Happy Friday my beauts! I hope you all are having a wonderful day so far and enjoying your evening! So if you guys have not read my latest blog post discussing my mental illness then I strongly suggest reading that prior to reading this one today. I touch base on my anxiety and what different steps I decided to take to help manage and have better control over my anxiety… more specifically my social anxiety. As you all know I decided to join and take part in an anxiety support group that is based strictly on social anxiety and geared towards finding strategies to manage it better. I have decided that I am going to do weekly blogs, aside from other blogs that I may choose to write, discussing my different sessions that I take part in. I go once a week to these group sessions and they are two hours long. I mainly want to blog these sessions to inform and give advice to others, who may want to chose this form of treatment to better themselves as well. I also find that this is a great way to look back on the progress I have made over these 8 weeks of therapy. So… shall we get started or what?
As some of you may know I had my first group therapy session last Wednesday. This was held in a facility located in hamilton. I literally had no idea what to expect. I would say that my anxiety level a week prior to this meeting was very low since it felt so far away. Even on that Wednesday morning, my anxiety was not high whatsoever. When driving up to the building however, I could feel my anxiety levels slowly start to creep up and bang on my chest. I honestly had so many thoughts running through my mind as I sat in the car waiting for it to be 6:00. “I wonder how many people are going to be in the room with me?”, ” is everyone going to be nice and welcoming?”, “am I going to get called upon even though this is the first session“, “am I actually going to go through with this?”. I knew for a fact that I would rather be anywhere else than go waste two hours of my time talking to complete strangers and feeling uncomfortable. I knew deep down however, that this mental illness could not take over my life any longer, and I need help getting it under control. I knew that this was not going to be easy and my anxiety was probably going to be through the roof.. but you know what? That’s okay.
Finally, it was 10 to and I knew that I had to make my way into the facility and find the room. I could feel my social anxiety already start to kick in. I for sure did not want to be the last one walking into that room as that would mean that all eyes were on me. At that moment I had a huge flashback to University…. remembering that if I was the slightest bit late to one of my lectures… I would literally say “pce the f*** out“, and turn around and head home. There was no way in hell I would open that lecture door and everyone would be staring at me…. say hello to social anxiety! I finally found the room for the group therapy and was honestly expecting a group full of people sitting around in a circle. Instead, I was welcomed to a big table with seats all around it. Again…. another flashback hit me square in the face. This literally reminded me of my seminars at Brock University as the set up was the absolute same. I felt my anxiety quicken as I hated those memories… being forced to speak to a group of people or else you would get a poor mark… always feeling uncomfortable. I found a seat right away and sat down. I found a questionnaire in front of me as well as a booklet and a tag for me to write my name on. I sat there quietly waiting for other people to come in and for the session to finally start. Within my sessions, we have two girl group coordinators that run the program. There are also 7 other people besides myself who are participating within these social anxiety sessions. To be honest they all look around my age or slightly older but all looked relatively normal. When you think of social anxiety, you think of someone who is a hermit, someone who keeps their head down and their eyes on the floor. To my amazement, nobody really looked like that. Finally, it hit 6:00 and the session started to begin.
Right away we opened our workbooks and started going through what these sessions were going to address and how they run. You have the right to pass whenever you need to, but the group facilitators strongly suggested trying to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. We then were addressed that later on within the sessions, we were going to encouter the “e” word…. exposures. I knew that was coming, and did not want to think about it at the time. The thought of being put in one of your most uncomfortable situations and facing your social fear terrifies the shit out of me…. literally the absolute shit. But hey… I want to get better…. I need to. We then started the introductions which I knew was coming and was dreading it. We had to say our name, and one neat thing about us. Right away my social anxiety decided to visit. “What if the thing I say that is neat about myself really is not that neat?”, “what if I stumble on my words?”, or “what if somebody judges me?”.
