Leanne suffers with social anxiety and emotionally unstable borderline personality disorder. This amazing, brave woman discusses with us how this affects her on a daily basis not only as an individual but as a partner and a mother of three.
“I sometimes use up all my energy gearing myself to be ready to leave the house or preparing for a friend coming round”
Hello Leanne thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us. Would you start by telling us how your social anxiety affects you on a daily basis?
Social anxiety affects me physically and mentally. I wake feeling tired and drained from where I haven’t slept from thinking about past experiences and regret.
I find it hard to talk, even to my children and my partner, I struggle to find the words. Sometimes I find myself going off into a stare and it interrupts with normal daily tasks.
I sometimes use up all my energy gearing myself to be ready to leave the house or preparing for a friend coming round. I’m exhausted by the time and drained.
I also get very paranoid about what others must think of me. The way I look, the way I dress, and the way I talk.
How long have you had social anxiety?
I have suffered with social anxiety on and off since the age of eleven. With some periods of being totally fine, happy and confident to some periods of being totally closed up and not able to be myself, feeling timid stiff and shy.
“I starved myself to feel in control and praised myself for doing it”
It must have been very difficult suffering with social anxiety as a child. Did this affect your school life?
It was difficult, although I didn’t understand at the time. It was very confusing and unsettling, I often felt very alone and misunderstood.
It did greatly affect school life. I couldn’t concentrate on work and was fearful of what others were thinking of me. It led on to a few issues. I starved myself to feel in control and praised myself for doing it. It took my mind off the social fear which led to headaches, hunger, pains and dizziness, constant mouth ulcers and generally being run down.
Assembly at school was very daunting which often led to sweating. . .which led to the worry if I left damp marks on the chair I was sat on! Sitting so closely to others just having this overwhelming urge to leave the hall and it was awful because I felt like a total weirdo! I didn’t understand the feeling, I didn’t even know of the word anxiety.
When were you diagnosed with social anxiety?
I was diagnosed a month ago with social anxiety. Although 3 years ago I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable borderline personality disorder by Peri mental health team .
Can you tell us more about the Peri mental health team?
The Peri mental health team was for during pregnancy and postnatal . I had weekly visits for a good chat with my nurse, which was really helpful. I could vent and moan about stuff and express my concerns. I trusted my nurse. She was really brilliant and understood, she told me I wasn’t going crazy. Something I feared so much.
I once told her that I was scared I was going to end up like one of those mothers on the television that kills herself and her child from going insane. The worry of going insane was driving me insane!
My nurse told me I was a good mum and had faith I was a safe and loving parent. That reassurance once a week is just what I needed. Sometimes once a day on the end of the phone from her! It really helped and I felt safe in myself.
Are you seeking any form of treatment currently?
I’m not currently having any treatment at the moment, I’m on sertraline 100mg a day to help with the anxiety and intrusive thoughts. It does help sometimes, it helps so much that I get episodes where I feel I don’t need them and then I stop taking them and then it’s just a downfall of anxiety, OCD, irresponsible money spending and behaviour.
So I’ve learnt to stick to them no matter what. I’m too frightened to miss a tablet incase I fall unwell! I start my cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the 5th September for the social anxiety. I’m looking forward to it and perhaps one day really moving on from it all.
“I cry and feel like such a failure”
Do you feel that social anxiety causes challenges for you as a mother and partner? If so, could you share some of those with us?
It most definitely challenges my confidence in being mother. When I’m out I stress about my children staying clean. Worried about smells…is it bacteria!? Protection mode …hand sanitiser gels on the ready. I plan escape routes in case of any emergencies.
Whilst pushing the buggy I’ll check again and again to see if my child is still in there! I know it sounds crazy but I worry so much about child abduction. I get heart palpitations and feel dizzy in crowded areas especially when my children are with me. Places like Primark are often unbearable.
It’s got in the way of my partner and I having a social life. He is a social butterfly! He talks and mingles between everyone and makes it look so easy. He looks relaxed and laughs! But there has been times that within 10 mins of being in the pub, room, a wedding full of other people that I’m dying to get in the car or taxi to go home. I cry and feel like such a failure. I have run off without telling him in the past.
Pubs are huge no go for me a lot of the time. Large crowds of men I find extremely intimidating. Drunken men and loud laughing just totally kicks starts the anxiety off. It literally feels like I’m drowning and can’t breathe.
You mentioned your therapy is starting soon, how are you feeling about the future?
I’m feeling pretty good about the future whatever becomes of it. I’ve learnt to accept myself, my anxieties and the way I am. I am feeling confident that CBT will be helpful. I want to help others, it’s a goal to be there for other people who are in the same boat as I am currently. Just got to work on myself a little bit more and address some issues in order to reach that goal.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us Leanne :)