If I ever tell you that I don’t care what people think about me, then please feel welcome (and justified) to tell me that I’m a liar. A big, bald-faced (what does that even mean?), dirty-rotten liar.
When I started writing on this blog, I told myself – and I may even have told Amanda – that I didn’t care if people read it. I just wanted to be able to express my thoughts and keep myself motivated to get back to the Book’s first draft. I intended to use it like a kind of journal. Today, not even a week later, I know that either this has changed dramatically, or I was lying to myself (and my bestest friend, for that matter).
In my efforts to become a bigger person (in character. only. Physically, I’d rather be a smaller person), I will admit that every time I post another blog, I visit it every few hours so that I can scroll down to the bottom of the text and check how many other bloggers have “liked” it; how many times it has been posted on Facebook; and how many times it has been Tweeted (less important than Facebook, because I still have no idea how Twitter works, despite the fact that I post there regularly). Then I repeat my feeling of frustration at the Google+ button for not giving me a total, dang it!
Clearly, the fact that other people are paying attention to what I have to say means quite a lot to me. As someone who has spent my whole life trying to remain as far from the spotlight as possible, praying that the teacher wouldn’t pick me in class (even if I knew the answer), and loathing any recognition that I received in the workplace for any exceptional achievement (I really am a very driven worker) because it means that someone will talk to me, I seem to be quite the attention-slut when it comes to blogging!
I’ve mentioned, briefly, in one of my earlier posts that I have a social anxiety disorder. After having been called “very shy” my entire young life, my sister happened to hear a radio show about social anxiety disorders and agoraphobia and immediately pointed out to my mother that the former of those conditions sounded exactly like me. I was in my very early 20s at the time.
My mother’s very sharp and exceptionally logical brain suddenly kicked into high gear and filed all of my “unique” behaviors into lists of symptoms, instead of quirks. Suddenly, that day that I came home completely hysterical and sobbing because the transit bus had been crowded and the window was stuck shut – and decades of similar behaviours – made a lot more sense.
I have come a long way, since then, and while I have shared my struggles and my victories with my closest friends and many of my family members, this is the first time that I am discussing my social anxiety and panic disorder openly. Over the years – and a number of different treatments (including 9 years of various medications – Zoloft, Paxil, Ativan, some kind of beta-blocker to slow my heart rate, etc, etc – that I am very grateful to have been rid of for several years now) – I have stopped being embarrassed about it. It’s not something I’m doing wrong. I’m not just shy. But at the same time I have been continuing to try very hard to keep it hidden. So even if I know you, I likely haven’t told you about it. Panic attacks aren’t exactly something that make me feel proud, but unless you know me very well, you’d never recognize that I was panicking. It’s much easier to hide the dizziness, pounding heart, nausea, loss of feeling in my hands, chest pain, and likely two to three sleepless nights to follow as I relive the situation and torture myself about it.
Wow, this has become a very long post! Please take this opportunity to rest your eyes!
Over the last couple of years, mental health awareness days and the willingness of many well respected public figures to share their own struggles with issues such as depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and others, have made me want to “come out” about my own mental health challenges. As much as it may not be taboo anymore, it still doesn’t feel entirely socially acceptable, either. Many people don’t “get it”, and the thought of being judged is very painful.
But it’s time to share, and it’s time to stop hiding. I am a good person, a friendly person, I’m good at my job, and I try very hard to help other people. I also happen to find it very hard to be seen by others and after something as simple as a conversation, I will replay everything that I did and said – and everything that the other person did and said – until I convince myself that I have offended the other person and embarrassed myself irreparably. It’s not nearly as tough as it used to be. The panic attacks are few and far between now (at my worst, I was having 40+ per day). Still, anything from going shopping to meeting a group of friends, or from family gatherings to saying hello to someone as I take the garbage out can be enough to cause another round of symptoms, self-torture and sleepless nights. Nevertheless, none of this makes me bad, stupid, or crazy.
Why am I going on and on about this? No, I’m not a celebrity and I don’t think that telling people about this will make a big difference to their abilities to cope with their own mental illness struggles.
The point is that this blog has allowed me to enjoy having people’s attention directed at me, without the typical consequences. If I hadn’t shared all of this with you, it would be impossible to relay how profoundly important it is to me that, for the first time, I am finding that I want to be seen! It is giving me an entirely new reason to adore writing. The more I find that people are watching what I write, the happier I seem to be! I am thrilled when I discover that people are liking what I write enough to share my words with their friends on social networks. The one thing I feel most passionate about in life is now being seen by other people, and I’m actually delighted about being in the spotlight!
For this, I’d like to take a brief moment to thank you, Reader. You mean the world to me!