How talking on the internet helped me overcome social anxiety disorder

social media mental health recovery uk blogger

Did you know that February 2nd is Time to Talk Day? It’s a great opportunity to start conversations about mental health all over the UK, from schools to homes to workplaces.

About Time to Talk Day

Sadly, many people who suffer from mental illness feel ashamed to talk about how they feel and this just simply shouldn’t be the case. It only takes one small step to ask for help, and just a quick chat with someone who understands can have a huge impact.

time to talk

If you know someone who might be suffering, or if you have a mental health issue yourself; I urge you to use today as a chance to open up about the real issues surrounding mental illness and help end the stigma surrounding the subject. With that in mind, I wanted to share my own personal story today.

Many of you already know my history with depression and anxiety, but what you may not know is how social media has helped me overcome social anxiety in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong; it took me years of therapy and medication to get to this place, but every piece of social interaction online added up to help me along the way too.

Snapchat

If you follow me on Snapchat then you’ll know what I’m about to say. I LOVE TO TALK. Not to other human beings of course – that would be way too much interaction – but to myself on my mobile phone.

When I moved away from Glasgow I realised Snapchat stories was a great way to keep my friends updated with what I was up to everyday, as we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Whilst everyone else is pouting whilst using the puppy dog filter (OK, I do my fair share of that too) I’m giving my viewers the low-down on my mental state as it changes. Sometimes I’m laughing about haggis in an American drawl and other times I’m just talking about my low self-esteem.

It’s a great form of talking therapy, and lots of people have told me they find it helpful to see that other people are going through mental health issues too. It’s made me more open to talking about these subjects in social settings and basically owning my mental health problems instead of pretending they don’t exist.

twitter logo mental health blogger UK

Twitter

Tweeting was not something that came naturally to me. I’m not quick-witted enough to construct jokes that fit into the strict character limitations and my spelling has let me down on more than one occasion.

In 2016 I started using it to promote my blog, and before long had been sucked into various communities (mental health, blogging and Birmingham) and was having conversations with total strangers on a daily basis.

I’ve used it to find new friends, decent WordPress training and a local social media seminar that I would otherwise never have known about. It’s made me go out and make real-life connections with people I’m met online, and without that initial meeting online I honestly don’t think it would have been possible.

I’ve also created my own chat on Twitter where we talk all about body positivity. Plucking up the courage to do all of these things has been a total revelation for me after several years of avoiding social outings and talking to new people.

Instagram

I spent a lot of time taking photos of my food before I realised it’s not really the best use of my Instagram account. I have a history of disordered eating and was obsessed with food for about two years whilst I ate a very restricted diet to lose weight.

I still love food and taking pretty pictures of my salads (I’m a blogger, it’s basically compulsory) but I’ve loved using my Instagram as a way to showcase random thoughts and emotions that happen throughout my day. I’ve tried to spread positivity through my account and that’s had a knock on affect on my mood, meaning I’m generally a little happier thanks to the interactions I make online.

I’ve conquered my fear of talking to camera thanks to Instagram stories and I even did a live stream a few weeks ago. This has made me more confident about talking about mental health in public and I genuinely think I could talk to anyone about it now!

social media for anxiety mental health blogger UK

Blogging

The most powerful tool in my quest to shake the shackles of social anxiety has ironically been the thing that I do all on my lonesome. I sit quietly in bed, at my desk or in my local coffee shop and tap away on the keys of my laptop writing for no one but myself.

During this time I feel free to say what I want. I can explain in detail how I feel about the world, how depression has affected me and how painful yet important my journey has been.

I can do all this from the comfort of my own space; without worrying about how I sound to others, stumbling over my words or trying to maintain eye contact whilst I divulge my deepest and darkest thoughts. I can express myself on my own terms and although it may seem like a one-side affair, it’s really not.

I regularly receive comments and private messages from women who understand exactly how I feel. It’s a wonderful, comforting feeling to know that we are all struggling in our own way and that we’re not alone.

The process of exposing myself online has given me the fearlessness to say many of the things I write about on here in real life. I can now introduce myself as a mental health blogger without the fear of ridicule, because I’ve successfully created a community of supportive people online who I know resonate with what I write about.

The chances are that many of the people I meet in real life will also understand so now I can proudly state who I am and what I stand for, and that is a wonderful privilege.

Have you found an unusual way to overcome social anxiety? Head over to Twitter and use Time to Talk Day as a way to share your story with me!

When you think I’m being rude, here’s what’s really going on 

appearing rude mental health how do i pretend to be OK

I’ve just returned from a busy weekend in Scotland. It was our first visit back home since we moved to Birmingham and I was really excited to see my friends and family for the first time in 4 months. Unfortunately for an introvert like me, being constantly on the go for 72 hours turned out to be kind of a drag. I knew my time was limited with everyone, but after the first day my mind was so exhausted that I could barely hold a conversation or stay awake.

