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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all! This is my first post here.. I just need to talk to someone who gets it.

I haven't worked outside the home in 3+ years.
I have severe social anxiety and panic disorder w/agorophobic tendencies.
I also have cyclical depression (but not bipolar) and general anxiety.

I have been on disability for the last couple of years, but I am yearning to do more.

I am 31, I have a college degree, I believe I have much to offer the world, if I could just get out of my own way! If I could just stop being so afraid all the time!


Every time I see a job advertised that sounds interesting to me, I get an application, I fill it out, then I freak out and forget the whole thing.

I am terrified of having to interact with people (though I fake it quite well - most people who know me would have no idea), I am scared that my panic disorder will interfere with me being able to hold a job, I'm scared about not doing well at a job, about people talking about me or hating me.. just fear of failing basically.

I also feel embarassed just APPLYING for the job. My resume.. well.. it sucks.
I have had 8 jobs in the last 10 years, most of them lasting anywhere from 3-6 months. My longest job was 1.5 years, but that was 6 years ago. My resume shows a LOT of gaps between employment and a lot of short-term employment. I always quit before I could get fired. I just never felt competent, no matter what the job was. I have worked as a cashier, as a teacher's assistant, as a mental health worker, a case manager.. different kinds of jobs, ranging from only needing a GED or diploma to needing a college degree, and all of them have overwhelmed me so greatly that I would freak out and quit.

I so want to have a "normal" life. I want to have a place to go every day, where I know people, and fulfill a need for someone. Can someone with severe SA really hope for that or is that a pipe dream?

There is a job opening right now that I would love to apply for, but I'm terrified and I keep flip-flopping, thinking it would be the best thing in the world, to thinking I am crazy for even thinking it would work out.

I'm driving myself crazy. I want to say "just suck it up and apply. Just DO IT." But I can't seem to make myself do it.

Any words of wisdom or advice? I really just need someone who REALLY gets this to hear me. I only have 1 friend and she is the most extroverted person I know - talks to everyone, has a TON of friends, is always socializing, etc. Basically, the complete opposite of me, and although she is supportive, I know she doesn't really understand how hard it is.

Thank you all for listening. I appreciate it.

-tavi
 

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Welcome to SAS! :)

As someone whose been self-employed for long stretches of time, I think I have an idea of where you are coming from.

What kind of treatments have you pursued for your social anxiety?

I was involved in therapy group that was cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) based and we actually "practiced" job interviews where the person interviewing would ask the questions you were most anxious about answering. It helped me immensely in the interviews I've gone through since.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Drew - thank you for responding so quickly.

I have been in and out of CBT for YEARS. My last "in" is currently ongoing, once a week, for the last almost 3-years! I feel like it helps, and it does with certain things, (running into people I know at the store, making small talk with parents I see when picking up my kids, etc.) but this job thing.. I just can't seem to get a handle on it.

I take meds for my depression, but I still cycle. My lows aren't as low as they used to be, but I can't deny that it still happens and it can be hard to do ANYTHING, let alone get up and go to a job. So I'm afraid of that.

I take meds at night for my anxiety, otherwise I wouldn't sleep. But I can't take meds during the day, because the smallest doses don't help and whenever we try to up them, I have to struggle to keep my eyes open because I'm so sensitive to them and they knock me out. :(

Treatment-wise, I believe I have been as proactive as I can be in the last 12 years or so that I've been really struggling with this. (though I have had anxiety/panic issues since I was about 9)

Could this be a case where I just have to jump in headfirst and try to make it work??

I feel so .. defeated.
 

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You know, everyone is different, but for me, jumping in headfirst without working up an anxiety hierarchy of some sort just made my anxiety worse. Before I pursued treatment years ago, I tried traveling solo and staying in hostels to get over my fear of social anxiety by constantly being surrounded by people. It made it the worse it's ever been.

That said, I'm not saying I don't push myself to do things that make me anxious, just that it has to be a step by step process, slowly doing more anxiety causing things. If I am too anxious doing something, I won't get any benefit from going through it.

Do you have a copy of Dr. Richard's Overcoming Social Anxiety: Step by Step? It's CBT audio therapy and my 20 week group was based on it:
http://www.socialanxietysupport.com/treatment/products/25.html

Has any of the CBT you've done been group based?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
no, none of the therapy I've had has been group based. I live in a VERY rural area and there's not a lot of things like that around here.

I haven't heard of that program, but I'll check it out; thanks.

As for the job.. last night, I absolutely freaked out just thinking about it and the only thing that would help my panic to subside was ripping up the application. lol. I know it's not funny, and it wasn't at the time, but I think I have my answer - I'm just not ready. I'm just scared that I'll NEVER be ready.
 

