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Ever since I started more actively pursuing and attacking my anxiety, I’ve read a lot of advice, one piece of which stuck with me. I was just too demotivated to follow it.

That advice, which comes from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, was to keep a journal. Or rather, to log thoughts and feelings of anxiety over a period of weeks and months and keep track of patterns of feelings and behavior. Patterns which may otherwise go unnoticed because they’re never viewed in a big span at once, but only acted out day by day.

But my problem was that I felt these patterns were blindingly obvious. I never wanted to start writing because I had the audacity about myself to assume I knew who I was very well. I knew my weak points. I knew how I would act in certain situations. I knew I’d be happy one day and sad the next. It’s just nature’s natural ebb and flow.

The funny thing about all this though is that once I did start writing, I did see patterns I’d never noticed before. I tend to use the word “impossible” a lot in the entries. I tend to write about positive things in one entry with the next being completely focused on how my positive thoughts were misdirected (I knew this, but it’s interesting to see it played out).

For a few weeks now–since mid-November–I’ve been keeping this journal on an almost steady basis of two times a week. And I plan on keeping it for quite a while.

Essentially, whenever I catch myself with a moment of free time, especially at school (which is an environment I find much easier to write in), I just start writing. How my day was, what people said to me, what I think I’m feeling.

No matter how much difficulty I find in putting that first word down to start the first sentence of an entry, I rarely hold myself back. I try to find a suitable starting point quickly so as not to lose my entire train of thought. Once I’m able to run with my feelings, I write pages. Every sentence becomes less viscous. Every paragraph becomes more in-depth. Every page sheds more light on my inner demons I can’t seem to settle with.

The first time I wrote an entry it was purely out of spite. Spite for the world, spite for other people, and spite from my inner self who couldn’t seem to have his selfish desires satisfied no matter what he did. I was exceedingly mad when I first started writing; the beginning of that first entry is rife with anger. I quickly grew more passive, though, which shows my short-term tolerance for staying angry.

Most of my entries since then have been relatively free of spite, but they’re still almost completely full of remorse. Remorse, and more painfully, longing.

Keeping a journal is much different from keeping a blog. You may well wonder why I just don’t slap what I write up here. Truthfully, it’s not so much that I don’t want to. I’m not afraid to share a lot of things with people. I just find it much easier to physically interact with my words via a pencil and paper. I can’t stand to write on the computer, especially whenever I feel like I do when I write these journal entries. I end up feeling disconnected from my head and losing motivation.

The more I write in this journal, the more I find myself trying to turn what I write into a piece of art. I am relatively unrestrained in what I write about, but I get a fair amount of joy from trying to maintain standards of writing and reading the entries back to myself. I am, pretty much, indirectly writing an autobiography.

I find it to be a successful therapy as well. I always thought I wouldn’t ever be able to express my problems and feelings to nothing but a piece of paper. I felt like I needed other people at the other end to hear me. I needed other people to respond to me and to validate me. A friend told me once that he relieved anger by writing it out, and I distinctly remember telling him that I’d never be able to release any of my feelings without someone to listen.

But truthfully, that feeling largely has gone away. When I realized how intimate I could get with my thoughts with just a pencil, paper, and a conducive environment to writing I felt a certain relief.

I can be a lot more comfortable with myself in writing than I could be with people responding to what I said. I suppose I always felt guilty about wasting someone else’s time when it was my problem to handle. At least with myself, I’m only consuming my own time.

This journal has pushed me forward by leaps and bounds in dealing with my emotional issues. It, combined with supportive and loving friends and the unshaking resolve of my parents to understand this problem, has given me insight recently and made me realize what an amazing life lies before me right now.

And right now, I feel the best I’ve ever felt.

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Social networking. A new way to define yourself, right? What if you don’t know who you are?

On social networking sites like MySpace I’ve started to notice that there’re two main ways people present themselves on their profiles:  In-depth,  with large lists of interests, favorite shows, books, bands — complete with titles and band names — or very vague, with nonspecific information about genre and personality and very little in the way of actual identifying characteristics.

Take me for instance. My personal profile is desert-like in emptiness. I have things to describe me but they are mostly broad generalizations. I don’t say “I like this band, and this book”, but rather “I like this style of music, and this genre of books”.

For people who fill out profiles in depth, it seems that they either don’t have a life or they have highly specified interests. Even though it would seem that people who expand their online presence to the depth they do means they don’t have anything better to do with their time, this isn’t necessarily true. Since they have so many things they can write about themselves and their interests, they far outstrip the people who generalize. They have more of a life.

