When you’re an introvert you prefer your books, your smartphone and your pets to people, except your immediate family, though some days you would rather not see even them.
Every time I leave the house I have to talk myself into it. I have an internal dialogue that sounds like a cross between a hostage negotiator and a motivational speaker. I tell myself I can do this and if I don’t listen to myself I issue a proper scolding and demand my negative thoughts release my positive thoughts so I can function like a normal adult.
Sometimes looking at a person I don’t know results in an emergency, Star Trek- like alarm going off in my head and all I can hear is buzzing and repeated thoughts of “You’re ok. You’re going to be fine. You’re only talking. Nothing bad is going to happen.” Followed by: “You’re an adult. Pull yourself together. Even if you pass out right here, for no reason, they will not, most likely, possibly, hopefully, think you are a total and absolute mental case.”
This wasn’t how I’ve always was. One would think I would have been like this more in my early years and I was but to a smaller degree. In some ways, my social anxiety seems to have gotten even worse the older I have become. I’m not sure what accounts for this, other than maybe shifting hormones wreaking havoc on my body, slowly breaking down any ounce of bravery I once had.
In my old life, I was a newspaper reporter and I’d call myself fairly brave. I’ve met former presidents and first ladies (though only briefly so it wasn’t that exciting), I’ve interviewed state and national senators and congressmen. I’ve covered car accidents and fires, sat in on three murder trials and interviewed countless every day people about countless every day things. Sometime after my son was born panic attacks I’d dealt with as a teenager came rushing back and there were days I had to talk myself into even leaving the house; which was a necessity since I was working for a small town newspaper at the time. The panic attacks weren’t new but the intensity and frequency of them were. Every day was a battle and every second my thoughts screamed at me that I was going to stop breathing and die and never see my child grow up.
I rarely told anyone about the attacks because when I did people looked bewildered and told me there was nothing to be anxious about and I was fine. Of course, I knew they were right but my mind and my body refused to recognize logic and I was often sick, dizzy, short of breath and weak all over my body. Eventually, I would be diagnosed with low thyroid function and high estrogen. Treatments for both and changing my diet helped some and eventually I was able to also find ways to cope with the anxiety, both the mental and physical effects it had on me.
Recently, though, those old feelings have come back and I don’t actually know how to handle it some days. Some days I wonder if I should find some medicine to take or try changing my diet again. Most days prayer is my medicine, though, and I’ve started telling God I know His healing will be what ultimately gives me freedom from it all – whether it is physical or mental. The one thing about healing is that it isn’t always quick and immediate like a miracle. It can be a process and that process can be painful and seem to involve a lot of setbacks. That doesn’t mean the healing won’t come. It may not even come the way we expect and hopefully, it will be something even better.
And I take the advice from an article a former friend once shared with me – even when I am scared I do it anyway. I push myself outside my comfort zone as much as possible and if I meltdown during my experience at least I did something and didn’t just wallow in the anxiety.
God never promised us he would take us out of every uncomfortable situation but He did promise to always be there during those situations and moments where we would rather run away.