Reblogged: Finding You

In the blog-post linked below, the writer discusses, from personal experience, the importance of “choosing oneself,” by valuing oneself independently of others’ judgement. Emotional self-sufficiency and self-worth are, the writer suggests, the path to contentedness. Whilst short on information on the process of overcoming fear, the writer is insistent that taking responsibility and action is vital.

The writer says that she spent 30 years of her life, in the US, trying to find a “home in herself.” Outwardly, she was successful and happy but much of this was a performance to hide her fears and what she describes as an “inferiority complex”: “I put everyone’s approval above my own. I put the party above my own needs. I put everyone else’s expectations above my own for myself. I put everyone else’s likes and dislikes before my own, molding myself to whatever I thought was acceptable. I wanted people to like me, never wanted to appear mean or bitchy, never wanted to be boring.”

What she was missing, she says, was “a deep love and respect for myself.” It is apparent that fear stood in her way – fear of humiliation, shame and rejection if she did not appear a certain way.

Two years of self-discovery lead her to the realisation that perfection was impossible and authenticity was preferable. Though dramatically changed, she describes continued struggles – “Sometimes a hint of social anxiety kicks in, but I breathe and remember the home inside of myself.”

A question remains as to how a social anxiety sufferer is to overcome fear to cease safety behaviours and personas, such as social performances. The writer hints at the importance of “remembering who I am.” This includes allowing oneself to feel how one feels, without self-judgement.

The writer places emphasis on taking responsibility for one’s happiness and life and taking action to change: “Moving your body, moving your home, move move move. Whether you interpret this as exercise or physically moving to another city, even if this means uprooting yourself from everything you have ever know and inserting yourself into a place outside of your comfort zone.”

Self-love includes self-care: “Early nights and early mornings, vitamins, a skin care regime, health, and a relaxation and ease with self. Forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others. Peace within myself. Home.”

Whilst short on information about how the writer overcome her social anxiety and other fears to attain this radical self-love, this blog-post is a useful reminder that authenticity, self-love and attention, self-worth and emotional self-sufficiency are vital to well-being – and they can only be achieved by curtailing fear.

To read the full blog-post, click below.

 

Home Within You

You want so badly to be a better version of yourself. Somewhere inside of you there is a peace, an ease, a “home” – but you can’t grasp it. You have a laundry list of goals that you attempt to tackle but you constantly fail to maintain the habits needed to achieve said goals and then give up, resorting back to your comfort zone. You feel purposeless, uncomfortable in your own skin. Sometimes you have good days where you finally feel like you’re getting it all together, then BOOM you get off track and fall back into your old ways. You are controlled by your emotions. You have this dread and you feel like a failure, like you’ll never get “there”. You feel like a fraud waiting to be ‘figured out’ or waiting to ‘lose it all’ at a moments notice. You like to do mind-numbing activities because it distracts…

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Reblogged: venting from a waiting room – Comments from co-workers

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Halloween by Anna Vanes ©

In her latest blog-post, ‘Venting from a Waiting Room,’ 20 year-old blogger, Emily Lawrence, from Wisconsin, US, uses recent interactions with co-workers to depict some of the difficulties that social anxiety symptoms create. The scenarios she describes provide anecdotal evidence of social anxiety symptoms paradoxically making the sufferer stand out – when all they want is to go unnoticed. They also provide examples of the social barriers and, even, threats created by the depersonalisation and mutism symptoms of anxiety.

In her catering/service role, the writer describes regularly being identified as quiet by co-workers: “I know nobody means to make me feel this way, but when people make comments that allude to my social anxiety or “quietness,” it’s like the equivalent of someone pointing out that I have a giant zit on my face.”

In some cases, these comments, she suggests, are an expression of her co-workers own social discomfort and difficulty interacting with her: “(A)nother coworker broke the awkward silence in the air by saying, “you’re like the nicest person I’ve ever met, but I can’t figure out what your personality is.” Then they proceeded to tell me how they “get” all our other coworkers and know what to talk about with them. But with me, they don’t know what to say.”

As the writer cannot express her thoughts or feelings with others easily, she remains difficult for others to socially interpret: “I get it–I don’t say much. I don’t open up enough to people. I don’t know how to share my opinions clearly and confidently. I don’t know how to share anything confidently. I struggle to ask questions and ask for help when I need to. Apparently I make weird facial expressions. I probably make extroverts SO uncomfortable.”

