Wednesday, March 28, 2012


So, a few years ago I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. I knew I had it, because it was clear that I find social situations more difficult to handle than the average person. It leads me to avoid social situations. I don't enjoy meeting new people (I like people, but unless I have a "script", eg working in a customer service situation, I get anxious about what I'm saying). There are people who have anxiety worse than I do, and most of the time I manage. On a day-to-day basis, I can go to work, for example.

But every now and then my anxiety spikes. It becomes a challenge to even leave the house. At times it's been so bad that I haven't left my bed except for bathroom breaks. I've avoided the windows of my ground-level apartments, for fear that someone would see me. It's not fun.

There's a corollation between people who have a mental illness and abuse drugs or alcohol. I think it's called self-medicating, because the booze (or drugs) can provide relief in the short term, even though neurologically alcohol and drugs may actually make the mental illness worse. So, I might use a few drinks* when I'm out with friends to take some of the edge off, but my anxiety would be worse for probably the next week or so. Which means I have more motivation to drink.

Of course, even when I was drunk, the anxiety was still there. Which is why I much prefered to just get drunk when I was home, alone. The drinking would dull the anxiety, and because I was safe at home, I didn't have to worry about socialising with anyone. Also, booze at the liquor store is cheaper than booze at the bar.

Towards the end of my drinking, especially last summer, it was becoming clear that drinking was a failing strategy for dealing with my anxiety. I'm not sure if it was biological or what, but suddenly (I have no idea how sudden it actually was. I noticed it suddenly) drinking socially turned me into a passive aggressive paranoid asshole. I didn't like my friends, I didn't like myself, and I could tell that I was not a very fun person to be around. A few of us went on a camping trip and I was seriously a giant jerk the whole time. I was pissed off constantly, felt like all of their jokes excluded me, that they weren't listening to my ideas. I was miserable, and I don't think it's a coincidence that there are plans for a camping trip next summer that don't include me. I wouldn't have included me, based on how I was acting last year.

One of my hopes with not drinking was that it would help me get a handle on my anxiety and prevent things like that camping trip from happening again. I'm happy to report that socially I'm not so much of a misfit. I'm not angry at everyone anymore, and that's a huge, HUGE payoff.

The anxiety is still there, though. I'll feel it sometimes when I'm with groups. Sometimes it's just out-and-out fear, and sometimes it's a sense of...closing myself off, like the world is full of cotton and I just can't manage the effort to hear what other people are doing and just want to find a corner to myself. Sometimes, the happiest I am at parties is when the party is going on all around me and I'm left by myself. But sometimes the most miserable I am at parties is when it's going on around me and I'm left by myself. You can imagine how frustrating that is.

I'm experiencing some high level anxiety lately. I don't know how long it will last. I have 4 more days of work left, and I hope that that helps a bit. I'm worried that it will cause me to freeze when I renew my job hunt, which would be disastrous. I have an appointment with my GP soon, so I will probably bring this up...but since I will be unemployed and without a drug plan, I may just have to endure it until it passes.

*This is a typical alcoholic's dodge, by the way: there's no such thing in my life as "a few drinks". When I use that phrase, please substitute "a significantly large number of drinks".


  1. I'm glad you're going to speak to the GP, that anxiety doesn't sound like much fun. Do you have any breathing exercises or other techniques to calm your thoughts when you feel the anxiety rising? I don't know too much I must admit .. except to say it's so fantastic you've taken booze out of the mix and can now really work on what's going on with a clear head. Doesn't sound nice to hear you put yourself down after the camping trip. Go gently and be very kind to yourself, you're worth it. xxxx

  2. My GP knows my history (so I'm kind of bummed that he's closing up shop in May...I'll have to go through all this again with a new doc), and for a while I was on anti-anxiety meds, but I was also drinking heavily at the time. I started them because I was in a really bad place, was unemployed (and unable to look) and getting evicted for not paying rent, so they helped to stabilize things so that I could get back to work again and try to live a normal life.

    When I went on them, though, my doctor talked a bit wth me about the dangers of prescription drugs and reminded me that there will come a time when I might need pills for a heart condition, or pain management, or just general "you're getting older, so take this", and every new drug combination presents new possible side effects and complications. So, if I can get away with it, I want to avoid medications. But it's really good to know that that's an option if I start to slide into that bad place again.

    I don't think I'm being inaccurate about the camping trip. I was pretty awful. Last summer was a type of "bottom" for me, where it was crystal clear that my drinking was turning me into a horrible person. Maybe it wasn't always visible on the outside, but I knew it on the inside.

    Since quitting it's been night and day. Friends have even commented on how happy I seem (some of them think it's because I quit facebook, which happened at the same time, but nope, it's the drinking).