Good (early) morning, folks! It is currently 3:55am on this Sunday morning. Sleep is not coming easy tonight, for many different reasons. So I figured I’d occupy my time with doing what I do best– write. As 2019 is coming to a close, I wanted to conclude the year with a reflective piece.
A lot has been on my mind as of late. Ever since I graduated college, I feel as though I’ve regressed tremendously in terms of living life outside my comfort zone. One of my greatest life mottos has been to live fearlessly, take risks, challenge yourself every single day. Unfortunately, I have not been practicing what I preach.
Upon moving home, I’ve since been spending most of my days indoors, somewhat isolated from the outside world. As a person who has (and continues) to struggle with social anxiety, it is absolutely adamant that I find ways to challenge the anxiety each and every day, so I can kick social anxiety’s ass and build greater social confidence. Sadly, these past four months, I haven’t been doing so. As a result, I’ve found the anxiety creeping back, little by little. I find myself living in state of constant fear and worry. Worry about what others think of me. Afraid of social challenges. I feel as though I’ve lost my voice, and in turn, I’ve grown less empowered, my life completely overtaken by fear.
The thing is, in college, I had so many opportunities each day to challenge myself socially. In lectures, the act of raising my hand in a room filled with hundreds of students was daunting, but it was something I forced myself to do, so I could get the most out of class. That was one way I challenged my anxiety. Another way was through leading weekly dance workshops for my dance club, Bruin Burlesque. It’s a challenge standing up in front of a group and teaching choreography! Finally, even the simple act of attending parties and social gatherings on a weekly basis was a good way to practice social interactions. Towards the end of my third year of college, I found myself becoming much more confident not only socially, but in general, as well.
Then, I graduated from UCLA. All that momentum I was building in the fight against the anxiety seemed to stop all of the sudden. I grew very depressed. I isolated myself from the world, holed up in my room all day, devoid of all human contact. It’s unnerving how quickly one can regress in, well, anything. Without constant practice, you lose your skills. Use it or lose it, they say.
I enrolled myself in a social anxiety group through Kaiser. The group has taught me some great Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills, whereby you change the way you think, which then causes behavioral changes. The group itself has been a great social challenge. It’s pretty anxiety-provoking, attending group therapy every Thursday afternoons. There, we basically put our anxiety under a microscope. There’s no way you can possibly hide your social anxiety, which I oftentimes do in real-life situations. That alone is a reason I feel uncomfortable attending group. But I think that’s all the more reason why I should go– to tackle my fears head on. Sadly, the group only lasts two months, after which you are expected to carry out the tools you’ve learned into the real world. As I am nearing the end of my two-month cycle, I am growing a little apprehensive of what’s to come, without the weekly support. See what I mean by living in fear? I’ve grown to feel incredibly self-conscious in so many situations. I fear that I’ll bother or hurt others, the same way I’ve done in the past, when I was manic. I fear others will judge me negatively, so much so that I generally avoid situations where others can scrutinize me (meeting new people, social gatherings, etc.).
My fears are not only social in nature. Everything remotely challenging seems to scare me. Driving. Trying new dance and fitness classes. Challenging myself physically with the goal of getting back into shape. Even getting back into dancing and performing. All these things and more are challenges, and lately, I’ve seemed to shy away from anything outside my comfort zone. A lot of it is my generalized anxiety talking. My mind seems to jump to the worst case scenario. Socially, I worry I will choke in social situations, and that people will see right through my facade and recognize that I have social anxiety, which is a source of great shame. With driving, I worry I’ll get into a car accident and get injured, or even worse, die. In terms of working out and getting back my pre-college body, I’m afraid to push myself, not out of laziness, but fear of physical pain. Hah. Funny, coming from a former competitive athlete, right? Same goes for dancing. I know my technique has regressed tremendously, and it scares me to scrape off the rust and push myself to get back to the level I used to be. A far cry from the fearless fighter I’ve identified as throughout my life thus far. I used to be the girl who’d accost neurosurgeons on the street, go up to the UCLA gymnastics coach, follow an oncologist guest speaker to his car after lecture, grilling him with questions about the field of medicine. In all these cases, I was unfazed by the possibility of rejection and judgment from other people. Granted, I was manic in most of these situations, which completely elevated my self confidence and gave me an artificial sense of fearlessness. But a part of me wonders… what if those acts of bravery and lack of inhibition were signs of true confidence? Not just me being manic? I need to learn to give myself credit where credit is due. And I hang on to the thin shred of hope that one day, I will be able to build up my confidence once more, back to the level I used to be at in college.
As for identity… I feel like I don’t know who I am any more. I thought I was fearless. I thought I could serve as a role model to other people. I thought I had finally found my voice. Everything seems to be falling apart. All the progress I previously made… all gone down the drain. I’ve lost faith and trust in my unquiet mind.
Anyway, those are my thoughts that keep me awake on this Sunday morning. My anxious mind cannot rest. I am neither manic nor depressed, which is one of the only positives I seem to have in my life right now.
I will talk to you guys later. As always, the act of writing has helped me get a lot of pressure off my chest. I feel better. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in a little bit of shut-eye. Love you all, my loyal readers, and I wish you all a happy new year!