For over a year now, I have been safe in my own little bubble, interacting with who I choose to interact with, leaving the house only when I have to, socialising the absolute bare minimum. I have got so comfy being alone, so comfortable in the silence and so comfortable with all expectations of me being slim to none.
I worry that I’ve forgotten how to socialise, how to communicate how I feel to strangers, how to make friends, how to make plans and stick to them.
For over a year we have been told what not to do, but now, with a date set for the easing of restrictions, no one has told us what to do to mentally prepare for all the anxieties caused by the lockdown.
But I know I’m not alone when I say for me, it is anything but exciting. One thing that has always terrified me is the unknown, something that I feel cripples my anxiety a lot. What are these new expectations of me? Will I be expected to attend all social events with family and friends? Will it now be even more important for people around me that I attend all and everything I’m invited to? Will I be able to cope with that? Will people take into consideration that during lockdown I felt the safest I have ever felt, I had most risks eliminated from my life and I actually felt ok for once.
It’s all about to change, people expect you to come out of this lockdown happy and excited to be ‘free’ again. But that’s not always the case, the daunting anxiety and pressures that come along with this can be unbearable. Stepping outside my front door, it’s like a wave of vulnerability washes over me, I become so anxious, my heart begins to race and all I want to do is turn around and go back inside to safety, to the comfort I have spent over a year creating and practice those coping techniques that I have tried so hard to stick to during this hard time.
People’s expectations of you and how you cope with certain situations can be unbearable.
I know a lot of people will be worrying about the future and what it looks like for them, but we all need to remember to never push ourselves to do anything we don’t feel comfortable doing.
If we don’t want to join in every event, if we don’t want to see every family member, if we don’t want to return to work full time, this is ok. We must remember to support ourselves and look after ourselves, because during this pandemic who has been the one person that has stood by you every single second? Yourself.
Just because the world is getting back to normal and many people will be making the most of their freedom, does not mean you have to follow in their footsteps. Do not push yourself, be kind to yourself and whilst we still have a few weeks in our safety bubble left, try out some coping techniques and see which works best for you.
Personally, my favourite coping mechanism for social anxiety is pinging an elastic band on my wrist, I find that this technique works really well for grounding me and bringing me back to the here and now. It’s also something that is subtle and won’t draw attention to yourself, there is nothing worse than struggling and people being aware of you struggling.
I also like to count my fingers, this is also another easily accessible tip, I count my fingers, I count the wrinkles on my fingers and I count my rings, each time I do this I touch each part I’ve counted, it makes you feel safe and it gives you something else to focus on. You can do it fast or slow, hard or soft, you can repeat it as many times as you like and you can tailor it to suit you personally. It is important that you feel present and that you remind yourself that although this is different and these feelings are real and valid that you are ok, you will be ok and if today it’s a bit too much, it’s ok to go back to the safety of your home and you can try again another day.
Do not let other people’s expectations force pressure onto your shoulders, remember, you are your main priority, your safety and your wellbeing is more important than any social event ever will be.
If you have noticed that a loved one or friend has become a bit more reserved, a little less talkative, have been spending more time alone and you can see that they seem occupied by their own thoughts a lot more than usual. Consider that they too may be feeling very anxious about the easing of lockdown, I know it took me a few days to figure out that that’s why I was feeling the way I was. Be kind to others, don’t push them into doing something they don’t want to do, don’t guilt-trip them into anything, every single person gets anxious about something and although you can’t see it, it’s something that controls a lot of us. Be there, to listen, to talk, to offer advice and support with no judgement and remember that everyone’s views on the future and everyone’s expectations are different, and that’s ok.
You are not alone.
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