Life Update 2/20/20: Social and Generalized Anxiety

Hi guys! Welcome back to my blog. Today’s post is kind of a free-flowing rant about what’s been going on with me lately.

Externally, not much has transpired since I last spoke to y’all. These days, I’m doing a lot of dancing and figure skating whilst supporting these expensive passions by working (freelance tutoring, SAT English/math tutoring, teaching a stretching class, working as a personal assistant to a family friend). Mental health-wise, I am taking much better care of myself. I’m following my medication regimen religiously, going to acupuncture twice a week, attending therapy and bipolar group sessions twice a week. And, of course, I’m doing a LOT of writing, whether it’s in my private diary, on this blog, or on my website. Slowly but surely, I am making decent progress on my book, which is currently over 100 pages long! I’m happy because I’m finally finding my groove here in the Bay! No longer am I bitter about moving back home after college, nor am I constantly plagued by a strong desire to move back to LA.

Despite all the good that’s been happening in my life as of late, I find myself constantly anxious about… well, everything! I’m worried I’ll get into a car accident, or get a 3rd-degree burn from a cooking mishap. Things like that. I know it’s my generalized anxiety talking, and I’ll definitely address the issue with my therapist.

I also have found that my social anxiety is creeping back. If you guys don’t know, I’ve been battling social anxiety since high school. Naturally introverted, my shyness got really bad in sophomore year of high school, when an injury took me out of gymnastics— my life and identity for ten years. My self esteem went to zero, and I isolated myself from my schoolmates, spending lunch time either sitting alone in a classroom or inside a library, studying or writing. This was how many of my social fears were acquired.

Then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during sophomore year of college. The illness is characterized by manic/hypomanic and depressive episodes. One of the characteristics of mania/hypomania is decreased social inhibition and marked increase in self-esteem. When I first got to college, I was extremely manic. Overnight, I broke out of my shell and transformed into a completely different person than I was in high school! I was very popular among my floor mates, classmates, friend group, and even professors. I was super friendly and outgoing with everyone I met, and I literally gave zero hoots about what other people thought of me. I thought I had finally conquered the social anxiety beast. Little did I know that this guise of social confidence was really a manifestation of mental illness, rather than genuine confidence.

Regardless, in college, I was challenged every day socially, and because of that, a part of me was truly tackling and overcoming social anxiety, illness aside.

Then, I came home from college, where I received extensive mental health treatment. The medications I am on have brought me down from the manic state. Now stable, I’ve found myself reverting back to my introverted tendencies. I admire the confidence I used to exhibit. I am light-years away from the girl I was at UCLA.

Another factor that has exacerbated my anxiety is the fact that I am no longer challenged socially every day. I spend most of my days at home, living like a recluse. The only social stimulation I get is when I’m at the dance studio or skating rink. Even there, I don’t have many friends who are my age, so I don’t get much socializing done.

This past week, I’ve been fixated on my social anxiety, worried about my symptoms and how others would perceive me if they found out I had this anxiety disorder. I worry about even the slightest things— meeting new people, job interviews, presentations, being in front of a camera, etc. etc. Such a regression from the confident and uninhibited person I was in college. I miss that Belicia. But you know what? That Belicia was using her illness as a crutch. A shortcut of sorts, to building confidence. If there’s one good thing that’s come from all this, it’s that I have been stripped of all illusions and am ready to build genuine confidence from the ground up. Without the bipolar mania backing me up, I will struggle socially. I will shake and tremble and sweat, but you know what? That is okay. The only way to tackle the social anxiety beast is to fight it head on. I always look up to Eleanor Roosevelt who, before becoming the First Lady, was incredibly, incredibly shy. She had to overcome so many obstacles and personal hurdles to get to where she ended up. Same with the actress Lucille Ball, who played the titular character in “I Love Lucy”. In an interview, she said that acting school taught her “how to be afraid”.

I beat social anxiety once, in high school. Junior and senior year were formative years in my high school career. Tired of living a miserable existence of depression and anxiety, I was ready for change. So I started going to therapy, where I worked closely with my therapist to tackle each fear, head on. Eager to build confidence, I decided to start Latin-ballroom dance. I remember nearly having a panic attack before my first social dance class. I was super nervous for my first private lesson, which happened on Valentine’s Day of 2015 (kind of poetic how that worked out, huh?). I took a 6-week public speaking course at a local community college. The day before the class commenced, I remember walking on the levee, balling my eyes out because I was so terrified for what was to come. But I survived it, and did very well!

So, that’s it for my long-winded rambling. I feel a lot better, getting all my anxieties and worries out of my head and onto paper (or in this case, my laptop screen). Writing, especially expressive writing, is super cathartic and helpful for anyone who has a lot on their mind. I’ve been writing on this blog for the past five years, and it’s been nothing but the most rewarding experience. Thank you to all of my loyal band of readers. Your continued support means so much to me. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Best,

Belicia

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