As  for people like me, who are less well-gifted in socialization, in order to feel more accepted, subconsciously I “dumb down” my interests and personality in order to reach as many people as I can in the hopes that I’ll meet them and be able to talk to them, so I don’t always feel unliked or alone.

Thus, I end up generalizing my personality.

The other reason I find that I don’t explicitly state these things is that I don’t see myself as very interesting. I don’t have a wide range of hobbies or interesting things to say, nor nothing I have experienced or watched or read seems likely to spark a conversation, and that’s the ultimate downfall of my social phobia.

Sometimes I feel incompetent because everyone looks so fleshed out in life. Swimming in a text wall of accomplishments and expansive life experiences loses me in my reading pattern physically as well as in feelings of jealousy emotionally.

I find that, at least if I generalize, it makes me feel like I’m a more approachable person. And I truly believe I am approachable. But I’m also very shy. It would then seem to me that social phobic people would generalize themselves more in order to reach the widest possible spread of people in order to feel a sense of belonging and to make connections with others.

A social phobic is not very well defined in the first place. They’re swimming in a mess of who they think they are, who they feel like they should be, what other people see them as, and so on. Though every person experiences this, the anxiety raising alarm in a social phobic’s mind can feel much worse than a usual case of stress or butterflies. Like teenage identity crises, social phobics are searching hard to find themselves. They begin generalizing, to see if they can befriend other people to “find themselves” with. The desire in a social phobic to belong somewhere is very strong. Having to question one’s identity on a daily basis can make someone go mad without companionship. The vicious cycle begins when trying and failing to find that companionship makes it harder to commit to finding it again. The very people one wants to befriend are the same people who may very well make one feel uncomfortable because of the phobia.

Specific people know who they are. They don’t kid themselves or anybody else. They don’t wait around for companionship in order to feel safe in the world. They are the type of people who can define themselves in one short sentence. They are not less complex (social phobics, don’t go getting a big head please), but they do have fewer complications, if that makes any sense.

Of course, this concept doesn’t always apply. Some shy people may be overzealous in creating their profile in order to get noticed, or  extroverted people may not fill out their profiles for lack of time or lack of need (because they’re so well-known anyway).

But this was just a thought.

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I made it last time, and I just made it again yesterday. But, that’s not enough is it? We have to turn up the heat if we’re gonna get over this fear don’t we?

Yes we do.

I went in a store. Me, the agoraphobic, afraid of people, afraid of heights, messed-up-in-the-head person, went inside a store. A Wal-Mart Supercenter, to be exact.

I still had trouble (if I can’t see the exit I panic, etc.), but I pretty much looked like a normal person. I hope.

We’re making it 😀

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Wanted: Self-Discipline

On second thought, that’s probably not the best title for this post.

Something was brought to my attention yesterday, and it’s something I already knew, but it’s something I really need to fix.

I am atheist. Mostly. But, see, I’ve never even read the Bible 😐 . Nor have I ever been to a church service. Right there tells you how hypocritical that makes me. I mean I should give it a fair chance but frankly I don’t think I could stomach it.

But, I know what’s in there. I know from experience, from other people, without even reading, that what’s in there is something I’d rather not see.

Self-discipline is actually important here. Should I or should I not force myself to try to see things from another side? It’s only fair. It’s what I’d want people who aren’t atheist to try.

And I’ll be honest: I don’t like having my thoughts challenged. Not many people do. I’m also very easily tempered. I know it won’t be “pleasure reading” and I’ll be very likely to get infuriated. I’d rather just not try.

I hate being in this situation where I just profess for or against something without any validity behind it. It’s a very awkward place because everybody expects you to back it up with something. It’s not fair for me to just hate the religion.

Maybe this will help to explain my situation better: I’m not specificially atheist, I’m just not Christian and I don’t follow any other religion. Agnostic? Perhaps.

If people would get less worked up about it, I wouldn’t care as much. The fact that anyone takes any of it seriously is both amazing and hilarious (yes, that includes me, because if I didn’t take it seriously I wouldn’t be against it). The believers or the non, both are in the same boat.

If there is a god in the Christian sense, then I’m going to hell. The lowest level of hell.

This is where ‘reality expansion’ techniques come into play. In order to learn more about myself and the rest of the world, I need to be self-disciplined enough to actually want to study it. I need to give everything in the world a fair chance, so my eyes can open a little bit more. I’m not nearly as open-minded as I wish I was. So, if I want to change that, I have to try to change that.

Poorly written post? You bet. Eh, it’s an off day. Didn’t sleep well, etc.