Combine my solitary nature with mental health issues and you’ve got someone who appears to be extremely moody and rude for a lot of the time. I’ve said I’m sorry again and again. I feel like it’s out of my control. When I feel a low mood creeping in, it climbs onto my back and digs its claws in. It doesn’t let go and then I feel anxious about how I appear to other people.

I know there are people who can’t understand this at all. But I also know there are people out there who know exactly how it feels. Here’s what’s going on in my head most of the time:

I don’t have the strength to talk

Holding a conversations when I’m drained, depressed and on edge with anxiety is near impossible. I’m caught in that horrible contradiction of being fatigued but my body is often producing a lot of nervous energy. Sometimes making small talk is just too hard.

I have nothing nice to say

When my depression sets in I feel like the world is a bad place. I suddenly think I can see everyone for who they really are; they’re all pretending to be happy, nothing is worth the effort and we should all just give up immediately. If I’m in this frame of mind and you ask me what shade of lipstick looks best then I won’t have anything helpful to add to the discussion so I try to just keep my mouth shut.

I’m concentrating on not freaking out

It might look like I’m just grumpy and quiet but secretly I’m scanning the room for potential anxiety inducing situations. Where are the toilets? Are those drunk people going to talk to us? How are we going to split the bill and do I have enough money? Are you going to ask me something I can’t answer? Am I going to look stupid?

I feel like I’m not enough 

If this scenario continues on for more than a few hours and I feel like it’s obvious to other people then I tend to feel like a bit of a failure. Why can’t I just fake being polite for one day? Why can’t I think of one single thing to talk about? Why do my friends and family even want me around? I don’t deserve them. I’m such a waste of space.

I’m feeling guilty

When I start to feel like I’m cramping everyone’s style I am plagued with guilt. I feel like I’ve ruined the day, wasted everyone’s time and been a crappy friend/daughter/sister. Even when people tell me it’s not my fault I find a way to convince myself that I should be able to control my moods better or get better at pretending to be OK.

If I come across as rude to you, I’m so sorry. I’m working on it.

 

How to make friends when you have social anxiety 

making friends when you have depression social anxiety disorder

I had two bad days this week. Sweaty palms, a huge knot in my stomach and shortness of breath were just a few of the symptoms that followed me around whilst I tried to appear normal to the rest of the world. I try not to bother people with my anxiety when it crops up; firstly because there’s not much anyone can say to make it go away and secondly because I don’t like drawing attention to myself. I guess I should work on that.

I did overcome one fear this week though; I went to my first blogging event on a day where my anxiety was really bad. Seems impossible right? It was all down to making some new friends, something I never thought I would be able to do since I started suffering from anxiety and panic attacks a few years ago. Here’s how I did it…

Make a few close friends 

The biggest thing that helped me get through those few hours of socialising with strangers was already knowing a few people attending. It meant I didn’t have to turn up on my own or find anyone to talk to! If you’d asked me six months ago what I was most looking forward to about moving to Birmingham the last thing on my list would have been making new friends.

For me, going out and meeting new people is like asking someone with a fear of spiders to go on “I’m a Celebrity” and eat bugs in return for their dinner. I would rather just go hungry. It’s something I’ve feared so greatly for over four years now, that I can’t quite believe I’ve built my own little circle of friends all on my own. I only have a handful of friends but I personally think that’s better because I can explain my mental health problems better in a small group, which is means everyone is aware of when I’m not feeling 100%.

Use social media 

I didn’t have a clue how to even start meeting new people, and to be honest it wasn’t something I was planning on doing straight away. My main focus when I moved to the city was to find a job and work on my blog. I found a job within two weeks and started building my Twitter followers to get more blog traffic. Whilst I had some extra time on my hands I followed every Birmingham Twitter group I could find (Brum Bloggers, Brum Hour, etc) and got talking to other followers. I noticed a few other bloggers tweeting things like “I’ve just moved to Birmingham and I don’t know anyone” and felt compelled to speak to them, even though it made me really nervous. Leaving the comfort of Scotland where my friends and family were always on call meant for the first time in my life my loneliness outweighed my anxiety, so I reached out to a few girls in a similar position.

My advice to anyone looking to make friends on Twitter would be to make as many connections online as possible, and don’t think about the actual real life meeting until it happens. I talk to lots of people online that I’ll probably never meet in person, so I just enjoy the conversation for what it is; a brief meeting of minds over a funny GIF or a relatable comment. Over time you’ll strengthen some friendships and these are the people you should meet in real life. The girls I met on Twitter actually talk more to each other via text than we do online, I think that’s a good thing because it feels more genuine.

Be honest

This one is hard, because it can be really scary to tell people you’ve just met that you have mental health problems. I urge you to mention to at least one of your new acquaintances that you have some anxiety issues, so that they understand if you flake out last minute or don’t seem your usual self once in a while. In fact, social media is perfect for this because you can tell them about it – in as much or as little detail as you desire – via direct message instead of actually having to go through the horror or mumbling the words out loud. Go on, be brave. It’s so worth it.

Have you struggled to meet new friends because of social anxiety?