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THE JOURNEY BEGINS / You Can’t Just Berate Yourself Out of Anxiety


THE JOURNEY BEGINS / You Can’t Just Berate Yourself Out of Anxiety

Sadie Hall

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The strange thing about my anxiety—let me rephrase that. The strangest thing about my social anxiety is that I have no qualms discussing it openly. I’m actually really driven to write about it. Maybe this makes sense from a psychological perspective, I don’t know. But it seems odd to me that someone with very severe social anxiety would want to put herself out there on the Internet.

I know that part of it comes from the hope that others will somehow benefit from reading about the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to be a mom/wife/freelancer/human with mental health issues. (I still pause when I identify myself as “having” mental health issues. It feels... attention-seeking? Drama-queen-y?)  Maybe, if I share my experiences and all the things I’m learning through therapy and personal development work, I can help someone else feel less alone.

There’s also another aspect to it. I want to put myself out there. It’s like I have this strong need to make myself transparent through writing, because I’m not able to do it in person. In person, my social anxiety is in control. The real me hides under layer after dense layer of cognitive distortion (a new term I learned in therapy). But in writing? In writing, I can take my time. My mind doesn’t go blank. I have no one else in the room with me. My face stays its normal colour. I can be “me” in a way that, for now, is impossible in person.

I’ve been learning about exposure therapy, too. I’m not sure if that’s the proper term for it, but basically you desensitize yourself to the things that cause your anxiety by being exposed to them. (You know, as opposed to hiding in my cozy basement office away from all other sentient beings.)

I guess that was all a preface to this: I plan to keep an open diary of sorts. The timing is right. I’ve just been diagnosed and I’m just putting into motion my treatment plan and goals. Is there any benefit to sharing what it’s like to go through individual therapy with a psychologist, attend cognitive-behavioural therapy in a group, figure out medication dosage, develop self-care habits, and read ALL the self-help books? I hope so. 

Here’s a very loose paraphrase of a conversation from counselling yesterday that stuck with me:

My therapist said, “You’ve probably been telling yourself for years to just ‘stop’ having anxiety. To just get it together. You’ve probably beaten yourself up over it, telling yourself that it’s not that hard, that you can willpower your way out it.”

I nodded vigorously. “Yes. Every day. Forever.”

She gave me a compassionate half-smile. “Honey, if you could do that, I wouldn’t have a job. You can’t just berate yourself out of anxiety. The part of you that’s berating yourself IS your anxiety.”

That’s all for today. I hope someone out there is interested in reading more. :)