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What’s an agoraphobic to do?

How about…something like this:

madeit

It may not look like much, but this is the farthest me and my thumb have been in 6 years. It’s probably…a bit over half an hour from my house.

The reason I didn’t get a full-body shot? I was too scared to get out of the car and look like an idiot having my picuture taken. And my thumb was the only part of my body I could aim the camera toward.

You could say I was excited. I was. But today, afterwards, it really doesn’t feel all that remarkable. I kind of wish I felt better about it. Frankly I expected more of an emotional high than I’m getting.

Maybe I’m just depressed that I haven’t tried it before now?

But I still managed to do it. Getting there was all the trouble. I kept putting my head down, trying to do deep breathing, and everything else. My whole lower abdomen came into my throat.

But I fought it. Chances are I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for my dad. I didn’t want to waste his time.

That’s how you finish a goal list. 😀

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It’s been, oh, about a little over a week now (almost 2!) since my school’s summer vacation started. Which, normally I would be OK with, but considering it’s going to be one of the shorter breaks, I’m kind of depressed.

It’s also my last vacation as a compulsory student of the state. It’s exciting, but scary. It shouldn’t be.

Like I said in my “podcast” (feh), I have a lot of catching up to do in a very short period of time. Writing this post certainly isn’t saving me any, but hey.

Like last year, I have goals for this summer. Even though I’m not off to the most spiritful start with them, I’m already beyond my grandest achievements from before.

Last year, my goals were important at the time, but in the grand scheme of things they seem so trite, so insignificant. They were goals, and ones I planned to achieve, but relatively unimportant regarding the impact they would have on my life.

My goals for this year and next year are much bigger. They have to be out of necessity. If they weren’t life-changing goals, then my life would never change. And in that case, life would get really hard, really fast.

So, let’s see what your neighborhood atylmo will be up to over the next 3 months or so.

  • I will drive on a real, operating public road.
  • I will make it more than 5 miles from my house.
  • I will overcome the pain that is a broken memory card (yes, GTA..again)
  • I will consider thinking about looking for a job. If an opportunity presents itself, sure. Otherwise, this isn’t too likely.
  • I will overcome more of my social phobia and be comfortable with people. I will also hopefully get people comfortable with me. I’ve lost too many friendships because I’m not social enough.
  • I will become more self-disciplined.
  • I will learn more skills and metaskills that I should know by now. Mowing lawns, cooking, car maintenance, etc.
  • I will be sexy by the time school starts. Oh wait I already am. A six pack would be a nice bonus though.
  • I will regain most of the Spanish I’ve lost since the class ended. I need to prepare for the third semester. I will also try to pick up more.
  • I will hang out with a friend. I have only ever done something with someone from school over summer vacation once.
  • I will (well, want to) finally send a reply to that postcard I got from Japan, probably 4 months ago. Which also entails learning how to send international mail.
  • I will make my dad proud of me.
  • I will make the best of these 3 months.

It may seem stupid to post these, especially on a blog that seems wholly unrelated to phobias and self-confidence issues, but posting helped me last year, so why not now? It’s more important this time.

That’s the way you do it.

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A while back, I found an article on Pick The Brain called “Why No Response Doesn’t Mean Not Interested” that I fell in love with. I hate the site, I hate any site that purports to be for self-improvement and then whores itself out (it’s very distrusting).. but there was one thing of interest in a bullet point:

The person who assumes nobody wants to talk with him because he sits quietly in a corner during a party.

Obviously that’s not a sentence but that’s not the point.

The point is, unless you try, most people will (annoyingly) not know that you want to try or you want to be noticed. People LIKE you. People WANT to be around you. But they can’t if you don’t look like you want them.

Just because they don’t talk to you doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you. They may not have noticed you, or may not have had time to chat. If they’ve talked to you before, nothing’s changed. There’s no reason to worry that they hate you because of a couple instances of appearing ignored. Most won’t even think about it past that 5-second period. That’s a good thing because it means they’re not caring about your perhaps awkward appearance.

This is a tall order for me to overcome, personally. I’ve been relying too much on that “other-confidence” because I don’t have enough self-confidence. There’s the rub..and irony. If you want to get more friends you need to be confident but for me it’s hard to be confident without my friends’ shoulders to stand on.

Why am I writing about this? Well, today was a strange day. People actually talked to me. Yes me. Even talking to the people I always do, it felt different..like I was a freer person.

I hope this is a good sign.

Remember kids, don’t be a weenie! Or at least be a good one, with chili, and cheese..yum.

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