Dear, guys – welcome back to Letters From Liz!
So, the other day I was talking to my friend, Anthony, and he was telling me that he’s been at his current job at the college we work at for about two years. In retrospect, it made me think just how fast time truly flies; two years ago, I graduated grad school with my MA, and shortly after my graduation, I was officially diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD).
Actually, it was on this day two years ago.
Living with a social anxiety disorder wasn’t the easiest thing at the beginning. For most of my summer in 2018, I tried to familiarize myself with my anxiety and tried to understand what it meant for me. Anxiety, especially on the clinical level, looks different for a lot of people, which meant that my case wasn’t going to look like the next person who deals with SAD as well. I spent that summer fearing my anxiety. I was having anxiety attacks like crazy, and I was starting to get anxiety about having anxiety. In many ways, it was affecting my ability to keep the relationships in my life balanced and healthy; it was something I had to introduce to a group of people who never heard the words” I have social anxiety disorder” come out of my mouth.
It took a lot of therapy and various tries of medication to finally embrace the fact that I deal with this level of anxiety. Although it does not define me, it plays a major role in my life. At the beginning, it was hard to explain this newfound thing to others without it sounding like my anxiety was a burden, but it was in the early stages of it. I’ve had anxiety attacks, I was afraid of leaving my house, I was losing myself after I graduated grad school, and I felt alone during the process.
I’ve tried various things to help gain back control of my body, and one of them was writing a letter to my anxiety and eltting it know that I am my own body, and my anxiety doesn’t dictate what my body does. It took a really long time and a lot of soul searching to finally come to terms with that. SAD is just something I have, not who I am.
Having SAD meant that I wasn’t great at meeting new people and going out to social gatherings. In the few social gatherings I attended before therapy, I would get extremely nervous and panicky and then come home and just cry in embarrassment. It happened once. After getting therapy and starting to reflect on my patterns and behaviors, I’ve made it a mission to start going out some more, make new friends in the process, and stop living my life in fear of everything.
Last year, I was able to get a retail job at my college’s bookstore, having to interact with students and be in customer service was a whole new challenge for my anxiety, but it was surprisingly something I adapted to relatively quick. To some extent, I even became good at talking to students and customers and interacting with them to the point that I even made a friend with one of the regulars that come into the store! Also, I was able to build friendships with my co-workers and unapologetically be myself without feeling like I was being judged.
In hindsight, my SAD has made me do some self-reflection and it’s required me to take the time out of my life to finally deal with the things I kept pushing to the back of my head and ignoring it. It’s been a lot of work, but two years later I’m at a place where I’ve been doing better than I’ve been in the last couple of years.
I’m finally at a place in my life where I feel like I’ve gained the peace I’ve been looking for since I was 21. I feel like I have such a better understanding of myself and my own behaviors that it’s been a while since my anxiety did something to make me feel fearful or worried. Sure, every now and then I get mini attacks; the last one was on my first night in Florida a couple of months ago but it was nothing too serious.
So, here’s to see how much growth year three has in store for me. I hope that this time next year that I’m making even bigger and better moves, and that I face more challenges to encourage my growth. SAD is just something that travel with me daily and comes out whenever I need the extra caution but other than that, I got that bitch under control.