The lack of social interaction by her creates what she perceives as an incitement or potential threat from other, thus necessitating placatory smiles: “…if I’m always smiling, people probably don’t view me as a “depressed” person, even though that’s how I tend to view myself.”

The writer describes the malfunctioning of the mind which makes speaking difficult: “Sometimes I just can’t form my thoughts into words. I physically can’t do it. I struggle with symptoms of selective mutism. I can’t find the energy to say anything sometimes, even though I desperately want to.”

The scenarios the writer describes give an insight into the paradox of social anxiety symptoms and their socially exposing effect. The sense of vulnerability to threat which initiates the anxiety may increase as the symptoms engender this exposure, creating a escalating effect of anxiety. The writer does offer one approach to de-escalate the anxiety in the case of social exposure and that is to openly acknowledge it.

To read the full blog-post at EmilyLawre.wordpress.com click below.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.
For stock image credits click here.

 

emily lawrence

(Wrote this on my phone a couple weeks ago–just never got around to post it on here. Enjoy my little rant!!)

Hey guys. I’m willingly awake before 11am–who’s proud of me? Somehow waking up and getting out of bed this morning at 8am was harder than it is when I wake up at 4:45am for opening shifts at work. ?? Make it make sense.

I’m sitting in a waiting room because I decided to come with my mom to one of her appointments since I apparently have nothing else to do with my life. But I thought, if it gets me out of the house, why not? We’re getting lunch after and then going shopping.

I wanted to write this earlier when I was feeling really angsty and needed to get stuff off my chest, but I’ve been working a lot–even taking extra shifts, and have been busy continuing to…

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Reblogged: How I Work a Job With a Mental Illness

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Noragami by Anna Vanes ©

The blog-post linked below provides a variety of realistic advice about coping at work whilst managing mental health disorder symptoms. The blogger, Matilda, a supply teacher who experiences anxiety, OCD, attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression and suicidal thoughts, acknowledges the reality that work may be something that must be endured, “to continue our days of being warriors” but there are actions that can be taken to mitigate the difficulties.

The writer suggests keeping our job in context and maintaining a sense, however theoretical, of inherent freedom and control, as well as our individuality. We may be reliant on a job but it should never own us, physically or mentally. If unwell, we can seek to take time off work on sick leave to receive treatment or to rest. When a particular challenges arises, we can face it by telling ourselves that we are not physically bound to the task or the job: “I can’t stand the mess they (schoolchildren) make, I find the food mess disgusting. But I remind myself, over and over – it’s just a job. I get to go home. After this lunch, it’s over. I don’t need to do this again. Even though I need to do it again, I tell myself I won’t, because as my therapist once said: You don’t have to do anything.”

In completing our job tasks, we should avoid ‘toxic productivity,’ the writer argues: “it’s when you feel the need to be productive at basically all times, and only feel guilty when you relax.” To free herself from this tendency, the writer practices speaking basic actions out aloud: “Things like “Now I’m putting my glass in the dishwasher. That is enough for now. Now I will go and watch a movie. Now I will put my clothes in the washer. That is enough. Now I will go and take a nap.” Treating myself like a child has done wonders for my recovery…”

Reminding ourselves of why we are working and of how we will reward ourselves, again, revives our individuality and sense of having some control. Thoughts the writer reminds herself of include: “This hour I made x amount of money, just by doing this. When this day is over, I will have earned X; I’m doing this for me and my recovery; My bed is waiting for me at home, and it will feel even better to return to it when I’ve worked a whole day; I don’t have to go to work tomorrow, I will focus on getting through with this day.”

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Work influences our behaviour at home, physically, emotionally and, simply, in terms of reduced time to ourselves. The writer suggests developed preparation for the workday beyond basics of cleaning, clothing and packing. Mental health disorder sufferers may need greater personalised preparation, whether it is meditation, mental relaxation, counselling, watching T.V, journaling, re-reading ‘thought changing checklists’ or checking work time arrangements.

