By: Mel Bonthuys
Taking a deep breath, I walk into the waiting room of the Doctor's Office. It's full of people and I can feel the panic rising in my throat but my appointment is any minute now and I have to check myself in.
Standing in the queue at the reception desk, I try my hardest not to think about the waiting room full of people who I am convinced are all staring at me, laughing at me and mocking me.
When the receptionist calls me forward, I gingerly walk up to the reception desk and in a soft, shaky voice, I tell her my name. She asks me to take a seat, the panic starts to rise again, as now I know I will have to turn around and face all these people.
Surprisingly, when I do turn around, not a single person is looking at me. They are all either reading a book, listening to music on their cell phones or just staring into space.
I choose a seat right in the front, that way I won't have to walk past rows of people. I sit in my chair, concentrating on doing silent deep breathing to prevent hyperventilation. I look up as more people enter the medical centre. I can feel myself frown at them as I look over at each of them. All standing there in the queue, all looking so normal, all looking as calm as anything, completely unaware as to the fact that I am so social phobic at this point in time that I want to die.
To add to my misery, there is a big electronic board up front which will state my name and the room I need to go to any minute now. Immediately, I wish it didn't do that. I don't want to get up and walk in front of all these people. What if I trip? What if they laugh at me? What if I can't find the correct room?
Almost within a few seconds, I see my name 'Mrs M Bonthuys - Room E'. I get up, and a few heads look up as they want to see who Mrs M Bonthuys is, which aggravates me even more.
I follow the signs on the wall, just hoping to find my way, once I turn into a quiet passageway, away from all the people, I can feel some of my anxiety releasing.
As I enter the nurses room, she greets me and motions for me to sit down. I collapse into the chair, while the nurse, who is scrolling through my files on the computer is blissfully unaware of what emotional turmoil I have just been through.
The above piece is a true story, of what happened to me on a visit to the doctor's office a few years ago. I will always remember this story as being one of my worst social anxiety moments ever!
Although social anxiety is a very unpleasant experience, it can be dealt with. Had I known these simple tricks back then, I might have been able to reduce my anxiety quite substantially.
To define this condition more accurately, Social Phobia or Social Anxiety is a fear of being made a fool of, being embarrassed or humiliated, or fear of being around people and/or in public spaces.
Social Phobia can make people so afraid of going out in public that they become imprisoned in their homes.
Around 15 million adults in the USA alone suffer with Social Anxiety.
5 handy tips for dealing with social anxiety that have helped me personally:
- Play soothing music or a guided meditation from your cell phone and connect it to some earphones. This creates a 'detached' impression from the outside world.
- Wear sunglasses. This creates a 'if I can't see you, then you can't see me' impression.
- Try to go out early morning or later at night. There are less people about. I especially love using this tip when grocery shopping.
- If and when you can, take someone along with you that you trust when having to go out into public. This helps me a lot.
- Smile at someone! I know this may seem strange, but once, a random stranger met my gaze and smiled at me. I cannot begin to explain how much that stranger helped soothe my social phobia at that time just because she had smiled at me. So to make someone instantly smile at you - smile at them!
This last point isn't really a tip, but more of a reality check that I am still trying to drum into myself! The simple truth of it all is that no one actually cares what you are doing! Everyone is too wrapped up in their own world to even notice you! This is rational thinking, but since anxiety sufferer's base all their thoughts around irrational thinking, I won't blame you if you let this last one slide! :) As I said, I'm still having trouble with it myself!
Mel is the author of My Anxiety Companion, available HERE.