Conquer Our Fears

Conquer Our Fears

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Ability to Preempt Paranoia

As my first week of spring classes comes to a close, I realize how great a week I've had in terms of social anxiety/relations. It really feels like things are looking up. But to start off, I'd like to detail some of my past and even present struggles in social situations. Mentioned in my previous blogs, exercise has helped immensely in controlling my stress, anger and frustration, but there is no magic alleviation to the struggles faced in life. This holds true with social anxiety and paranoia faced by many Aspergians. There are however, healthy methods to combat these as I have discovered.

A lot of social anxiety plagues me on a day to day basis, with a strong mix of paranoia. I worry a lot about what people think about me, and my insecurities consistently emerge. For example, I might arrive to my community college and proceed to my class. Almost every day, I will be walking down the hall when I feel paranoia creeping up like a shadow. With my first social interaction, I might go from being in my own complacent thoughts to a completely unhinged, irrational mindset of which I have no control. Some days I may have little to no social anxiety and paranoia, but for the most part, it affects me daily. And when it does, I begin feeling like each and every person is staring at me, theirs eyes burning into my back, judging me based on appearance, based on my expression, even how I'm walking.

Let me put this in perspective for you. Have you ever seen a horror movie where the soon to be victim of the killer is moving cautiously around every corner, showing their paranoia and dread of what they see as the inevitable? To an extent, this is metaphorically comparable to how I feel regularly in social situations, whether it be school, the mall, or even the library. The "killer" being other people, and their eyes constantly following me, watching my every move, judging me. I may pass someone in the hall who simply meets eyes with me for a brief moment. In that time, my brain may interpret this as a threatening glare, when in all reality, it was just a curious glance. And boom, my anxiety and paranoia is set off. I will now spend the next class period or so fostering this paranoia, thinking about it, tearing apart in my head why I have received such negative vibes from others. During this paranoid phase, I would often be very withdrawn, avoiding eye contact with others, maintaining a cold, stern expression, and making minimal conversation. I certainly don't look like a person someone would be comfortable approaching at this point.

Thus, the irony develops. On a good day, I might have been my talkative, positive and friendly self, perhaps starting potential acquaintances and friendships on the right foot. But first impressions are often set in stone, and now I've doomed myself to the speculations of others based on my antisocial behavior. People will respond to my antisocial behavior in ways I had initially thought they would, whether it be ignoring me for days after, or distancing themselves from me and my unwelcoming, cold demeanor. I'm sure I make them feel uncomfortable when I put my social wall up. I observed this almost predominately in high school, before I had developed a deeper understanding of how to work the social tools available to me. Needless to say, because I started off high school with a skewed perspective of self image and gave in to my paranoid tendencies, I distanced myself from people, and lost the potential for more friendships. And although I have many regrets from high school, I can truly say it was a learning experience and helped me improve my methods of dealing with my ongoing social anxiety and paranoia.

The difference between my present and past paranoia is how I deal with it now, currently. And let me tell you, it has made such a substantial difference. I described how I had gave in to my paranoia in high school, but I have not detailed the methods I now employ to fight and manage paranoia when it emerges. Everyone desires positive social connections, and through my past frustrations, I have found ways to meet this desire. When I feel that unavoidable social anxiety and paranoia approaching, I use a positive mental approach. I will tell myself repeatedly that no one's judging me, and that my paranoia is not realistic. I self affirm, telling myself that I'm a friendly guy, and that people aren't as shallow as my paranoid tendencies make them out to be. I push myself to socialize to overcome my anxieties, even if just starting a friendly conversation with a stranger. Finally, and most importantly, I will tell myself to reflect this self confidence and friendliness through my expression and voice. Where before I may have walked around with a scowl and avoided people, now I maintain a consistent smile, and force one on even when I'm in a poor mood. I try to use a friendly vocal tone in my conversations with others to give the the impression that I'm an open and genuine person. Using these methods, I have found that I can successfully overcome the negative effects of the social anxiety and paranoia that I currently, and always will face. A positive mindset about yourself and others seems to be a powerful factor in this success.

As an Aspergian, its uplifting to know that where there's a will, there's a way. While I can't avoid the inevitable anxiety and paranoia's that are a part of me, it's comforting to know I've successfully developed and maintained many friendships and relations through this self-perseverance.To anyone who struggles with similar anxieties and paranoia, don't lose hope. There's a drive in each of us that can be used to conquer and overcome our fears. Its taken me years to find mine, but I've found it and held onto it with an iron grip.

Thank you for following my blog! I'm grateful to have readers that are willing to read the contents of my mind and experiences as an Aspergian. I aim to help, educate, and inform others, whether as a fellow Aspergian or a curious reader. Aspergers is growing larger in prominence every year, and awareness and understanding is necessary.

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