I feel like I am walking into the unknown as I head towards my social anxiety.
This is part two of what I believe will be an ongoing series for “The Bipolar Writer” blog. In the last post of this series, I talked about my thoughts leading to a big night in my social anxiety life. Anxiety has always been as big in my life over the last two years as being bipolar and dealing with depression. It is this reason why I find myself talking about this topic.
Last night was the first time that I have been to a live event or movie in an over a year and a half. Close spaces with lots of people are the worst case scenario for someone with the type of social anxiety that I must deal with when I leave my house. It is where I found myself last night.
I knew this challenge was going to be extremely high. As I mentioned in my last post, I came close to canceling going altogether to the comedy show. I was really looking forward to seeing Jo Koy live, it is something I always wanted to do. The tickets were amazing and I realized that I made right decision to go and see a live show.
My work to make sure that I could get through the night started earlier in the day. I made sure to take a good nap for a few hours before it was time to get ready, that way my focus was on point. I took precautions like taking my Ativan with me and plenty of water (when I hyperventilate water and an inhaler usually helps keep my panic attack under control) and I also did two ten-minute slow breathing medication focusing on my thoughts about what was ahead.
This technique is something I have learned during my work with cognitive behavior therapy. I listen to my thoughts and then center myself back using my breathing. I have this great app on my apple watch helps me by telling me when to breath in and when to release my breath. For me, it has really helped with my social anxiety.
I felt somewhat confident as I left the safe confines of my house. The catastrophizing thoughts were still there fresh in my mind, and some new ones came about as I made my way to the theater where the show would be held. I worried about if I would have enough Ativan, which I did have enough of it turned out. I worried about if I would have to leave the theater if my anxiety spiraled. This was still a couple of hours before the show.
I had a great dinner at a place in downtown, I had the fish and chips, and it helped to eat something even if I ate only about a third of my dinner.
Then came the waiting in line, the finding our seats, more waiting, and then people showing up around me, my greatest fear. I had just taken an Ativan before dinner, and that was just an hour before getting into the theater. As the people poured in all around me I could feel the anxiety and panic growing with each passing minute. Moments would stop and I would forget where I was for a fleeting moment.
I started to feel some major self-conscious feelings in my head. What will these people think about me? Why did I decide to go out? I could have stayed home… why didn’t I? This was all before the show had even started. I did what I was supposed to do, and I did my breathing exercises again. I reminded myself that my worst fears are most likely the result of catastrophized thinking and almost all of it was really in my mind.
As the show started I started to calm down some, but I could tell that my anxiety was still at a high level. I have talked to my therapist and psychiatrist in the past six months about immersion therapy where I put myself in a situation that makes me uncomfortable. I hadn’t done it because of my overwhelming fear, but this was one of those situations that could be used as an experiment.
I got through the show. I laughed harder than I have in ages. I smiled and for moments of that hour and a half comedy, show life was better. By the end, I was glad I did the right thing and immersed myself into a situation that made me uncomfortable. I had a moment in the middle of the show where I felt my anxiety was spiraling into a panic attack so I took an extra Ativan. It helped. I feel bad it took extra Atican.
I honestly don’t know when the next opportunity will come where I can further immerse myself into a situation outside my house that isn’t a place (like a coffee shop) where I don’t feel at home. Maybe I could go see a movie. This was a good experiment and while I got out of it fine the middle of it really worried me. I feel sometimes that I am too reliant on my Ativan too much in these types of situations. It’s this reason why if I leave my house I always have my Ativan within reach.
I would like to hear some people’s thoughts on what I shared. Did I overact too much in the moment or did I do what I could to get through the night?
Photo Credit: Davide Foti