a good philosophy about not worrying about the past, not thinking too far ahead, just enjoying the present - even the pain he is experiencing. It seemed a good outlook.
 

Jonathan123

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Jung used metaphors and visual therapy a lot in his treatment of patients. The metaphor can mean a lot because it tends to put things into perspective. Jung felt that day dreams were as important as night ones. When we day dream, just sit and think, maybe negative thoughts, these can be helpful when explained. We can liken the mind in anxiety to the hard drive on a computer. It becomes fragmented and needs defragmenting. The bits of thoughts and messages are all over the place. The expression 'pull yourself together', although used in the wrong way can be hurtful, it can also be true. It's just what we need to do but find so very difficult.
 

Stevenmark

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I want to know about the anxiety and air pollution relation. I have heard about the device name air purifiers that are great to remove indoor air pollutants. clean indoor air plays a great role in reducing anxiety and other health-related problems. So, I need suggestions about this?
 

RumTom

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Jung used metaphors and visual therapy a lot in his treatment of patients. The metaphor can mean a lot because it tends to put things into perspective. Jung felt that day dreams were as important as night ones. When we day dream, just sit and think, maybe negative thoughts, these can be helpful when explained. We can liken the mind in anxiety to the hard drive on a computer. It becomes fragmented and needs defragmenting. The bits of thoughts and messages are all over the place. The expression 'pull yourself together', although used in the wrong way can be hurtful, it can also be true. It's just what we need to do but find so very difficult.
I heard a radio programme recently which was discussing the purpose of doing nothing. The example they gave was an experiment in Germany (I think) in which two sets of people had to sit an exam. The first was given one chance to read up on the exam and then spent the rest of the time before the exam relaxing. The second set had the same time to revise, and then a second opportunity with no time to relax. The first set did better. Quite a simple idea and I can't recall the full experiment but the gist of it was that people do need time to process information, and although it may seem that they were doing nothing it presumably gave time for their minds to deal with that information.

I think it was on Matthew Syed's Sideways programme (which is really worth a listen if you've not yet heard it). Another programme on the same series was talking about how not focusing all your energy on one task can be more effective. So sportsman that only train for that particular task may actually benefit from spending time doing something completely unrelated. Firstly, any skill teaches us things and that may prove helpful in sport and also it means you go back to sport with a renewed energy.

I will read more Jung though. I only really know about his collective unconscious from doing history at uni many years ago now!
 

loggiemod

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In my younger days when I was revising for exams I always made a point of finishing at 9pm the night before and then doing something like watching TV to relax and always felt I was better rested for the exam the next day.
 

Jonathan123

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I heard a radio programme recently which was discussing the purpose of doing nothing. The example they gave was an experiment in Germany (I think) in which two sets of people had to sit an exam. The first was given one chance to read up on the exam and then spent the rest of the time before the exam relaxing. The second set had the same time to revise, and then a second opportunity with no time to relax. The first set did better. Quite a simple idea and I can't recall the full experiment but the gist of it was that people do need time to process information, and although it may seem that they were doing nothing it presumably gave time for their minds to deal with that information.

I think it was on Matthew Syed's Sideways programme (which is really worth a listen if you've not yet heard it). Another programme on the same series was talking about how not focusing all your energy on one task can be more effective. So sportsman that only train for that particular task may actually benefit from spending time doing something completely unrelated. Firstly, any skill teaches us things and that may prove helpful in sport and also it means you go back to sport with a renewed energy.

I will read more Jung though. I only really know about his collective unconscious from doing history at uni many years ago now!
Thanks for that. I am glad you mentioned Jung's theory of the collective unconscious. I refrain from talking too much about Jung and others because they can be difficult to understand, and I don't want to overload an already anxious mind. They do require concentration and that can be very difficult in anxiety. The collective idea is somewhat Buddhist. We are all one in a very real sense.
John Dunne said 'No man is an island' and he was right. We rely on each other. If a Chinaman has a specific dream it's meaning can be the same as if a Westerner had that dream. A mother's grief for a child killed in Afghanistan is the same as that of a child killed here or anywhere else. Some would think it is not, and that is cruel. Unconditional Love is collective and universal. The idea of 'synchronicity' is also Jungian. Nothing happens by chance. 'Meaningful coincidences' are happenings that are linked together. I am not writing this by chance or talking to you by chance. This is not fatalism which is different. Where there is a need it will be met in one way or another, if we allow it to. Our problem is that we tend to block any real help because the feelings of anxiety are so strong.
By accepting we open a way for recovery. I am a great believer in causes. There is always a cause for anxiety which may often be difficult to find. Psychotherapy is designed to find those causes and bring them out into the light of the conscious mind so they can be dealt with. This can be a painful process and one so many shy away from. PTSD is a good example of repressed memory. But that's another story.
 
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