I subscribe to Plinky (http://www.plinky.com/), which gives prompts for writers/bloggers who are stuck or just want some practice with their writing. I was really stuck tonight so, after several failed attempts to write SOMETHING, (Carlyandfood, mycathadseizuresthisweek) I checked out some of them. The one I picked was “What was the last thing you searched for online? Why were you looking for it?”
One of the things I was looking up on Google in preparation for my post tonight was Agoraphobia. One of my blogging buddies, Kim LaRocque, over at http://www.museinthevalley.com/ writes about it quite a bit, both on her website and her Facebook page. Excellent site by the way. I encourage you to check it out.
I wanted to find out what it means clinically, always believing I had the symptoms. A partial definition from Wikipedia says agoraphobia:
is an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness. These situations include, but are not limited to, wide-open spaces, as well as uncontrollable social situations such as the possibility of being met in shopping malls, airports, and on bridges.
No, it just didn’t sound right. I have had a few panic attacks but they’re not what’s described by Wikipedia. I’ve mentioned them in some of my past posts on this blog. I fear going to new places for sure but that’s the fear of getting lost. Which I do. A lot. Oh, I guess it’s true then that this can make me anxious, but I don’t think I get panic attacks per se. Any panic attack I’ve had seems to be associated with bi-polar disorder more than anything else. It comes with paranoia and its grip on me and that makes things hard to understand or control. I can agree, though, I don’t like the idea of meeting anyone I know in public and avoid it desperately. Mostly because of my hair. I can’t wait for it to grow out. I don’t like crowds but don’t really get panicked over them. At one time I did but not for years now so shopping at Superstore is a breeze. I just don’t like them and try to stay away from them.
So I dug a little deeper and found the symptoms for Social Anxiety Disorder on the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (BC) website (http://www.cmha.bc.ca/get-informed/mental-health-information/social-anxiety-disorder) seems to fit a whole lot better:
People with social anxiety disorder feel very nervous and uncomfortable in social situations like meeting new people. Or they might feel very anxious when they have to do something in front of other people, like talking in a meeting. Some people feel very anxious in both situations.
People with social anxiety disorder often feel like they will say or do the wrong thing. Or they might think that other people will look down on them and think poorly of them because they’re “strange” or “stupid.” It’s important to know that adults with social anxiety disorder recognize that they feel too anxious, but they may not be able to control it.
Some people may have a panic attack or feel some physical signs of anxiety when they’re facing a social situation. Common physical signs of anxiety include stomach aches, shallow breathing, sweating or feeling hot flashes, feeling like your heart is racing, feeling tightness in your chest, feeling tense and feeling shaky.
Social anxiety disorder can have a very negative effect on your well-being and quality of life. The disorder can cause a lot of problems in your relationships with partners, family and friends. It can also seriously affect your school or work life. You may avoid certain careers or fields of study, avoid contributing your ideas, turn down promotions, drop out of school or take many days off because you feel so anxious. Some people with social anxiety disorder fear one or just a few specific social situations. Others fear a wide range of social situations.
I highlighted the information which rang home to me. It was incredible to see it all there in black and white, describing ME. I think a lot of people who’ve known me for most of my life will agree as well. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like this, speak about myself like this, having some good days and some bad including when I was a child. I realize now the feeling of ugliness and worthlessness might not just be because of the abuse I survived but it may have lived within me before that time or manifested itself because of it. I guess to some degree it could be both. I doubt I’ll ever know the answer to that one.
It interferes with so much of my life including my family and that’s happening more and more lately. In the past, anything social I had to attend I would long for a drink or would head to the food table, to take the edge off, to relax. I was invisible because I wanted to be? Maybe. What the hell happened to me?
Now I just don’t socialize very much.
I barely leave the apartment…I got out three times in almost 2 weeks and that was yesterday and today to buy food and last Sunday to take my cat to the emergency hospital. It’s been like that always; invariably finding a reason not to go somewhere or putting it off for as long as possible. I’ve lost friends, work friends and acquaintances and my kids think I’m lazy and unable to form complete sentences and say I’m “too sensitive”.
This is ridiculous. I know this is fixable. Everything I’ve read assures me of this. When I see Dr. G this Wednesday we can get a plan going with support and self-help material. I just need the skills to become the person I was meant to be. Better late than never.
This has to be the best day for me to discover all this as I was getting pretty discouraged with my relationships with my kids. I’ve been having trouble being a mom to them in many ways, isolating myself from them too. I’ve been too scared to open my mouth for fear of sounding like an idiot. There I go. See?
I actually feel better now, knowing that I’m not all that weird. Apparently this is one of the most common fears in the phobia business. So there will be lots of help out there.