I did the mature thing, I told myself to go to my psychiatrist appointment, stop being a coward and just suck it up! It wasn’t too bad, and hasn’t been since that awful first appointment initially. Dr T hasn’t done or said anything else to offend or upset me since, in fact, most of the time what she says does actually make some sense. A psychiatrist who makes sense? Woah… She did look quite bored today in our session though. Yes it’s Friday afternoon, and no, I’m not the most entertaining nor interesting person there is, but you get paid $295 per hour to do this, so…perhaps you should just suck it up too!
Another psychiatric label was slapped on me today. A label that wasn’t completely new to me. A label that has been suggested to me before by the school counsellor in Year 12, and discussed with both her and my previous psychologist. A label that I have in the past just dismissed. Social anxiety.
Social anxiety does, to some extent, apply to me. In social situations where familiar faces are not present, or even in situations where familiar faces are present, but they’re not people I’m particularly close to, I will experience some anxiety. Especially if everyone else is engaged in conversation and I’m left by myself with no one to talk to and nothing to say. I start feeling self conscious, insecure and inadequate. My heart beats faster, it gets difficult to breathe, I feel a tightening in my chest and I begin to panic a little. There have been times where I have gone and hid in the bathroom for a while because of this anxiety and the feeling of awkwardness. At parties, social nights, even occasionally in high school, I remember times where I have hidden in the toilets before school or during breaks. Sad, I know.
The reason I have dismissed the suggestion that I have social anxiety is that I don’t feel it impacts my life all that much. Only in certain social situations do I get anxious. I doesn’t impact my life because I don’t let it. As in, I avoid the situations that do trigger it, such as parties, movies or dinner with people I don’t know all that well. With the few close friends that I do have, it’s not a problem. In planning to go out with them, instead of nervous anticipation I feel an excited sort of anticipation. Feeling awkward and insecure is not a problem because they don’t make me feel that way. With them, I talk, I laugh, I joke, and all is fine.
The problem with that, my psychiatrist says, is that it means I am limiting myself to that small social circle while as a young person, I should be doing the opposite, it should be expanding. She says that if I am only limiting myself to those few close friends I am comfortable with, it means that if they’re not around, it can get lonely, and loneliness fuels depression. While it is safe to be stuck where I’ve always been, at home, avoiding that anxiety, I have to think about what I want, would I like to be able to go out with whomever invites me out? She says it’s not about what she wants for me, it’s about what I want for myself.
I guess I proved my psychiatrist’s point when she asked me what was happening this weekend. I told her I had received two invitations to go out, both from people who I’m not all that particularly close with, and whom both had invited friends who aren’t my close friends either. One was planning birthday drinks at a bar, the other was planning a birthday dinner and clubbing afterwards. I had already rejected one invitation, was likely to not go to the other one either, and told my psychiatrist as much. She suggested, what if I go for a little while, see how it is, then if I wanted, I could leave early. Hmm. I was asked me what I was likely to do instead. Err…internet…read…internet… 😐
Dr T said that she’d be interested to know how severe my social anxiety is because sometimes the SNRIs work better than the SSRIs in treating social anxiety. So I’m supposed to note down… what happens when I get socially anxious? I can’t exactly remember… She also suggested it might be worth reading up a bit on social anxiety while I was spending that time on the internet. Yep, it seems as though psychiatrists don’t bother explaining their labels anymore, just search it up on Google! I suspect she may also be taking the piss a little in referring to my time spent on the internet.
My appointment finished at around 4:15pm. I was still considering that invitation I hadn’t rejected yet, the birthday drinks at a bar, where we sit down, eat, drink and chat, scheduled for 7pm that night. I was leaning more towards ‘no.’ I even bought food intended for a binge/purge in anticipation of an empty house all to myself while my thirteen year old brother was at his school social and my parents were at a dinner with a group of family friends. I gave it some more consideration and about an hour before the drinks were due to begin, I decided yes. I decided I wasn’t going to be the saddo stuck at home on a Friday night while the rest of my family all had plans with friends. I am the young person, the eighteen year old here, for goodness sake. I ended up leaving the bar two hours early. But the point is, I went. I was quiet and didn’t talk all that much, at some points I felt a bit awkward, but no physical symptoms of anxiety were present. There are times when I leave a social gathering feeling awful because of my feelings of social inadequacy, thankfully last night wasn’t one of those times. So take that, social anxiety!