Panic Attacks Make Me Feel Weak.

There’s nothing like a panic attack to make the rest of your day feel terrible. I have social anxiety and the reality is; one single person can lead to me having a panic attack. I’m not just an introvert who likes to dwell in my own company; I have a mental illness that makes me terrified of people. Humans are a social species, we need other people to keep us sane and happy…my brain has decided despite that it’s going to make being social impossible for me.

It’s so hard to explain social anxiety to other people, it’s not just being anti-social; it’s being distressed at just the idea of interacting with other people. Today my panic attack was caused by something others deal with easily; a repairman turning up to update my smoke alarms. Others would have dealt with it like it was nothing but my brain can’t cope with someone turning up unannounced to my house. I then have to let that person into my safe space which completely takes away my feeling of safety. I live in council housing and my housing association have my issues on file so I’m given prior notice if anyone needs to come to my house. That simple act of letting me know and prepare is the difference between me being simply uncomfortable and full on panicking and having a break down. But today I had no prior notice and that simple act changed the whole experience.

I only answer the door if I’m expecting a delivery and that’s the only reason I answered the door today. Instead of a simple delivery it’s a man who needs to come into my house and do some work. This unexpected moment completely freezes my brain. I want to explain and say I can’t let him in, I want to ring my Mum who is ten minutes away and can come and deal with the situation. But I can do none of these things because my brain has short circuited and I’m incapable of anything but a one word answer. So I open the door and let this stranger in despite my whole body fighting me. I’m panicking but this man won’t see it because when I’ve learned to hide it very well. He can’t see that I’m gritting my teeth so hard it hurts, or that I’m digging my nails into my skin and scratching because pain is the only thing that stops me physically collapsing into a heap and crying like a baby.

The physical and obvious panic attack comes when he leaves. Because all that adrenaline that’s been rushing through my body has nowhere to go. My safe place feels unsafe because someone else has been in it and most of all, I feel like a complete and utter idiot because all I want to do is be a normal person and interact socially without a break down. All of this self-hate and adrenaline makes me hyperventilate, makes me sweat and shake. I’m crying and struggling to get my breath, while everything around me spins. I’m not in control of my own body and all I can do is sit and wait for my brain and body to run out of energy.

That’s my reality. I won’t forget it and get on with my day. I’ll spend the rest of my day feeling broken, embarrassed, ashamed and completely weak. I hate feeling weak, I like to think I’m a strong person, I’ve overcome so many obstacles and struggles. But the reality is I have social anxiety, I’m terrified of people and I am weak.

Sometimes I wish I had a big sign on my head that said “social anxiety” because then at least people could see my mental illness, they could try and be more understanding. You never know what battles are going on in someone internally, so be kind and be patient.

Anxiety makes me a social idiot.

One of the worst things with social anxiety is the unexpected and unfortunately I cannot control that. So when a police officer turns up at my door while I’m chilling in my pyjamas, I panic big time and go on to make an idiot of myself.

I don’t typically have a problem with authority but I do have a problem with people turning up at the house unexpected. To begin with, there is the ‘do I or don’t I’ answer the door because I really don’t want to interact with anyone. I’m in my pyjamas, my hair is all over the place and I haven’t got any make-up on. But my therapist says I can’t avoid situations so I answer the door, expecting the post man or a delivery….it’s a policeman. At this point, my insides drop and my heart begins to speed up. He introduces himself and says not to worry, he’s visiting all the houses in the street to ask about an incident. Meanwhile, I don’t hear any of his introduction because my body is in flight mode. My anxiety is telling me to shut the door and hide, while the rational part of my brain is demanding I face my fear and snap out of it.

The worst panic begins when he asks to come in for a few minutes and I really want to say no because I’m alone and my home is my safe space, it’s my bubble away from people. But he’s a police officer so I can’t really refuse so I invite him in and then literally just stand in my tiny hallway because I can’t invite him in further, I haven’t tidied and deep inside, I want to protect my safe space. So we stand in a tiny hallway with him talking but me not actively listening because I’m trying to hold back a panic attack at having a stranger in my house. He asks me questions about if I’ve seen anything in the street, if I have any concerns or questions, can I provide any information? All I can muster up is one word for each question; ‘No’. In my mind, I have something to say, I do have some concerns and I have seen some worrying things but my mouth literally won’t produce the words, it can just manage one word. And of course he starts to look at me suspiciously because I’m only saying one word and my face is turning red because I’m embarrassed I can’t act like a normal person. He asks me if I’m alright, it I’m sure there isn’t anything I want to talk about and the same one word comes out of my mouth so he leaves.

I immediately go into my living room and begin hyperventilating, my whole body is shaking from the adrenaline and I’m panicking, replaying the scene in my head over and over again which makes the embarrassment and shame worse. Eventually I calm myself down and that’s when the regret starts because my rational brain has kicked in and it’s telling me I’m an idiot and questioning why I can’t act like a normal person and talk to strangers. Why on earth can’t I interact with someone normally, without embarrassing myself. The scene continues to replay in my head throughout the day and I go through all the ways I could have changed what happened, I could have invited him in to the living room so I wasn’t cramped in a tiny hallway with a strange man, I could have told him what I had seen in the street and what concerns I had, I could have smiled and been charismatic.

But that didn’t happen and I have to live with replaying it over and over until my anxiety finds something new to cling onto. I wish I could interact with a strange person as if I were comfortable and social but my anxiety won’t allow that. My anxiety makes me appear like a mute idiot when someone I don’t know talks to me, it makes me seem rude and cold. It makes people react negatively towards me and I hate that. Sometimes I wish I could just be honest when someone talks to me, tell them I suffer with anxiety and to be patient but I freeze up, I panic, my heart beats out of my chest and I sweat more and more. It’s frustrating and embarrassing.