Getting By

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First a few site updates, for the first time since 2008 I have rewritten the “About” page to be more relevant and explain a little more about myself. I also added a Contact page in case anyone would like to write to me for some reason. I also updated my blogroll which was similarly out of date. Sadly, almost all the blogs I used to read have either been deleted or not updated for many months. I hope that those people are all OK. I left the blogs that still exist on there in case they come back.

At university things are going a little better. I have had some grades back and I’ve done quite well so far which is a relief. I finally managed to get the motivation to put some real hard work into my project and arranged a meeting with my supervisor who looked over my report and seemed quite pleased with it. He gave me some notes but I have been too anxious to read what he said yet. This is a strange quirk which I have had for a long time and can’t seem to shake off. It used to be the case that I would never post on forums because I’d be afraid to read anyone’s responses to what I’d said. Emails would go unread for weeks because of the same fear and I have the same worries about comments on this blog. I always fear that someone will have written a damning criticism of my comparatively inconsequential problems but luckily nobody has seriously hurt my feelings here so far.

It is a relief to feel that I am actually up to date with university work, a situation I am not too familiar with. Despite my best efforts, I often find myself behind on assignments or missing lectures but this semester I have only missed 2 lectures, one I overslept for and the other because of anxiety but this is a huge improvement on previous semesters.

Some Quick Answers

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Quite a few people find this blog by searching for a question on Google or wherever and I thought I should perhaps address a few of them. Sometimes I feel really bad because I present what is probably the worst example of how a person with social anxiety disorder behaves and I don’t want anyone looking it up to think they will turn out like me :S

Ok here’s some answers:

should i write my psychologist a letter

is it weird to send a letter to your psychologist?

Yes I think that it can help to write things down, especially if you have trouble talking or remembering what you meant to say like I do.

why do i think i am the only person who has social phobia

I used to feel this way too, but you definitely aren’t the only one. Have a look at the links on the right hand side and you can find out a lot more about social anxiety and other people’s experiences.

i’ve turned into a weirdo from bullying

I am the same way. I think I used to be an OK person before I started being bullied and now I honestly don’t like what I’ve become. I suppose it’s never too late to start trying to make changes in your life.

i’ve got this little thing that i’ve learned to do lately. when it gets so bad and i think i can’t go on, i try to make it worse. and when i’m certain that i can’t stand it, i go one moment more. and then i know i can bear anything. would you like to help me? come dance with me then.

I’m not sure what to make of this one. Sorry, I don’t dance…

Acedia

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noun \ə-ˈsē-dē-ə\

Spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui.

Though I’ve not been so badly affected by the serious symptoms of depression recently, the general lack of enthusiasm for pretty much anything is still here and has been for some time. For almost my entire life I have been interested in and loved using computers. If I could have carried on the vast enthusiasm and dedication I had towards the subject into my current studies I have no doubt I’d be in a better position, grade wise.

I suppose it happens to many people, that they lose the passion for the subject they are studying but it is quite a dramatic fall for me. It’s not that I hate computers but I just don’t find myself wanting to learn more programming languages, keep up with new technological developments or any of the other things that I used to avidly do. I still spend 90% of my waking hours at one, but it’s not for the pure technical exercises that I used to do. Even when I was in sixth form (the 2 years prior to beginning university) the people I associated with (I no longer think of them as friends) and I used to always be looking for ways to make our IT projects more complicated and we’d get frustrated with how much more we knew about the subject than any of the teachers. I owned hundreds of magazines, read countless websites and posted on tech forums.

Depression has the effect of making you lose interest in things that you used to enjoy, and I can safely say that is the case with me. Even earlier in this post I almost recoiled at typing the word “love” because it seems such a foreign emotion to me now. There isn’t really anything in the world that I can say I thoroughly enjoy or love. I love my family of course but when it comes to passion for any sort of hobby or interest I can’t think of anything for which I’d use such a strong word to describe my feelings toward.

In the very rare occasions when I’ve been asked what I have been doing, over the weekend for example, I honestly don’t know what to say because to anyone who observed me I really wouldn’t appear to have done anything. I know it’s bad but I sometimes make things up just so I don’t appear to be such a complete weirdo.

I keep thinking about those things the therapist gives you where you write in what you did for certain hours of the day etc. Mine would be completely full of “sat around at the computer, not working.” for the vast majority of the time when I’m not at lectures. The amount of time I am isolated away from any form of human contact is beginning to worry me. If I didn’t go home at weekends then I would literally spend months at a time saying little more than one word replies to people. It can’t be good for you, but there’s very little I can do about it.

