Monday, November 14, 2011


Monday, November 14, 2011
Have you faced fears and overcome them?

Most people don't know this, but I have a fear of social situations. The first time I can remember this being an issue is when I was a kid with my mom at the grocery store. She asked me to go up to the counter and buy stamps while she loaded up our cart. I took the money and headed to the customer service counter, and then froze. I didn't even make it up to the counter. Crazy thoughts took over my mind: "What if she asks a question I can't answer? What if she doesn't understand what I'm asking for? What if I don't have the correct change?" I went back to my mom and told her I couldn't do it. She didn't understand what was wrong, and to be honest neither did I.

This strange fear followed me as I got older. But it wasn't predictable. I could play team sports, even perform in school plays. But ask me to call and talk to a stranger over the phone and I couldn't do it. When the time came for me to find a summer job, I had trouble asking for applications. Calling to see if there were any positions available caused extreme anxiety. Going for an interview made me nervous, but not as anxious as just walking in and asking if they were hiring. It didn't make any sense to me, and it annoyed my dad because he thought I was just being lazy. It wasn't until I graduated from college that I could explain my strange behavior to him.

In college I wasn't immune either. I played on the JV volleyball team, was active in my classes, and played percussion in the orchestra. But I wouldn't go to the cafeteria to eat unless I knew that one of my friends would be there to sit with me. If there was a Sunday that my friends weren't in town, instead of going to church on my own I'd go to a local park and read my Bible on my own.

So, for years I fought this unreasonable fear. I didn't understand it, so I couldn't overcome it. Most of the time I was able to hide it from my friends and family - many of them still may not know about it.

So, what was my problem? I figured it out junior year of college. I'm a control freak. I like to know what's going to happen and make a plan. The situations that I was afraid of held a degree of uncertainty that I couldn't handle. If I didn't know what questions would be asked of me, who I would be talking to, what situations might arise, I couldn't have control over the situation. And that, ultimately, is what I was afraid of.

That junior year I hit rock bottom. My boyfriend broke up with me and I went into a depression. I didn't know that's what it was at the time, but I do now. I had a lot of time to think while I was wading through self pity. I had a lot of time to pray when I was mad at God for letting it happen to me. As I came through my depression I developed a new self-confidence. I started eating by myself in the cafeteria. If there was someone there I knew, I'd sit with them. But, if not, I'd lift my chin and sit either by myself or with some friendly looking people. I even started going to a new church by myself. I shook people's hands and made polite converation.

After graduation I moved 1000 miles away. I moved in with some family and got a job in ICU at a human hospital. I placed myself in hundreds of social situations that I had no control over. I met a great guy, we dated, and now we're married. I went to vet school and exposed myself to even more unknowns. I graduated, and am now a veterinarian who enters exam rooms numerous times a day without knowing what will happen when I open the door.

I don't think I've actually overcome my fears completely. They're still there. But I've found ways to manage them. I talk myself through possible situations before they happen. I think of questions and answers before I make a phone call. I read through my chart and the exam questionaire before I enter a room to see if there might be any information I need to bring to mind before I meet the animal and owners. I still have to pump myself up when I meet new people or enter a new situation. I take deep breaths and settle myself before the anxiety has a chance to surface. And I pray and ask God to help me stay calm and focused when unexpected situations do arise. I've learned you can't control the world, sometimes you just have to be as prepared as you can be and deal with what's thrown your way.


  1. Hi, I found your blog from NaBloPoMo. I share your social anxiety and reading your post was interesting. Congrats to you for standing up and meeting your fears head on. Thanks for sharing! Michael.

  2. Thank you so much for you comment on my blog! I admire that you are managing your anxiety. I am just starting to learn how and I hope I can get to the point where I am not just functioning in life, but living life. Kudos!