This month I’ve had some epic memories come up on my Facebook. Usually it’s just cringe-worthy self absorbed “woe-me” type stuff that I’d posted 10 years ago or pictures of very regrettable hair cuts and even pictures that make me sad to be several dress sizes bigger.
January has been a good month for memories however; Pulling up pictures of my twins last year when they were just tiny newborns, all the talk about starting up a business many years ago and how I moved 200 miles from home to start a new life in Somerset 5 years ago! Lovely nostalgia type stuff that shows how far I’ve come.
When I first moved from North Wales to Somerset in 2014, I didn’t really know if it was going to be permanent, all I really knew is that I didn’t want to be where I was anymore. There were people I knew I would miss but there just wasn’t enough to keep me there, in a town I was so unhappy in, that harboured so many bad memories.
You see, I never really felt at home there. Even after working on my social anxiety for years and feeling comfortable with myself, I still felt like an outsider in my own town and I felt completely lost. I spent most of my time in the woods because it was the only place where I didn’t feel scared for my safety and where I felt I could escape.
The first few months after I moved were incredibly hard, I felt very sad and lonely but going back wasn’t an option for me. My social anxiety even got worse for a while, as I barely left the house.
Eventually, I started feeling more comfortable in my new surroundings and I knew that I needed to start making more of an effort to challenge my anxiety. I went for walks around the village, I had a part time job to supplement loss of earnings in my business due to the move and made sure that I worked harder at being more social there.
It was easier to make friends here and within 10 months of living here, I’d made a bunch of new friends, more than I’d ever had in my life.
I even went out on my own frequently without having to carry a pocket knife, or have my keys in between my fingers. I felt safe for the first time!
Moving changed everything around for me. It gave me a chance to feel comfortable, happy and now loved.
When you have a social anxiety disorder, it’s really hard to know if you’re avoiding things because of your social anxiety or because what you’re avoiding isn’t actually good for you. That distinction becomes blurred, as you’re always feeling like you’re in danger, even when you’re not. But after being attacked, more than once, it was easy to see that the danger I was feeling before I moved, was very realand that constant anxiety of it happening again would never go away.
If you’re in a toxic environment, it’s perfectly okay to leave if it means protecting yourself and your mental health.
Moving home when you live somewhere unsafe, or leaving a relationship that makes you feel unsafe – that’s not the same as avoiding a social situation because of social anxiety. Social anxiety causes us to have irrational fears. Being afraid of abuse that is actually happening or being threatened is not irrational! In the same way that leaving a job that damages your mental health is not the same as leaving because your mental health has stopped you from being able to go. Often the toxic environment is one of the causes of mental health breaking down, not the symptom.
What major changes have you made, to help your mental health?