I like to think of myself as intelligent. I don’t mean super intelligent in an impressive way, just intelligent enough to be able to question, consider and understand what is going on around me. Be it politics, economics, marketing, health, parenting, relationships or literature I like to think that I can look at the wide variety of points of view, gain an understanding of where other’s are coming from, why they may think as they do, and form a rational opinion based on life experience and knowledge.
I do not just believe what I am told; I am interested in how the human mind works and how decisions are made. I try to examine from different perspectives and to reserve judgement until I gain a better understanding. I try to be rational, fair and practical.
All of the above has made it particularly difficult for me to deal with the changes that I have experienced in the past few years in my own, personal ability to cope with living my life.
I know that attitude has a huge impact on how we deal with issues in day to day life. I know the importance of a healthy diet and a sensible amount of beneficial exercise. I can rationalise, contextualise and put problems in perspective in my head. Knowing that most of the hurdles that I face are minor, short lived and that other people deal with these challenges just fine; that I dealt with them just fine up until a few years ago; this knowledge simply makes how I am now behaving appear more foolish or, even worse, selfish. My behaviour is irrational. I wish to make myself act in a more acceptable way.
But I can’t.
I think, perhaps, accepting that I can’t may be a big step forward in attempting to live with how I am now. My name is J and I have a social anxiety problem. I dread certain social situations so much that I am physically sick at the prospect of having to experience them. I am dropped into an emotional turmoil where I flounder, desperate to escape by whatever means. The thought of being coerced into certain social situations makes me feel that my life is no longer worth living.
I read that last sentence and think ‘overdone melodrama’. I look at myself and recognise what a fabulous life I lead with my healthy, loving family and beautiful home. What right have I to complain about anything? I am not being asked to face hardship or danger, just to spend a short amount of time in a room full of people.
Just thinking about that sets my heart racing, I break out in a cold sweat, I shake, feel light headed and experience waves of nausea. I want my world to stop and let me off, to run away and hide where nobody can find me and ask me to do this thing. I inwardly beg for mercy.
I cannot rationalise what is going on. I cannot explain why this situation has developed. I cannot find a way to cope that will allow me to meet the expectations of my loved ones and deal with social gatherings from time to time. I have tried so hard and I cannot do it.
What I can do is try to explain that I have a problem. Even this is strewn with difficulties. Mental health issues are difficult for those who do not suffer from them to understand. This situation is hard enough for me to understand and I am in the middle of it, experiencing the problems it causes.
Can I call this an illness when I have not sought medical advice? The health service in this country is creaking at the seams and my life is in no danger. No matter how panicked I may feel at times I am not going to take my own life; I love my children too much. I know that I need to find a way to live with the way I am reacting to certain catalysts. Would others be more accepting if this were defined as an illness even if self diagnosed and self treated?
Left to my own devices I can get by just fine most of the time. If those around me can accept, no matter how reasonable a request may seem to them, that it is beyond my ability to grant them what they wish, then the anticipatory fear would diminish and I may be able to find a way forward, perhaps even a way to improve.
My writing helps hugely as it helps me to clarify my thoughts. I wonder will any of this make sense to others.