Shame and self-loathing can follow someone suffering social anxiety down every path. When a fear is faced, no matter how successfully, if anxiety was prominent and present, the moment can feel tainted and unsuccessful – and, even, a source of shame. If the task is, on the other hand, avoided, out of fear, shame and self-criticism will likely be present.
In the blog-post linked below, mental health advocate and social anxiety symptom sufferer, Sara, gives a personal example of this dilemma of fear and shame. Rather than experience the fear and vulnerability of calling a taxi or requesting a lift from a co-worker from work to her home, she opted to walk the 4.5 miles route for the first time.
Her self-loathing at her choice started during her walk: “wow, my social anxiety is so bad that I couldn’t ask a coworker to drive me nor could I order a taxi or rideshare service. What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I such a broken person?”
Once home, she writes: “…I felt so alone. I started to cry and I emailed my therapist to tell him what happened and that I was going to make light of it because that’s who I am, so I wanted him to know in the moment what I really felt about my walk. Then I took a shower and put on my pajamas, and started making light of my experience.”
The fear of feeling vulnerable socially and risking being hurt is exchanged for avoiding the fear and feeling humiliated in private. The socially anxious symptom sufferer may be faced all day, every day, with this painful dilemma.
Therapists advise patients to expose themselves to anxiety by resisting so-called “safety behaviours” and testing oneself. Yet, where anxiety is high and debilitating, avoidance and the predictable self-loathing can feel preferable.
The writer chose to share her experience with her therapist and then to make light of the incident. She also shared it with her husband when he got home from work. Her shame and self-loathing seems to have been at least temporarily alleviated through this process – which included the self-care of having a shower and changing into pajamas.
Disabled people are under pressure to conform to “competency” and “reliability” standards set for more able-bodied peers by work and economic pressures. Also, as blogger, Independence Chick, points out, disabled people are often celebrated for “defying” their illness or disability.
Falling below such unrealistic and unfair standards contributes to a sense of failure and shame. For disabled people and people suffering from illnesses, it is important to remind themselves of their difference in order to try and reduce the pressure of expectation which governs so much of their lives. Sympathetic and supportive peers may help reduce the shame in a social anxiety symptom sufferer’s daily life. With greater knowledge of one’s difficulties and reduction in expectations – failures can be embraced and, even, laughed at.
What are some of the more extreme things you have done because of your mental illness? In reference to my alcoholism, this answer could get scary fast. My depression has caused suicidal ideation/attempts. My hypomania contributed to the creation of some pretty spur of the moment tattoos one day a few years ago. My social […]
Image designed by Anna Vanes.