What are you supposed to do? Which treatment should you choose? Shrinks are for wackos, you don’t want to reveal yourself to the psychotherapist and you’ve already tried working it out on your own – it didn’t work!
These are stereotypes, I know, the first two a bit lousy at that. But, really, what are you supposed to do?
I asked myself this question I forgot how many times before. My social anxiety got me obsessing on how clueless I was in life, how I was going nowhere and how all my efforts amounted to nothing. I felt it, and above all – I believed it.
I was a mess and I knew perfectly well I couldn’t take responsibility for my recovery, I couldn’t man up and take the matters into my own hands – they would slip right through them. I was a puppet and my social anxiety was pulling the strings.
I looked for help, I looked for information – in every place where any could be found. I’ve seen the shrink, I spoke with the therapist and my efforts… Well, you know how those worked.
All I found was self-glorification and marketing. Nothing that could help me solve my problem. Every expert was concerned only with what’s the next paycheck going to buy him, and how to secure another one after that. They wanted to get me on a plan, sell me visits in bulk, refer my friends to them – all without even getting to know what I was struggling with.
I got repelled by those people, but I figured their professions had a reputation – maybe it was just them who were wrong. So I got myself to study. I read and learned, read, learned, read and learned some more – so much that I’ve felt I got the concepts nailed. I felt I know psychiatry, I knew psychotherapy, I knew buddhist teachings and the techniques of self-help gurus. But I didn’t know a single thing about dealing with my social anxiety. The problem was still there. Nothing has changed.
When I realized this I tried to readjust my learning process. Instead of learning what others have gone through and detaching myself farther away from my own problems, I contacted others who went through SA. Not anything else – I messaged people who presented themselves as anxiety-free fellas and wanted to learn about what they did and how they did it.
I used a fake name to ask them for advice, I wasn’t comfortable enough to get out there. I was skeptical at first. After all, they might have been just as fake and clueless as I was. In spite of my concerns I contacted a few people and tried some of what they claimed worked for them. I couldn’t believe it at first, as shocking as it was – what they suggested actually worked.
Immediately those people started earning more of my trust. I started off with a fake name, and now I was capable of introducing myself, asking about advice for my personal troubles and following up on it. I was building relationships and sharing my story!
Some of the guys who advised me at the beginning started becoming my friends – I was using this particular word to describe our relationships – I started building friendships with people I approached!
They helped me build up my confidence to the level at which I willingly decided to go out for a walk without a phone in my hand and headphones in my ears. A stranger approached me and inquired about the time – I answered, I went to the grocery store and looked at the cashiers face when giving her a bill. At that time, I wasn’t completely aware about how much progress I’ve made, but my life was in fact turning around. It was all changing for the better!
Finally, few months after receiving the first direct advice, about two years after the crisis and setting off for my quest for knowledge – I met up with some of the friends who advised me during those months. That’s when I realized how much has changed – not only was I able to make small talk and sustain it, to make eye contact and smile to people, I was also able to meet friends for an evening – as my own initiative. I had a social life!
I realized the problem I half-heartedly set out to achieve two years back was finally resolved. I was no longer overwhelmed, suffocated by the ever-present fears inside my head. I no longer saw approaching people as a matter of life and death, I stopped structuring my days around my social anxiety – I was free to live as I pleased.
After dwelling on the joy and excitement, which discovering this new world allowed me to experience, I started to think about how I really got where I was. I took a close look at every part of my journey – I wanted to understand it as well as I could, so I would never make a mistake and go back to where I started. I turned the advice I received and the actions I took into concepts and techniques – I shortened my journey and made into a step-by-step process flexible enough to suit anybody with similar troubles.
And it also worked for me. It’s been 3 years now and I can gladly say these were the best years of my life. When I think of it now – it was beyond my imagination that I could ever live a life like the one I’m living right now.
As I couldn’t get anywhere without the people who helped me – I started giving back and helping others overcome their social anxiety. I now have friends in close to 20 countries across the world – with all of whom I bonded because we’ve shared the experience of social phobia. I shared my process, concepts and techniques with them and the same thing happened – they’re all either free or on their way to being free from social anxiety.
Nowadays, I’m running a site and a blog about social anxiety with a friend of mine. As a matter of fact, we just released our first version of a free course for social anxiety!