The writer says that she likes to talk through her work with her boyfriend or mum and to send email confirmations about work times to reduce her anxiety. As a supply teacher, she chooses her own work hours, necessitating, it seems, some administrative work from home. However, implicit in her preparation, especially, her active reflections on work at home, is a rejection of the idea of a strict work time-free time separation. For mental health disorder sufferers, especially, work preparation done at home can be beneficial. However, this should come with a warning that preparation should be empowering and not overly consume free time and become ‘toxic productivity.’ Any preparation should be done for the benefit of the individual and not her employer.

Fundamental to most of the advice provided by Matilda is for the individual to consciously and practically re-assert a sense of control over their employment. They may be economically bound to the job but it should also provide benefits. Moreover, being bound may not be the case long-term, it is not the case in their free time and should certainly not be the case intellectually.

Image designed by Anna Vanes. For stock image credits, click here.

To read the full blog-post at matildaminds.wordpress.com click below.

Personality crises, social performing and anxiety

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Uta by Anna Vanes ©

As social anxiety symptoms can suppress one’s sense of self and emotions, a common response is to ‘fake it until you make it’ or perform a role to fill the apparent void. However, if this intense contextual social performing persists for a long-time, the sufferer will inevitably lose or not develop a sense of a stable personality. Rather than being a solution, the performances become intricate safety behaviours which may offer some comfort but, ultimately, may obstruct exposure to the fear which may be necessary to better understand it and to adapt to it.

In a post on Reddit, a user with social anxiety describes using shifting personas or ‘techniques’, both in the virtual and ‘real’ settings, to be “more able to deal with anxiety and the stresses of life.” These include, “faking confidence, trying to find the humor in things and life, thinking more positively, trying to be more talkative, forcing myself to have more energy, trying to enjoy social situations more, forcing myself to concentrate on the outside world so i dont miss something out, trying to put myself in the shoes of someone else so i can see where they are coming from and there are a few others too that i have experimented on throughout the years.”

The writer describes regularly shifting performances and mind-sets depending on circumstances, such that they would even do so mid-conversation, depending on who they were addressing: “As you could imagine, that was extremely confusing for me and lead to me withdrawing from many many social situations. In all honesty I’ve become more of a recluse as time has gone on because socialising became such a drain for me to do.”

Having tried to be their ‘natural self,’ without social performing, for several years, the writer describes experiencing an overwhelming social anxiety and, eventually, returning to the performing: “Without using the techniques the anxiety builds up and i start feeling so low and even paranoid that I feel I just have to change my personality to deal with the stresses of life.”

The most fundamental apparent harm of the performing or shifting of personas has been a continued lack of sense of self in the individual, such that even relaxation methods, such as meditation, “feels like another technique that although helpful, makes me feel unnatural and disingenuous.”

“So i often think i can’t win if i let myself be and just try and be natural because i get anxious stressed easily, but i can’t use different techniques because they just make me feel like i am not being my true self.”

In a separate blog-post, blogger, Sadie, describes her struggle to express her “unfiltered, un-curated thoughts in real time” – ascribing it to: “Fear of rejection, fear of conflict, fear of disapproval. Fear of losing control over myself. Fear of what others might think if they meet the Unfiltered Me — because I don’t even know who that is.” (My emphasis).

Sadie does at least have some sense, it seems, of what she wants, if not who she is: “And I’m tired. Tired of the constant tug-of-war between my true desires and the disorder that stifles them.”

One approach to reducing the persistent and physically draining social performing – which can create, an “internal barrier between me and myself” – is to concentrate on the myriad performances themselves and try to reduce them, as the Reddit user attempted. However, it may not be obvious what is natural and what unnatural. For someone suffering an identity crisis as serious as that individual, any adjustments themselves may seem like an artifice and be rejected.

A compassionate approach may be to resist passing judgement on the naturalness or otherwise of one’s social behaviour – acknowledging that all the behaviour belongs to oneself. Instead focus could be placed on the sense of fear itself and on building capacity to reduce the sense of vulnerability that is giving rise to the debilitating fear. For someone with a quiet voice, this might involve increasing their capacity to vocalise. Or, someone who feels physically vulnerable may choose to develop their muscles through exercise. For an individual with a lot of alienation from their identity, this too might be rejected as artificial. However, the benefit of this approach is to avoid over-analysis of the complexities and vagaries of ideas of self and personhood. If capacity can be built and tested, safety behaviours may become automatically unnecessary.

Image designed by Anna Vanes
Stock image credits can be found here.