‘I am 29 and have social anxiety. I have blown my chance at life’

Tell Me About It: I feel very isolated and alone most of the time

I live by myself in a small apartment and my days are long and boring. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I live by myself in a small apartment and my days are long and boring. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

 Problem

I am 29 years old and have suffered with/been diagnosed as having social anxiety and severe depression over the last 10 years or so.

Off and on I have been prescribed various anti-depressants which never really had an effect on me, and was also once prescribed an antipsychotic to help me sleep after one of the aforementioned medications gave me insomnia. I have been treated by my GP and local HSE community mental health team. I am not currently on any medication or undergoing counselling of any kind. 

 I also underwent counselling in 2014 after a close friend took his own life. Those 21 weeks I found very beneficial, as I had a very good counsellor/psychologist.

I have had one job in a supermarket which I had to leave due to re-occurring panic attacks. This is a huge source of shame for me, and I hate being unemployed and collecting money every week like a waster.

 I plucked up the courage to enter full-time education in 2014 and managed to stick it out for the rough first month and really came to enjoy having a purpose and a social outlet. Small things like eating lunch with other people was nice.

I completed the two-year course and since then I have been applying for any job that I’m halfway qualified for to no real success (have had a few interviews which all have went awful due to my anxiety/lack of confidence).

I have two friends left in Ireland (rest emigrated) and they are both very busy with jobs and relationships so I might maybe see them once a month at best to go to the cinema or for two social drinks at most (I avoid alcohol as much as possible as I realise it is a depressant) and I feel very isolated and alone most of the time. I live by myself in a small apartment and my days are long and boring, though I try to structure them at least with job searching/applications online, reading, preparing meals and walking in the local park every day.

I just feel like I’ve blown my chance at life. I’m not confident of anyone ever overlooking the huge gap on my CV and actually employing me and I don’t think anyone would want to be friends with or enter into a relationship with an unconfident, unemployed person like myself. 

Advice

The major thing you have in your favour is that you seem to have an ability to keep searching and trying for a solution to your problems. You have social anxiety which demands consistent effort to overcome during a lifetime and your depression seems to be very related to this.

You are 29, and have already gained huge experience of life and its trials, and perhaps this is the time to have some faith and put your experience into practice. What has worked for you is education in a social setting and good quality counselling. 

When we are in trauma or acute stress, our response is the well-known “flight, fight or freeze” response.  It seems that you are in the freeze state and any movement is required now so that you can access your intelligence and wisdom again. 

Having achieved and enjoyed your course, it would now seem right to apply for the next level – all the colleges have access programmes as well as mature student entry allowances.  Social Welfare have back to education allowances and you might find that there is more support for you than you think.

Continuing your studies can offer you more than just a degree, it can help you to overcome your anxieties if you are open to this possibility

If you gain access to college, then you will also have access to a range of services such as student counselling, support groups for anxiety, occupational therapy and all these are free of charge. 

Joining clubs and societies might be challenging for you but this is achievable and there is a possibility that with persistence you might gradually overcome some of your social anxiety. If you had to supplement your income with some part-time work, this might offer both motivation to engage in the world of work and supplement your CV.

The colleges also offer career advice, interview preparation and guidance on appropriate behaviour in work situations. Continuing your studies can offer you more than just a degree, it can help you to overcome your anxieties if you are open to this possibility. 

If you feel this is not an option or if it is a delayed option, then meaningful engagement with the world is crucial for you – can you offer your skills to help in schools, with elderly people or young people trying to up their computer skills.  This would offer you a purpose while meeting a huge need in our society. When you engage, you will find that people are naturally drawn to you and this will give meaning and purpose to your life.

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