One thing I do like is listening to music but again it is a solitary activity for me. I can’t stand being asked what kind of music I like, I’ve always hated that long before I knew what social anxiety was, I’ve always found that a bugging question. I don’t know how to respond, are they asking for certain bands/artists? The main thing I worry about is that if I try to describe a genre or name some band that they think is embarrassing then I’ll feel like an idiot because I’m no good at defending myself or my opinions (in person at least).

Anyway that paragraph was meant to lead to a point… A band I like is playing in my home town in a couple of weeks and I really wanted to see them because it’s likely they won’t play there again and it’s quite a small venue and I don’t have to travel far. Of course the problem is that I don’t have anyone to go with. I have been to a gig on my own, roughly this time last year actually, and it was ok but I did feel strange being the only person obviously by themselves. I bought a ticket anyway but I am still in two minds about whether to go or not. Because of the timing, I’d have to let my mum know since I’d be coming back to the house afterwards but I know she’d want to know who I was going with and would probably think I was weird for going on my own if I told her. I’m hoping she’ll assume that I’m going with one of the couple of people I knew from an SA website that I occasionally see in town.

Oh well, I’ll let you know what I do.

Finally, an update.

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Wow I can’t believe it has been all this time since I wrote a post. Incidentally this will be the 200th update so I’d better try and make it a good one…

I’ve started writing posts a couple of times throughout the year but could never really think of anything substantial to say. A lot of the time I haven’t had the mental energy to write anything longer than a few sentences outside of academic work, and sometimes not even then (more on that later). For a while now I have sort of dissociated myself from the mental health “community” both online and in real life. After a few years of it being my entire life, not a day went by when I didn’t think about my depression and where life was leading, I began to get tired of it and perhaps give in to my avoidant tendencies and simply ignore it. Of course it’s impossible to totally ignore the effects it has on your life when you have allowed yourself to become the rather messed up and eccentric (to put it mildly) person I am. It’s not something you can throw out wholesale but I made a concerted effort not to involve myself in the things that reminded me of the bad stuff, even though this was potentially damaging. I stopped talking to the people I know with mental health problems, ceased going to the doctor and I haven’t seen any kind of care coordinator or therapist for well over a year now. I realise this may be counterproductive.

For the most part of the period between my last update and today my time has been involved with desperately trying to keep my head above water with regards to university. The sharper readers among you will have noticed that I should have graduated by now but unfortunately this is not the case. When I first started my 3rd year I should have been in an ideal situation to get down to work; I didn’t have my recent suicide attempt hanging over me like in 2nd year and I also wasn’t living in the house where I felt confined and like I had to avoid my housemate’s boyfriend who seemed to take a disliking to me. I had struggled through that and with a few extensions to assignments managed to pass the year although with a much lower grade than first year (though with the increased difficulty it was partly expected). I don’t want to repeat myself too much but I moved into a flat where I shared a kitchen with 4 new flatmates, who surprisingly I barely saw for the entire year I was there. I still had issues with going to make meals and things though and tried my best to stay out of their way. I’ve almost given up trying to figure out why I have such a powerful desire to do such things.

Despite the improved living conditions, I soon got back into old habits that have plagued me since college in 2004 and began to miss lectures and seminars, telling myself it’d be alright and that on the day in question I wouldn’t be missing anything important. It turns out I am very easily convinced by myself in such matters… Of course the problem with this is that if you miss early sessions, you miss out on important information you might need for later in the year.

For my course, 3rd year involves you doing a large project throughout the year, on which a large portion of your final grade is assessed. I got into the downward spiral of being late to choose a project and putting off meeting with my assigned supervisor, partly because it was a member of staff I have trouble talking to because of his poor English (I know that’s bad of me). The deadline for the project proposal was fast approaching and I hadn’t even spoken to my supervisor once to confirm that I had chosen a project from the pre-approved list. I just went ahead and submitted the proposal which somehow passed but I got in trouble for not clearing it with anyone and was told that another student had picked that one so I had to change. I panicked and had been missing ever more lectures and workshops, my rationale being that because I hadn’t attended some of them at all from the beginning of the year, it would be embarrassing to turn up and have people wonder where I had been all this time. Of course that problem only gets worse and worse the longer it goes on. This had been my downfall at college where I ended up only attending a single lecture for one unit and only just managing to scrape a pass for it but things are much harder at university…

For one of my modules there was going to be a kind of mock job interview, but I did not realise this until too late. I didn’t really speak to anyone in my year about coursework, another reason I was afraid to attend lectures was that I didn’t want to be asked about how my project was going because I had absolutely nothing prepared besides my invalid proposal. This all sounds so stupid when I write it down and I’m sure if I had gone to talk to someone about it at an earlier time I may have been able to work something out but again avoidance won out.