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I'd really recommend you take a look at Dr. Richards program, as it is so focused and thorough on the many aspects of social anxiety.

Once you get the program and have gone through it on your own, you might even consider starting your own group based on the therapy. Dr. Richards even includes instructions on how to start a group. For me, group therapy is what lead to a real breakthrough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks, Drew. But starting a group would mean talking to people, no? ;)

And being in a group would also mean talking to people?
Hmm.. not sure if I can deal with that.

The irony is killing me. The one thing that may help is the one thing you fear most.

So unfair.
 

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thanks, Drew. But starting a group would mean talking to people, no? ;)

And being in a group would also mean talking to people?
Hmm.. not sure if I can deal with that.

The irony is killing me. The one thing that may help is the one thing you fear most.

So unfair.
At least it would be a group of people who aren't going to judge you, right?
 

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thanks, Drew. But starting a group would mean talking to people, no? ;)

And being in a group would also mean talking to people?
Hmm.. not sure if I can deal with that.

The irony is killing me. The one thing that may help is the one thing you fear most.

So unfair.
That's true and maybe I was getting ahead of myself.

Going through Dr. Richards program takes 20 weeks. For me, I found it to be a slow process, challenging in the daily discipline required and at times it will felt like nothing was changing. On my own I did things on my personal Anxiety Hierarchy, which is ladder of things that cause you anxiety, from least to most, starting off with things that cause little anxiety and working your way up. The important aspect is that you have the cognitive materials learned BEFORE you start doing the anxiety causing things. Exposure in it of itself never worked for me. By the end of going through the program on my own, I felt ready for the next step...doing it in a group. I don't mean I wasn't anxious, I was, but the level of anxiety was tolerable.

Then I went through the group itself, which at times was very challenging anxiety wise as we moved through various group and individual activities performed in front of the group. Again, it was a gradual process, where we started out with very small things (practicing eye contact, practicing small talk, etc.) and worked our way up over 20 weeks. You only had to participate in things if you felt ready to. It helped to know that everyone else there had social anxiety and was understanding of each other. Some people were more anxious about certain things than others, but everyone was really supportive.

I understand what you mean when you say you might not be able to handle talking to people. The thing is, if you value having a job and believe you have much to offer the world (which I know you do), then you're going to have to start somewhere. I don't know what CBT you've done in the past, but I do know that Dr. Richards therapy series worked for me and many others with very severe social anxiety. It's a gradual step by step process over time. You can work on it on your own at first, and even if it takes going through the program more than once, when you are ready try pursuing a group, whether that's joining an existing or starting your own.

I wish you the best and feel free to ask any questions you have. Also, there's a group on the site formed around Dr. Richards therapy:
http://www.socialanxietysupport.com/forum/groups/overcoming-sa-step-by-step/
 

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It is all in the practice. The worst an interview can do is turn you down for a job. They cannot demean you in any way - that's unprofessional and unethical. You would need to go through the various outcomes you are imagining and then truly assess which ones are likely to happen. A lot of the scenarios are a bit far - you will find that out.

You are not going to cackle like a chicken in the interview, and you will still have your clothes on! :lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thomas - you're right.
Drew - Thank you for your kind words and sharing your experiences. It sounds like a great program. I'm not sure how to describe this, but I'll give it a shot. .

The things you mentioned - practicing eye contact, small talk, etc.. I can do those things. I am of the mind "fake it til you make it". On the inside, I'm freaking out and getting dizzy and scared and.. well, you know the drill.. but I can make eye contact, make small talk, etc. I just HATE it and then overanalyze everything after (usually thinking I said something stupid.) I do have days when I just avoid everyone like the plague because I know I won't even be able to fake it. But for the most part, I can.

So, sitting in a group specifically for SA, bringing ATTENTION to it, attention to ME having it.. that makes me feel even more anxious!

So the question would be.. would it healthier long-term to INCREASE the anxiety with the intention of learning and practicing coping skills that will decrease my SA in the future? Or is healthier to just "fake it" to do what you need to do, knowing that SA is just a part of who you are? I'm not sure, but it gives me a lot to think about, so thank you!

melleniumman - thanks for the laugh. Sometimes I do have weird urges to do things like cackle like a chicken, though, just because I'm curious how someone would respond to that. I never DO it, though! lol.

I know my scenarios are usually way worse than the reality would ever be. When I project things happening, it's ALWAYS negative.. I'm working on trying to project positive things, but it's hard.

The applications for the job are due on the 3rd, so I have 2 days to figure it out. As it stands, I am terrified and still not wanting to apply. We'll see.
 
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