Anxiety & Fitting In

First, let me start off by saying I am extremely grateful that for the past month or so, I have not experienced the severe depression I spent most of this year battling. Let me just take a moment of silence to be grateful…….

Ok, now on to the important stuff.

My depression has taken a back seat to what I have called my “social anxiety.” Whether it is social anxiety or not, my therapist hasn’t disagreed with that term, so I’m running with it. It’s nothing new to me. When I was depressed, my social anxiety was not an issue because I simply never left the house if I didn’t need to. That’s a quick and easy band aid for social anxiety, right? It is only a temporary fix.

When my depression subsided, I felt like the weight of world had lifted from my shoulders. I am not suicidal. I can genuinely smile, and I just feel happy. And let me just say, it’s a fantastic feeling.

However, my social anxiety has crept up and pounced on me. The band aid was ripped off, and now I struggle to go out in public during certain situations. I have had many people tell me, who are aware of this new struggle, that I am doing so good going to the store, or meeting someone for a movie. I met a friend of mine to watch Wonder Woman a couple of weeks ago, and she was supportive that I was out and about in the mall. My issue is that if I don’t have a purpose of being somewhere, I get so self-conscious that I begin having panic attacks. The weekend before we saw the movie, I had a full-blown attack in my car that began with being anxious, and it developed into hyperventilation and tears. All I was wanting to do was go to the mall to the bookstore in search of a book I was looking for. In my mind, that wasn’t a good enough purpose to venture into the mall. If I had been with someone else, I would have been ok.

I recently opened up to my therapist, for I believe what is the 1st time, about this social anxiety. Since it wasn’t a true issue before, I never bothered to bring it up during a time where I was battling my depression. Now, we had a discussion about it. We set goals for myself to prepare myself for things I intend to do in the future, like meet Lana Parrilla at a Once Upon a Time convention in October.

I think something else that filters into this issue is how self-conscious I am about my body. I’m human. I’m not stick thin. I never had the time to truly exercise, but I am overweight. I gained a lot of weight after my mom died in 2010, and I never found a way to bring it back down to my original weight. My thyroid could be a huge cause to it, but in the Summer, I feel out of place in my own body. Nothing I wear is comfortable. I am absolutely self-conscious about what I wear. Are my clothes too tight? Do I look absolutely fat? I was drawing a picture of one of my favorite professors and myself, and I realized just how fat I was. I will admit that I almost erased myself out of the picture. Why do I deserve to be in it?

It is truly unbelievable how much really filters into social anxiety, or anxiety in general. Like I said before, my therapist and I set up goals. I accomplished my 1st goal this past Sunday. There was a pride festival in Cumberland over the weekend. Sunday was its big hooray, per say, where they had vendors set up downtown. It ended with a parade that evening. As someone who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, I really wanted to go to show my support. However, being a bisexual at a pride festival, in my mind, and showing up to the festival terrified me. Being in a crowd and just walking around made me anxious. I agreed with myself that I would try to go for at least 30 minutes. I drove into town the long way so I could pass the festival before parking. I almost turned onto the highway to head straight home. However, I parked in the parking garage, and I walked down to the festival. I stayed for almost 30 minutes before leaving. I was proud I went, but I felt so out of place.

I have told a few people that, and my therapist and I even discussed it during therapy tonight. I’m a bisexual who felt out of place at a pride festival. Crazy, right? I grew up sheltered from the LGBTQ community. My mother didn’t take kindly to me when she heard I was talking to a woman because I was simply curious… and I was 18. It wasn’t until after she died that I began to open up to myself about my sexuality, but it never defined me. In fact, I almost never identified with that community altogether. I simply liked some women. It took a long time to come to terms with it, but that’s how it was for me. I never considered myself a part of the LGBTQ community. It wasn’t until I participated in a photo shoot for the LGBTQ community, called Speaking OUT.

Speaking OUT is a community of individuals brought together by a Philadelphia photographer, Rachelle Smith. She spent a lot of her time photographing youth who identify with the LGBTQ community. Through her photography, stories were told by those who were photographed. She was an incredibly nice woman who visited FSU to give a talk about her book that she published, which included the pictures and stories of many of the individuals she met. *** (I highly recommend checking out her project. Visit www.rachelleleesmith.com or https://www.facebook.com/SpeakingOUT.rls/) *** My professor asked me if I was willing to be a part of it, and I said yes. My creative nonfiction professor, whose class I had been taking, was encouraging me to be more public. What better way than a photo shoot? I met the other students who were participating, and I instantly felt out of place. Many of them were fully involved with the LGBTQ community via drag queen contests, dating, organizations. However, I was simply bisexual. I was known more for my mental health advocacy than my sexual orientation. That part of me was simply a part of me, not something I was ever felt passionate enough about to be involved in organizations or contests. Even dating is obscure to me. How do you date when you are bisexual?

I realized how much I didn’t fit in, again, when I went to the pride festival. Not being outgoing, and being an introvert keeps me quiet in public. I hardly talk, and I do best when it’s one-on-one talk. I saw two other individuals there who had participated in the photo shoot. I even said hi, even if they didn’t remember me. I kind of just sat in the background like a wallflower during the photo shoot. I was too nervous, and felt too out of place to be too involved. I realized maybe I stuck out and felt anxious in those societies because being bisexual was not part of my identity that I go out of my way to be passionate about. Yes, I am more open to discussing it. I won’t shy away from telling you Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman was attractive. And I’ll go further and admit that I am officially obsessed with that movie. I went as far as drawing her. Check it out…

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I have stopped feeling uncomfortable around my female friends as well. However, I am simply not passionate about exploring that side of me more (right now). I have accepted it and moved on, focusing on my art and this blog.

It’s interesting how when the depression subsides, you can learn more about yourself. And after reading Brené Brown’s book, The Power of Vulnerability, I am more open to learning more about myself. And I can openly admit that I am excited to find out who I really am.

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