Have you ever been in a room of people and felt completely alone? Have you ever had someone ask you to come hang out and felt like a black wall was all your mind could see? You couldn’t muster the energy to actually go. You ignored phone calls and texts of people that you love. Have you felt completely immovable? Have you just wanted to hide?
Okay so imagine this… you are a new mother. Your hormones are raging. You had just moved to a new state 2 months before this moment without knowing hardly anyone… You’re at one of the most vulnerable times in your life. Your husband gets a new job, so you’re at home alone with your perfect newborn baby 5 days of the week because he’s traveling. He’s a demanding baby, and cries A. LOT, which makes you feel like a complete failure in your ability to mother him “properly”. You don’t have a social outlet, or a group to really help buoy you up. When family asks how you are doing, you say “I’m fine”, but what you don’t say, and even understand is that you are struggling hard. And it’s taking every bit of energy to get out of bed in the morning. You’re crying a lot. You say no to social events because you don’t have anything to wear that you feel remotely comfortable in….. let me rephrase that. You don’t have anything to wear that is “socially acceptable” that you feel comfortable.
Having your first baby is just about the hardest “on the site” job training that you can ever receive. Nobody can possibly prepare you for the realities of what is about to happen, although I wish so desperately that someone had prepared me emotionally to care for my mental health. It was all “how’s that baby doing?” “let’s measure you” “let’s measure the baby” “lets count those kicks”… you get the point. I don’t recall a single meaningful discussion about my mental health and what to look for and how to see these triggers in myself. I had no clue what to look for or what I was feeling. It all felt very foreign to me.
After my second, we moved again and as much as I loved being active and working out, I had such a hard time getting myself to the gym. I SO vividly remember my first workout in my new gym in North Carolina. I was 3 months postpartum, felt very uncomfortable in my own skin, and it felt as though all eyes were on me. I logically knew that, but I couldn’t shake the strong feeling of unbelonging. I felt so uncomfortable and anxious.
The key for me was to continue. Continue even though I felt so uncomfortable. Continue even though it felt like I physically couldn’t move. Continue even though I straight up didn’t want to! At a few different stages, I sought medical advice and was put on medication, which was a tricky game to figure out on its own. But even though every bit of my being wanted to just to “protect” myself and stay in bed, I knew I needed this. So I kept going! And thank goodness I did.
The gym is now my haven. I go 5 days a week, and it keeps my mind and body healthy. I am no longer on medication, but I now know what works with me and what doesn’t. Another tool I’ve received is: if I ever have those sneaky thoughts enter in, I don’t give them any attention. I push past them and I keep moving. It’s so hard to do, especially when literally every fiber of your being is telling you “Halt! Danger ahead!”
I still have moments when friends ask me to go out, or to make plans and it feels like my feet are put in cement. I can’t move or break from them. But I try to give those thoughts no mind, and push through. I am almost always glad that I do, and I try to remember that. Social anxiety is a crazy emotion to feel, and I think the most important thing to remember is that we are NOT alone. Everyone I’ve ever talked to, if they are being honest, has had these feelings too. It’s more common than we realize and I think by opening up about it, we allow those “sneaky thoughts” to leave more quickly before they can affect us.
If your mind is telling you can’t do it, remind it that you are fearless and you will not be bullied into believing you are anything less than the queen you are!