Day fifteen of the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge asks:
How has your life been affected by your illness(es)?
Even though it’s considered one of the ‘big’ mental illnesses, the impact Bipolar has had on my life is negligible, mainly because by the time I was diagnosed my life had already been reduced to rubble courtesy of social anxiety, an abusive relationship and being ostracized from my social group.
Certainly, it did have an impact in the rebuilding of my life; the hypomanic episode I experienced in mid-2008 caused all manner of problems (from employment to relationships) and the constant fluctuations in mood were a large part of my homelessness and subsequent battle to escape it.
However, it also caused good things to happen to my life, notably the meeting of and subsequent friendship with Samantha, my increased creativity and a greater understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of.
This has had a major impact on my life, especially as it feeds into the anxiety I experience.
One cause of my PTSD was the emotionally abusive relationship I was a victim of; as a result, I fear making new friendships as I don’t want to find myself in a similar situation of constant criticism, abuse and destructive comments. Similarly, the PTSD I experience as a result of the assault and rape has made me fearful of men, cost me years of restorative sleep and granted me a complex surrounding all things sexual.
As a result, I tend to isolate myself and withhold from any situations which could cause the PTSD to flare up (i.e. nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks etc.). This ultimately renders my life rather bland and unrewarding, which feeds into my unsatisfied state and, in turn, my anxieties.
A few prompts ago I wrote the blog equivalent of a ‘clip show’. For the social anxiety component of today’s prompt I revisit this style, for many moons ago I wrote a series of posts that looked at how social anxiety has effected various areas of my life.
I began by looking at how social anxiety has effected my ability to comment on websites:
Now, I cannot comment on newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites without suffering a major panic attack. The reason being quite simple; throughout my emotionally abusive relationship I was frequently insulted, criticized, attacked and publicly humiliated for sharing my opinions, so now, I fear a reprisal of the pain these incidents caused.
Before continuing through its effect on my body image:
When the issue of body image arises people tend to think it the exclusive domain of the female gender; the sexualisation of young girls, the teenager struggling to accept herself, the woman instantly disbelieving her boyfriend the moment he says ‘no’ to her doubts over various body parts.
Rarely is body image seen as a problem that men struggle with. Over the years I’ve been in Australia, a country obsessed with appearance and physical shape, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard comments like: “men don’t care what they look like”, “men don’t see that they’re morbidly obese, they just believe themselves to be perfect” or “men don’t worry about how chubby their arse is”.
The simple fact is, some do; and I’m one of them.
How it destroyed my educational career:
A large part of my anxiety is an intense fear of being evaluated or scrutinized by other people to the point that I will completely remove myself from the situation in order to keep myself safe and avoid any humiliation, judgment or criticism. It dawned on me that if I were to do English Lit, my writing would be subject to scrutiny by the rest of the class and presentations would need to be made that I just couldn’t do. The latter – obviously – being a pre-requisite for Theatre Studies. So in order to protect myself, I opted for two subjects where I could hide myself from the critical gaze of the class behind a text-book or keyboard.
And, most importantly, the effect my social anxiety has had on building relationships:
As with many areas of social anxiety, this inability to communicate often translates to those who don’t understand as a form of snobbish behavior, with many people deciding I thought myself ‘too good’ to be talking to such ‘peasants’ – when in reality it’s the exact opposite. My anxiety drives me to believe I’m not good enough as a person to be around such vibrant, wonderful individuals.
Needless to say, the damage caused by Social Anxiety Disorder has been catastrophic!