This post is by Sadie Hall of Your Social Anxiety Bestie.
How Social Anxiety Therapy Helps Me Survive as a Mom, Human, and Camel (wait, what?)
Mental health journeys are meandering things.
I’ve had my share of stumbles on my path to recovery from social anxiety, depression, and perfectionism.
Becoming a mother 5 years ago is what finally pushed me to focus on my mental health. It was not the cause of my mental health issues, but it was definitely the straw that broke this neurotic camel’s back.
Parenthood is kind of a sink-or-swim life transition, isn’t it? I was sinking; I knew that I NEEDED to learn to swim.
Camel… swimming… I’m mixing my metaphors here.
Anyway, one of my main lifelines on this journey has been therapy, and that’s what I’d like to share with you today, in case you’re in the place I was, and you’re either sinking or buckling under the weight of too much straw (pick your preferred metaphor!).
I’ve done two types of therapy so far:
Cognitive behavioural therapy
The first was cognitive-behavioural therapy, or CBT, for social anxiety. It was a 12-week program in group format. We would meet once a week for an intense two-hour session, often divided into an hour of learning and an hour of practice.
The two things that helped me the most in my CBT program were learning about cognitive distortions (unhealthy thought patterns common to those with social anxiety) and practicing exposure therapy exercises (putting yourself in anxiety-provoking but tolerable situations to build up resilience to the experience of anxiety).
The second type of therapy I’ve tried is the one I’m doing now, which is a longer-term therapy called psychodynamic psychotherapy. It’s one-on-one, and I meet with my psychiatrist for one hour every week. We’re about 20 weeks into the program right now, with 20 weeks to go.
So far, the biggest breakthroughs have been in my relationship with myself. Early in the program, I came to the heartbreaking realization that beneath all the anxiety and perfectionism and depression lay a solid core of self-loathing. I realized that, deep down, I hated and rejected myself.
Then, over time and through lots of exploratory discussions, that inner turmoil started to calm, and the tight knot of self-rejection started to loosen.
I found that I was starting to speak to myself more compassionately and kindly. I began to tolerate myself in a detached way, and eventually moved into fuller, warmer self-acceptance.
Progress over perfection
I have come a long way in healing my relationship with myself. It’s not “perfect,” but it’s remarkable progress. (The fact that I can recognize “imperfect” progress as remarkable is itself a testament to how much I have reframed the way I think.)
In this sense, therapy has been life-changing, and maybe even lifesaving.
It’s helped me learn to swim. (And/or carry straw.)
I have more progress to make. One big goal I have now is to become more comfortable in my relationships with other people, so that I can give more of myself to the people I care about, and not be afraid that they will reject what I have to give. (Or, if I do meet rejection, not let it cut me so deeply, because I will be coming from a stronger place of self-acceptance.)
Those are my goals for now. And that’s a peek into my therapy journey.
There is a lot more that could be said by people much more knowledgeable than me, but I hope this inside look is helpful and reassuring.
If you’re thinking about starting therapy, it might just be the decision that changes your life. 🙂
Thanks for reading!
And thank you, Ashley, for giving me the chance to write for this series. What a great opportunity for emerging bloggers!
Sadie (Your Social Anxiety Bestie)
Sadie is a mom of two living in Ontario, Canada. On her blog, she writes candidly and sometimes entertainingly about going through life and motherhood as someone who is shy and has severe social anxiety. She hopes to help others like herself feel a little less alone and a little more hopeful.