The invisible nature of this skilled manipulator allows it to exist in plain sight, controlling every thought and action of its victim.
Unfortunately, I spent many years under its control. My experiences range from mildly annoying to disabling .
High school and college were littered with examples of me blindly obeying the commands of my master.
In high school, we lived in an apartment building that required me to walk several doors down before I got to our door.
Sometimes, there would be people sitting in the common area when I got home from school.
Rather than walk down the sidewalk, I would walk behind the building, remove the screen from my window and climb in.
All, to avoid being seen.
I had never heard of anxiety or that other people could possibly feel that way…all I knew was that the thought of being “on display” was horrifying and had to be avoided at all costs.
My college cafeteria triggered similar behaviors. Although I had a meal plan, I wouldn’t go to the cafeteria because I was afraid of how people would react to me….
I resorted to ordering pizza, though I had to leave it out for days at a time (I didn’t have a refrigerator yet.)
Even that was preferable to the paralyzing fear that I felt.
It took months for me to be able to actually walk in, get a tray and sit down.
Although social anxiety can manifest in many ways, here are some of the way that I was affected:
· Meeting new people
· Being teased or criticized
· Being the center of attention
· Being watched while doing something
· Social interactions
· Public speaking
I would sweat, tremble and stutter … my heart would beat so hard, I could feel it pounding in my ears.
Fast Forward to 2011
After moving to our current neighborhood, I forced myself out into the community so that my daughter would not be socially maladjusted.
I could see the impact that my anxiety was having on her . It was unhealthy , unfair and unfortunate.
It took me almost a full year , but I did it.
Slowly, I became more comfortable around strangers and going places where I didn’t know anyone.
She was my why….my catalyst.
I felt like I was almost healed.
UNTIL…I decided to post a video on LinkedIn.
I froze. All I could focus on was every visible quirk and flaw. My puppetmaster was back with a controlling vengeance and the strings were as strong as ever.
I also found that even public writing triggered the fear that I’d finally managed to stifle.
It would take months before I was able to upload that first video, with the support , encouragement and compassion of my connections.
Social Anxiety and Fitness
In 2017, I earned my personal training certification.
My first few clients ALL suffered from an anxiety so controlling that they refused to go a gym.
So, as a mobile trainer, I go to them.
It was then that I realized that anxiety can limit just about anything that we do.
Some of the effects can have detrimental consequences on all aspects of our health.
I hope to be able to use my own experiences to help them come out of their shells, at least in part.
Having been and sometimes still being a prisoner in my own mind allows me to truly sympathize and empathize with them.
As debilitating as anxiety can be, it’s invisible. The heartbeat, the fear, the sweaty palms, the questioning thoughts…are all invisible.
Well meaning advice is usually to , “Just do….” , without the understanding of the condition.
While simple to say, it is certainly not easy to implement.
My hope is to educate those that aren’t at its mercy.
Overcoming social anxiety is a process.
It takes time , effort , patience and perseverance.
It takes empathy for others and for oneself.
Whether you are the sufferer or someone that you know, healing is possible.
The strings of this insidious puppetmaster can be cut.