Oct 29, 2008

Overcoming social anxiety?

I got a few emails lately from people thanking me about the blog and hoping to follow my steps in overcoming social anxiety. I know I heard this before and I didn't believe it and I know that probably the people dealing with this will feel that overcoming SA is the right way out of their misery, but I did not overcome it. It's still there, every day, every encounter. I just don't beat myself up over it. I'm OK with it and with myself.

I thought that the way out of it was to have at least one close friend, and I tried and I'm still trying to get there. I made a few tries and never quite got to it. Part of it (maybe the biggest part) is that I don't really have time to dedicate to a friendship. Maybe I created this lifestyle to avoid getting to close. It seems to be a pattern either in my choice of friends or in the way I am interacting with them. But that's fine. I just go on and try other people and other ways.

I also hate telephones. They are perfect for getting things done, clarify stuff, setting a meeting, managing an activity and keeping everyone in the loop, but just talking? It seems that anytime I try it, there is a bad signal, there is no return of calls after leaving a message, it's the wrong time, etc. Plus, I like to drive when I'm driving, work while at work, eat dinner with family and spend time with my kid when I'm around. This leaves open the between 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM... who would talk to you then... oh and did I mention that I also like to sleep at night? What a solid argument for avoiding yet another means of interaction!! See? I did not overcome social anxiety. I just accept it as part of who I am. It is my charm!

In conclusion, my advice is to not look for overcoming anxiety, but accepting it. Once you accept yourself for what you are, you become less tense and you do your best in most situations.

Oct 19, 2008

Another overview post

I've been slow to write lately and I would so much love to restart writing. I want to write about life and work, not necessary on this blog, but I'll keep you guys updated once I get started somewhere else. This post is another overview of my journey in beating anxiety.

  • Educate yourself. The first thing I did was to figure out what's wrong and read a book about it. At the time I realized that I need to figure out what's with me because nobody else can figure it for me.
  • Find a buddy. Next, I educated and engaged my immediate family in my fight with social anxiety. I think it is impossible to do it by yourself. Either a family member or a friend or even an Internet forum would work for that. You need a buddy.
  • Find professionals to help. The next step was to talk to my doctor and find a therapist. This part took a long time for me because I was also dealing with a difficult pregnancy.
  • Identify and stop the emotional dips. When I started therapy, for months and months, we just discussed the latest drama du jour. We wouldn't talk about anything else because there was always some crisis that I was in: work, family, friends, etc. there was drama everywhere. One of the most important things that I did was to drop friends and causes that made me have highs and lows: I stopped talking to friends that were depressed and were pulling me down, I dropped relations that I was too involved in: the kind where you check your email every five minutes to see if there's an answer, I dared to say no to social engagements that were making me uncomfortable. I just gave myself a break! That was a great way to work on SA. Once the main issues out of the way you can tackle issues one by one and take on only how much you can carry.
  • Add challenges. I am a fighter, I'm always finding something to challenge myself, so this is not a struggle for me. The struggle is to not drop the ideas after the first disappointment. We had parties and I worked on my relationships at work, but the biggest challenge and the most successful was to start writing this blog.
  • Open up. The person that inspired me to start writing the blog, Paul Levy, was the one person that paid attention to me and had a kind word for me throughout my journey. His fight for transparency in his hospital operation taught me that openness and transparency is the right way to work on my own issues. This was confirmed by Irvin Yalom's book. I told friends about the blog. I never got a negative reaction. Some were just quiet about it, but mostly I got some very friendly feedback.
  • Ease the guilty feeling. I realized that my worst moments happen when I feel guilty: that I don't talk enough, that I'm too shy, that I'm not doing enough stuff around the house, that I'm not spending enough time with the baby, that I'm not working enough hours. The guilt just paralyzes you and it's useless. Once I gave myself permission to be shy and quiet and nice, and realized that I did spend as much time as I could both working and with the family and that there's not more time than that, things just became easier. I'm shy, so what? I'm quiet, so what? I said a stupid thing! Oh, well, it happens to everyone.
  • Define your dream. Spend time to think about your priorities in life, what you want to do. Dream big! Write it down, find things that you can do next week to help you get there, collect pictures and articles about it. Simply allowing yourself to think about your dreams will make you feel better, but making progress toward it it's possible too. It's important to know what's meaningful to you and go for it!
  • Drop the fear. What are you fearful of: What other people say? That you'll lose your money, house, car, retirement money? That you will lose your job? That you will be killed? That you will get sick? That your partner cheats on you? At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. We all will live less than 100 years unless you're really lucky. Money is an illusion. Other people mind about their own business more than about you, and if they mind about you for a minute, they will forget it right away. I've been in that anxiety free land for about a week or two and it was great. I aim to get back there.
I think that's it! This helped me. It's a journey that never ends. I am still working through most of these items. There is no end!

Good luck to all of you!