(Dear readers, I'm deep into writing Trauma Treatment Handbook and have been neglecting my blog. Here's an email exchange that the correspondent has graciously given me permission to post.)
From the asker: I just came across your site while researching heart rate coherence. I have Servan Shreiber's book(s) and actually had forgotten about heart rate coherence until it recently came up again while doing research for my father's heart disease/stress.
I was hoping you might be able to help me navigate in terms of finding the right tools to help myself with what seems to be social phobia (as it's outer manifestation anyway). I have come to realize that I avoid going out and being around others and have managed to avoid talking on the phone although it is a source of stress for me. If you met me, you probably wouldn't know this(well maybe YOU would) most people don't but I sense people do notice my discomfort when I have it. I feel as if I'm never in my own skin and i don't really feel truly in the moment very often. When I look back…i believe this has been the case for decades but I just wasn't conscious of it. I don't feel joy very often and I have a hard time remembering things from the past….as if I wasn't even there.
If I have given you the impression that I am suicidal or depressed i assure you I am not:) I have really been taking care of myself in many ways and I'm trying not to make this into a "problem". I eat well, I recently gave up smoking…again. I go to acupuncture, I excersise every day as always and take my supplements(incuding the 7:1 epa:dha which is new). It's as if the more conscious I am of the issues, the better i am taking care of myself but the worse I feel. Maybe this is just part of the process. But still, the anxiety/fear gives me constant problems in my every day life and I'm concerned that they will not be resolved . Case in point-my boyfreind of 7 years just mentioned his brother and nephew want to come for a visit again(they were here recently). I found myself making all of these excuses as to why it wouldn't work right now but the truth is It takes my all to pull it off even when it's my own family. I put a great game face on but it's as if it's a performance and it sucks every last bit of life from me and I feel like I can't keep it up the way I used to. Bottome line…..I'm tired of feeling like this!
I keep wondering if there's something internal that isn't being dealt with. I'm not sure I believe therapy is what is best for me. I was in therapy on and off for years and iscovered I had a better understanding of how I felt but in the end I still felt like crap. I am, however, intrigued by what I read about EMDR in Servan Shreiber's book. My fear is it won't be helpful to me and I will humiliate myself in the process……..I tend to freeze/go blank when the focus is on me which becomes yet another source of anxiety.
Any ideas on what I may be able to try by myself . Do you think the heart rate coherence is enough based on your experience. Any thoughts about the EMDR or any other therapy I might consider? I'm in a fairly rural area but I'm near a large town and discovered that there are 5 or 6 therapist trained in EMDR. I know it's near impossible to give any suggestions for someone you've never met.
I have never done this before but you struck me as the right person to ask. I would be most grateful for anything you may have to offer. Thanks for your time Robin!!
My Reply: In my opinion and in other people's research there are a clan of people who feel anxiety more strongly. Research shows that social anxiety can be predicted by a 3-week-old baby's reaction to a puff of air in their face. The bad news is, you're anxious. The good news is, even though your body may be more aware of its anxiety response than some other people's bodies are, there's a lot you can do to manage it.
EMDR can be a great way to clear out the trauma part of your sensitivity and give you internal practice at dealing with social situations. And do exercise, take O 3's and D's and learn how to calm your body.
Read: Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Person. If it's a fit for you, it's like a care and feeding manual for anxious people.
I'm married to an HSP, who used to have social anxiety. He's still high strung, but he no longer lets it stop him from doing anything. Through therapy he's learned to ask for what he wants, say no when he needs to, and accept that he's never going to love crowded places. He's even doing some public talks, now and then. Years ago, he wouldn't knock on neighbors' doors to talk to them about the block party. He doesn't think twice about it now, in fact he's been the Block Captain. And he's still very sensitive to his anxiety, still predicts the worst outcome for everything (he's the designated worrier in the marriage and I'm the designated pooh-pooher), still thinks that we'll be late, and there will be a disaster. (Then we're not late and he has a better time than I do.)
Get therapy. Get EMDR from the best person in town. If you don't like them, try someone else. Tell them to read my chapter about anxiety if they haven't done it. And if you had some deficits in your childhood and are not an HSP, they can nail it completely and clear the anxiety, unlike my genetically nervous husband.
Asker: You're a sweet heart! I don't feel like a freak after reading this. I think my judgement of what I'm experiencing makes it much worse.
I have terrible anxiety and panic disorder due to PTSD for many years. Ativan has helped me to have a conversation without tripping over my words. I still do that sometimes, but not every time I opened my mouth to speak.