My Friend, Social Anxiety 3/11/22

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Social anxiety and I have been life-long friends. I finally realized that I had social anxiety when I took my first psychology course, homeschooling, during high school. An “a ha!” moment. Given my family history with the mental health field, I did not take a normal approach to find solutions for my social anxiety. Instead, I confronted it and got a job where I interacted with all different kinds of people, a gas station clerk.

I’ve had ups and downs in the 20 years since. Getting over my anxiety working as a massage therapist took some effort and a few years. Generally, just sleeping well, eating healthy, avoiding most caffeine (leave my morning coffee alone), I have a minimal amount of social anxiety. Covid brings another level. As the mask mandates are being lifted everywhere, there are fewer and fewer people wearing them. I still wear mine everywhere. Added the past few weeks, I’ve also been wearing sunglasses indoors. Fluorescent lights are often worse than the sun. It literally feels like my eyes are burning without sunglasses and is still irritating with them. People stare at anything different. Hello, social anxiety, my old friend. I’ve grown enough in this area that it doesn’t stop me from doing things, speaking to people, or functioning. I have been through those things. These days, I just feel the presence. I may get a t-shirt made that says, “I’m a vampire, the light burns my eyes” because at least then people will giggle at me in the sunglasses. I can tolerate some light better, but sunlight and often indoor lights in public spaces are too much. My right eye is still functioning weird, and my eyes are still irritated all the time.

Yesterday after scheduling from the Post Covid Clinic called, a nurse from the clinic called to do a pre-interview and get a basis for what’s going on. As I’m mentally reviewing the conversation, I’m happy with how much information I got across in 20 minutes. It was also a relief to find someone listening, asking questions, and caring. I think writing out my blog helped to organize my thoughts and pull out relevant information. I have often used writing, more typing these days, as a therapy tool.

As a newly graduated psychology student, admitting I’m having cognitive issues is not easy. Especially, when I’ve prided myself on the functioning, although faulty at times, of my brain. I told the nurse yesterday, especially after it occurred to me that no one at the ER asked. My eyes and head hurt too much to remember. Spelling and grammar, remembering directions to familiar places, and more happened after Covid May 2020, but gradually got better. My master’s thesis was themed on how martial arts promotes executive functioning and cognition, I’ve never fully stopped practicing since Covid, and working toward my graduate degree helped. Since January and my eyes being wonky, I’ve noticed more issues. Grammarly became my best friend to finish the degree. Last week, I struggled to remember 4 numbers of the address between switching apps from MyChart to Maps. I even mixed up the order more than once. Now I worked in inventory for years. I love numbers, I enjoyed, yes enjoyed, behavioral statistics and doing the math calculations. I’m weird, I’m aware. So, struggling with 4 numbers was slightly alarming.

However, I’m probably less alarmed than most, as I’ve struggled with cognitive issues in the past, and have suspected that I’m on the autism spectrum for about 5 years. I’m starting my book about that this year, as soon as it kicks in, I’ve finished my degree. I do have to question if that made me predisposed to getting cognitive issues after Covid? It’s strange that it seems to be more impactful after my 2nd milder infection.

As the newer research points to possible neurological issues, see my previous blog. I doubt that I’m alone in having cognitive issues after Covid. If you are, don’t panic. There is help, talk to doctors. I’m a huge fan of cognitive-behavioral techniques and changing patterns of thought processes. A simple way to help is to play brain games that challenge cognitive functioning, was designed for this. If you are struggling with memory, play memory games. Find a psychologist that focuses on cognitive issues. I’ve considered this field in the future. And keep talking to doctors, even if it doesn’t seem like they are interested.

Covid clinics are still a new thing here in the states. Most states have one or two that are focused on post covid issues. Here a list of 66 healthcare systems that have started post covid clinics in the United States. Find a primary care physician in one of the healthcare systems and ask for a referral to the clinic. It’s taken about 5 weeks on the waitlist before an appointment opened from cancellation to get me scheduled next Tuesday. You aren’t alone. Post-Covid has been shown to have over 200 symptoms affecting almost all systems in the body. Keep pushing to get help. Anxiety was a symptom asked about by the nurse during pre-questions. I think it’s normal to expect anxiety when dealing with unknown health conditions and exams keep showing as “healthy,” and the continuing pandemic society shifts. Yup, my old friend is here, but not stopping me from functioning, seeking help, or telling my story.

 Have you had anxiety related to the pandemic? Due to Covid? Post-Covid? Do you have any calming techniques? Feel free to share in the comments.

Sending calming energy out today,

Becca Dove


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