Six week Nightmare (summer holidays)

Summer Holidays

I hate summer

I don’t like summer, I know this might seem strange as it’s most peoples favorite time of year, but it’s my least favorite by far. The problem being I like to keep covered up, and it’s too hot to do this (good job I don’t live in Jamaica!). Wearing short sleeved tops makes me feel uncomfortable and extremely self-conscious, as I’m forced to show off my hideous arms! There’s much more walkers about, meaning the usual countryside spots I like to visit are no longer secluded, and therefore much less appealing to me.

When I was a kid and being hassled at high school, there was nothing better than the six weeks summer holidays and a period of respite from the bullies, In fact I yearned for it to come round. Right now though, I can’t imagine anything worse! In fact my world, kind of comes to a standstill. Don’t get me wrong, I still go out with my family and friends, but not nearly as often. They have to make more allowances for me and we have to be much more selective in where we go. During these six weeks, I hardly ever venture out on my own.

supermarket hell!

This year I’ve been making some good progress, in terms of my anxiety. In the months leading up to the summer holidays, I’ve been managing a short walk around the local neighbourhood, following a set route and gradually becoming more confident in my ability to do this unsupported. It’s still a significant challenge for me but I know my capabilities and felt to be making positive steps in the right direction. However any progress I was making has now reached an abrupt halt due to, yes you guessed it, the dreaded summer holidays. Sadly this is not a new thing for me, the exact same thing happened last year and is likely to happen for years to come. The problem is, for anyone with a mental health illness, such a prolonged period of isolation is very damaging and for me it will take time to regain my confidence.

It’s frustrating that I can become so distressed over a bunch of kids and for the majority of people such an abnormality, must be difficult to understand. I mean what harm could children possibly cause me? Believe me I constantly ask myself this same question and I’m frustrated by what I can only describe as irrational behaviour.social anxiety

It all stems back to my time in high school. A painful time when I discovered some children to be extremely cruel and vindictive. The school bullies would take high delight in ridiculing me in front of as many people as possible, which lead to me hiding away from large groups of students. Back to the present time, in the summer holidays you get groups of kids hanging around everywhere. It’s ridiculous, I know, The rational side of me knows there’s absolutely no threat to me, but for some reason I’m transported back to being a child again, and unless it’s a matter of life or death, I still refuse to walk past them!

I’m an adult and supposed to be a much stronger person now. Difficult childhood memories can still have a profound effect over us, even all these years later. I know this to be true, but It doesn’t stop it being any less embarrassing, and it’s truly exasperating when I consider I’m losing six weeks out of every year like this.

A spiritual Connection

Like I alluded to earlier, before the summer holidays I’ve been doing alright and managing a short walk most days. I call this my Tom walk as I pass my best mates house on route. I also pass a bench were we scattered my dads ashes. The local bowling club was one of his favourite haunts and the bench is situated overlooking it. It’s a beautiful spot with a fantastic view of the whole valley. It’s also the halfway point of my walk and a great place for a pit stop!

About a month a go whilst on my Tom walk, I was sat on my dads bench. The sun was shining and I was having a good day. Feeling more relaxed than I had for a long while. The one thing I haven’t mentioned about this spot is that it’s only a short distance away from my old high school. This is never an issue for me as I always choose a time when every ones still in school. On this particular day I was a little later than normal but I still had at least half an hour before school finished, so had nothing to concern me. I’d just have five minutes and then be on my way.

Whilst sat taking in my surroundings, I noticed a small bird sat on a telephone wire, overlooking the hillside. I soon became preoccupied by other things and and didn’t give the bird much more thought. But 10 minutes later when I glanced up it was still there. It was at this point I decided to set myself a silly challenge. I wouldn’t allow myself to move from this bench until my new little friend flew away. I should be fine with this, after all what sort of bird stayed in the same position for so long? Evidently this sort! 10 minutes passed and it was still there. I started to panic. 5 more minutes and the road would be filled with kids and the bird still showed no sign of moving. Come on little bird, please fly away. Come on you’ve been there long enough now. Are you super-glued to the spot or something! I could just stand up and leave anyway, nobody need know about the stupid challenge. The problem is I knew, and the competitive side of me wasn’t prepared to fail! So as excruciating as it would be, I decided to sit it out.