After a few months and being well behind in every module, I realised something had to be done and I managed to get the courage to email one of the staff I had spoken to about problems last year. After some difficult explanation I managed to convince him to try and arrange for me to redo the year. Normally this is impossible, if you fail the third year then that’s it, you are out of the door. Thankfully he helped me to submit and extenuating circumstances request and he personally asked the Dean of faculty if my tuition could be waived because there was no way I could afford the £3600 it costs. I was told that this was highly unusual but amazingly it worked out and my request was approved. I owe that lecturer a great deal for helping me with this and I won’t forget it. The fact that I have another chance does make me feel guilty, I’m sure there are others with much more compelling reasons for not being able to complete the year who did not get another chance.

I apologise for the long winded explanation above but that’s pretty much where I was around summer this year. Over July and August I returned to work at the place I had been the previous couple of years and had to make up some excuses about being ill as to why I hadn’t graduated but overall work went pretty well. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work there as there aren’t any people who made my life a misery unlike at my first job.

Starting back at university last month I promised myself that I would try my very best to attend all lectures and so far I’m doing pretty well. I have missed a couple of workshops that my erratic sleep pattern (although nowhere near as bad as last year) caused me to oversleep for, but it’s no more than the average student who has a hangover would miss. I’m in yet another new place of accommodation this year, every single year I’ve been in a different place! This is the best one by far though, it’s like a studio apartment so I have my own small kitchen area. Lucky for me, my mum helped me out with the rent.

That’s the situation right now. Mood wise, I have been rather stable compared to previous months. I stopped taking sertraline, mainly because my GP left and I don’t really like the new one and I don’t want him to refer me back to the care coordinator who makes me very uncomfortable but I don’t really miss it. The depressive episodes that plagued me before seem to have subsided somewhat. I still have a very bleak outlook on things and find it almost impossible to be excited or feel any passion about things but at least I’m not actively seeking out ways to die any more. I can make it from day to day without spending hours ruminating about suicide. The social anxiety is still there, though I have been avoiding people and situations a lot so it hasn’t had much chance to manifest itself.

This is a thing I have been curious about though; how unusual it is for a person to be so withdrawn as me. On an average week I basically don’t speak to anyone besides to say “thank you” to shop keepers and the like. I still go home at weekends and so talk to my mum, dad and sister when they are there but during the week I am practically mute. In every class I sit alone, even more so than in previous years because there are now only 2 people whose names I know and might possibly speak to me if they saw me, everyone else has graduated. I do feel like it’s extremely unhealthy and I worry intensely what will happen when I eventually have to fully move out on my own and will in all likelihood be permanently isolated.

I might write a bit more tomorrow, this post has rambled on a lot but there was a lot to say since the last post. I hope everyone who reads this (the number of hits I get is still surprisingly high) is ok and I apologise for not staying in touch with you.

The Purpose of This Site

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I originally intended this site to be more helpful for other suffering from SA/Social phobia but it had gradually degraded into a space for me to post about my own problems and more of a diary. While I am in a relatively good mood I’d thought I’d write a short update about what I intend to do here and elsewhere.

This will probably stay as my online journal of day to day dealings with things. I think it helps to have a record of these things and reading through some of my past entries has made me realise that I have come a long way over the last year.

I do  intend to write more helpful and informative material though, possibly as a section of this site using the ‘Pages’ feature of WordPress. Ideally I would like to write a sort of self help guide for teenagers with social phobia or anxiety because I think hindsight has given me a good idea of how I could have handled things much better, and although I’m not qualified to give professional advice I think some people might find it helpful to read advice from someone who’s been there. I’ve always enjoyed writing but don’t get a chance to work on things other than assigned work, discounting this website, so that’s another positive. Ideally I’d like to put it all together in to a book but that’s a bit of a pipe dream at this stage. It’ll all be under Creative Commons for now.