Sometimes it's easy to feel like just a face in the crowd. Ignored and alone. Wwhen you have social anxiety disorder, you feel alone and crowded at the same time. When you're in a group of people, you feel like everyone is watching you, just waiting for the chance to strike out. Everyone's a danger, everyone's a threat, but none of them care about you as a person. At least, that's the way I feel. It's both a crippling fear that leaves me alone wanting to lock myself in my room and a feeling of being disconnected from everyone around me when I don't.
Thank goodness for my first therapist. She was wonderful, and I was sad to see her leave the area, but everything happens for a reason. She was one of those people I was using to carry me through rather than taking care of myself. When I first started seeing her the anxiety was at it's peak. I didn't know how to be in public alone. She worked with me on breathing techniques to ward off panic attacks, then built up to learning to instantly relax myself in a crowd. That's not to say that it ever actually gets easy! (Please, we all know I am NOT that humble.) Walking into a grocery store, I have to take a deep breath. Sitting down in a restaurant, I have to take several deep breaths. Heck, even going to church for Sunday morning worship, I have to take a deep breath and there isn't anywhere I should feel safer.
Of course, there's also the therapy I have to implement myself. Flooding. I have to make myself face my fears or they just get worse. The more I expose myself to what scares me, the less power it has over me, and the better able I am to face it the next time I have to as long as there isn't too long of a time between. People were amazed the last time I went to Michigan how much "better" I seemed than the time before that. The simple truth of it is that, I had put myself into uncomfortable situations a lot before I came and went out almost every day while I was there among strangers (this includes my friends. a) I don't remember most of them very well, if at all and b) you have to be pretty strange to be my friend!) This form of treatment is a little controversial to some therapists and psychiatrists/psychologists, but it really works for me. I've spent so much time in my room alone the last several weeks that going out is really hard on me right now. Going out alone is nearly impossible, making it all the more vital that I start doing it again.
Through all of this, I have realized that the most important thing I've learned is, we can't let our fears define us. We have to keep moving forward, keep trying to stay strong, and, most importantly, keep a tight hold on who we are. I lost my identity, I don't think I've ever experienced anything as scary as that is/was, but through it all, I kept a hold on who I am deep down inside. I am strong. I am loved. I can do anything I put my mind to because of those facts.
Stay strong and know that I love you all! When I'm around you will never be just a face in a crowd. Even if I don't know your name, I will see you and I will care.