To cut a long story short, I kept to my side of the bargain and although I felt uncomfortable, I soon realized I had nothing to worry about. Out of the hundreds of kids that passed, only a handful even glanced in my direction. The others were far to preoccupied to even notice me. I felt huge relief, followed by foolishness that I’d made such a big deal out of it in the first place! You’d think then that I’d now be able to put my other issue, of walking past groups, into some kind of perspective. Sadly you’d think wrong! I’ve still spent the majority of the summer holidays, in the safety of my own home. However, it’s still a small step forward. On the day, the anticipation was much worse than the actual event, and I need to keep that in mind moving forward. I’m not a deeply religious person, but I do believe that the little bird was stuck to that phone wire for a reason. Maybe I was supposed to have this personal experience, to prove something to myself and help me to start overcoming some of my anxiety. Or maybe the whole thing was a coincidence, Who knows!

 

social anxiety

My social anxiety presents itself all the time, some days when it’s at it’s worst it becomes extremely restrictive to my everyday life.

social anxiety
from a young age I always felt to be on the outside of the group

My major roadblock- social anxiety

 I’ve stopped pegging the washing out on a weekend, for fear of encountering the neighbours. This is ridiculous as we have good neighbours, they’re all perfectly pleasant and really shouldn’t cause me any trepidation what so ever. However the prospect of having a two-minute chat with them (probably about the weather) just to pass the time of day is so horrifying, that I simply can’t risk it.

Sadly my avoidance tactics don’t stop there, as my social anxiety starts to get the better of me. Getting the wheelie bin from the side of the house, once a week on bin collection day has quite frankly become a military operation. I tend to do it the night before when it’s dark and I’m less likely to be seen. I have to look out of the front, back and side windows before I even contemplate stepping outside. I open the back door ever so slightly and listen for a minute or two, then I tentatively stick my head out and check both ways. Only when I’m completely satisfied that no ones around, will I make my move. If this was an Olympic event I would win gold every time, I literally have it done in a flash, like my life depends on it and then I’m back in the safety of my house, taking a few deep breaths and thanking God I don’t have to do it for another week.

I began to lose my hair at a young age, in fact by my early twenties it had receded badly and there wasn’t much left. Since then I have always cut it myself and like to keep it shaved very short.

That was until six months a go when my clippers broke. As you’ve probably gathered by now, I don’t do social interaction too well. Hairdressers are notorious for being the chattiest of all people and sometimes sitting in that chair for ten minutes can feel like hours and be torturous to say the least, as they delve into your life history! Therefore I saw this as an ideal opportunity to challenge myself by taking myself out of my comfort zone. This is roughly how it went:

social anxiety

Barbers number 1– Cheerful enough but far too talkative. Constant questions tripping off his tongue, including asking what I did for a living which makes me feel uncomfortable at the best of times.

 

Barbers number 2– This one was disturbing. She was fascinated by the heat coming from my head, so much so she got the other hairdressers to come across and have a feel! This left me feeling a little self-conscious to say the least and I couldn’t wait to escape.

 

Barbers number 3– This one couldn’t understand why I didn’t cut my own hair. I told him that it was only temporary until I got some new clippers. As soon as I said that I realised I wouldn’t be able to return. Not that I would have anyway, he was far too chatty for my liking.

social anxiety

 

Barbers number 4– This one was interesting, nowhere near as friendly as the others. All the customers and staff seemed to know each other and this created a bit of a funny atmosphere. When I walked in everyone appeared to stop what they were doing and stare at me like I didn’t belong in their company. Like a scene from an old western as a newcomer enters the saloon. Hardly the most welcoming of places!

Barbers number 5– I finally found the perfect place for me, where the staff only understood a little English and couldn’t speak more than two words of it. When it was your turn they’d point to the chair and say, “sit”. When finished they’d say “five pounds” and that’s the only bit of chitchat I had to endure. Absolutely ideal! And this is the one I’ve chosen to return too.

Socially Inept?

I accept that people probably view me as a bit of a party pooper and some are probably sick of inviting me to places- only for me to come up with yet more excuses! I can even put up with being branded antisocial. But when did I get to the stage were I had this constant feeling of inadequacy? As my self-doubt reaches it’s peak, I start to view myself as a huge burden and believe that people deserve a medal for putting up with me. I need to remind myself that this is not true. How I deal with these difficult emotions is crucial. I choose to look at the funny side of my social anxiety, as I’ve tried to do in this post. Learning to laugh at yourself is such an important coping tool. You put less emphasis on your frailties, there not that important, there just something you can laugh about. Suddenly you find you have less anxiety moving forwards.