Today, I had a moment.
A moment that terrified me.
A moment that could have gone really bad for me if I had not recognized my symptoms and had the knowledge and experience to be able to nip it in the bud before disaster struck!
Shopping centers...one of my worst nightmares, especially on the weekend during the day, but it was unavoidable and Hendrik and I had to go and return a purchased product that we weren't happy with.
Things were fine at first, we returned what we needed to, but then had to go and buy a few odds and ends, and pretty soon I started to feel funny.
I started to make fists with my hands, clenching them and unclenching them. My breathing started to get heavy, and the crowds started to make my mind foggy. Hendrik took hold of my hand and reassured me that it was okay.
But then people that were all around me suddenly changed into threats. It was as if they were different to me, almost like ants that were chasing after a piece of candy. Even though they were not ganging up on me personally, I cannot remember the last time I felt so claustrophobic. Every place, every corner that I looked was just more and more people.
I started to feel panic stricken and told Hendrik to quickly pay for the things that we needed as I was really anxious to get out the mall and back into the safety of the car.
I have not had a panic attack since 2008, and I didn't want to break my record!
When looking at this scenario, this could've gone very badly for me. I could've had a panic attack, I could've fainted or I could've started running towards something that I deemed a safety blanket or just merely running away from the crowd, all which would have caused me huge embarrassment, and all things that I have done before caused from extreme anxiety!
So how did I handle it?
In these types of situations, it's very important to recognize your symptoms, to be very much in touch with your feelings and emotions. Symptoms are the result of hormones being released from the adrenal glands when our bodies go through the flight or fight reaction.
First and foremost.....try to stay calm....very easy to say and quite cliqued, but this is very important, and because of 14 years experience, I have just learnt to nip the panic in the bud before it happens.
It's hard to explain, but I see it as having two sides to my mind:
What did I do?
After about ten minutes of listening to the meditation, I felt better, still on edge, but out of that panic stricken danger zone.
MEL'S HANDY TIPS: People who suffer with Social Anxiety/Phobia need to preferably not be on their own when they go to crowded places. If this is unavoidable though, I recommend, going to shopping malls or other busy places early in the morning or late at night when they will be quieter.
Plugging your phone in and listening to music or a meditation through your earphones REALLY helps! It helps to make you feel detached from the other people. Putting some sunglasses on also helps me a lot. It also creates that detached feeling.
SIDE NOTE: If you are driving, please don't listen to any meditations...rather opt for some calming or classical music.
In an hour's time, I have to do two of my most un-favourite things:
I am sitting here racking my brains trying to get the logical side of my mind to realize that this is such a normal common everyday thing that people do. Going out and meeting new people.
So why is it such an ordeal for me?
This is where the 'psychologize yourself' technique works best, as far as I am concerned.
The rational part of me wants to know what could be so terrible about having to go out my front door and meet another human being, whereas the irrational part of me conjures up me meeting some doomed end the moment I close my front door, and images of this person that I will be meeting punching me through the face, mocking me or chasing me down the street.
Even just writing this down, I can see the humour, and I'm even smiling to myself right now, because these fears that are consuming me are so silly.
I've just eaten a big plate of oranges and peaches with some almond nuts, voiced my fears to my husband and just by writing this down and doing the simple technique of psychologizing myself, I can honestly say I feel better.
I'll be back later to report back.....I may feel better.....but I'm still getting those butterflies in my stomach!
I am home. Was it as bad as I thought? No. Did anything happen to me? No. Did the person I meet insult or upset me? No.
Directions....whenever it concerns me, it always boils down to directions. I am completely and utterly 1000% useless when it comes to directions.
You can tell me to go left, and I will go right. You can give me a GPS and I will still get them wrong, and this is the reason why I always seem to pitch up 5-10 minutes late for my appointments. When will I ever learn to leave earlier?
So aside from that bit of stress, my meeting turned out to be much shorter than anticipated. The guy that I met turned out to be a really decent guy and I suppose the walk and fresh air did me good.
I am however glad to be home. What I wanted to prove to not only myself but other social anxiety sufferer's out there is that YOU CAN DO IT!
I didn't cancel my meeting, I went, and it wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be.
I think my rational side knew it all along...... :)
MEL'S HANDY TIP: When you have to go meet someone, whether you are walking, taking public transport or driving, listen to some calming music. I find it helps me even more if I have the ear phones in my ears......and leave a good few minutes to figure out where the place is, so you don't get lost and end up being late!!!!