“Hi my name is Alyssa. I am a twin and I have two younger sisters who are twins as well“. Right away to my surprise I made a few people smile and I heard a few “wows” in the room. Wow…. see that was not so bad was it? After that hard part was over, we were directed to fill out the questionnaire in front of us. Basically, this questionnaire was rating our anxiety levels and what goals we want to reach. You can pretty much guess what my anxiety levels were… super high. As the session progressed and the hour went by, I actually managed to raise my hand and share some answers with the others. Still however, after speaking I would always question in my mind if I sounded okay when I spoke out loud or if I sounded like a complete idiot. One issue that social anxiety steals away from me is my confidence. I should be confident towards what I have to share with others… but I never am… in fact, I am overly nervous and unsure. I remember one of the other people in the room asking if their anxiety should be decreasing throughout this session, but sadly stated that his was the opposite. As opposed to his anxiety levels going down and his nerves calming, he was getting more nervous every minute. I looked at him as if I knew exactly what he was going through. This whole entire hour, my chest has been so tight and I could feel the butterflies trying to get out of my stomach. I hate this feeling. I hate feeling uncomfortable all the time….. and why? I am literally sitting in a room with 7 strangers and listening to a person speak… what is there to be afraid of?
Poof. My social anxiety literally fled the room and I never encountered him again…. kidding.. literally wished it was that simple. Throughout reading the first few pages within the notebook I actually learned and took in a bunch of important information. I had learned that avoiding anxiety only just maintains it but gets rid of it in the moment. I can relate so much to this statement, as that is what I have been doing… avoiding certain situations when I can. One important piece of information that stuck with me throughout the session was that having anxiety is not a bad thing. I have always hated my anxiety and hated how it picked me to bring down. In reality however, fear and anxiety are helpful. They can protect us from certain situations and make us more alert. They can also provide us with the energy and motivation we need to get through events. I guess I have never really looked at my anxiety from that point of view before, to not actually get rid of it completely but more or less control it better. Within the session, we also touched base upon the three components of anxiety which are : the physical sensations, the thoughts and the behaviours that go along with these thoughts. People who have social anxiety, like myself, tend to focus more on the negative instead of the neutral sides of things. In reality, more likely we are actually the ones who are causing the problem and the attack in the first place, this is a psychological sensation and our minds can be our worst enemies. We react to situations how we perceive them to be which usually results in over-generalization. I remember clear as day probably a couple days ago, I went into work bright and early (I am a nanny) and the father had asked how I was that morning. I replied with good and asked him how he was doing. He did not look too pleased and just kind of huffed and stated that he was okay. Right away, I started thinking “what did I do?”. When in reality, he was absolutely exhausted and the kids did not sleep that good. Over-generalization. I literally do this all the time and that is the route of my problem but I can not help it.
Finally it is time for our ten minute break so I can gather my thoughts on this session and try to calm down a bit. I remember thinking that I was going to cry because I was so overwhelmed with everything that was happening. I gathered myself together and was ready to take on the next hour. One person however, did not come back to the session and I remember thinking, “hey… you’re still here and that is a big step“. I knew I was doing the right thing by still sitting in that chair. We then went on to discuss more of the booklet and fill out different anxiety charts. I remember looking at one of the pages where it listed different examples of social anxiety situations. I could not believe how blind I was that I actually had a severe form of social anxiety. I honestly thought that it was a normal thing, and it would eventually pass on it’s own one day. Some of the examples that I could relate to were:
-speaking on the phone
-one on one conversations (sometimes)
-going to a party completely sober
-having to small talk with someone
-speaking to authoritative figures
-asking for help
-having to attend a social event by yourself
How crazy is that though? The red flags were all in front of my face, yet I still honestly had no idea I needed help. I set a bunch of goals for myself after I am finished with the 8 weeks of sessions. A lot have to do with the list above, and managing my anxiety a little better so I can breathe during these situations. After the first session was over I felt a bit of a weight get lifted off my shoulders… I did it. I made it to my very first group therapy session on my own and that is a huge step for myself. However, I am still nervous about what is to come from the other sessions and I am really not looking forward to my exposures. I can not wait to see my progress however, and finally be able to breathe and live life again. I can not wait to face my fears and challenge myself. You will never conquer your fears while still inside your comfort zone. Take that step.
I hope you guys enjoyed this first blog post on my first session with social anxiety. I will be posting more after each session occurs, informing you beauts on the experience that day and what I had learned. Be sure to follow my social media accounts for more updates in the near future!
Main Instagram page- alyssahotrum_xo
Blogging Instagrm page- thatothertwin_xo
Much love xo.