No One Told Me My Way Out Was By Looking Inward
How I realized that escaping anxiety, meant leaning in to myself
Written by Stuart Richards
01 Stuart struggled with social anxiety for years. It was particularly debilitating at work, and led to unhealthy habits, like drinking too much.
02 Initial attempts at therapy were intimidating, and didn't stick. After a two-week inpatient program, he stumbled upon an intensive mindfulness practice that has greatly improved his mental health.
03 Since finding a solution, he's started an organization called Project Footnote. You can learn more about their work at projectfootnote.com.
Social anxiety plagued me for most of my teenage years, and there were a lot of stressors at home that caused me to act erratically.
I turned to alcohol for lubrication, because I saw it as an easy way to mask whatever unidentified storm was brewing inside of me. Plus, I was Australian and binge drinking was only natural at that age.
Not much changed during my twenties. As I completed my education and entered the professional world, I also started chasing titles and pay bumps. "Grit, Grind and Determination" was the name of the game, and the key to winning was to stretch yourself as thin as you could.
The new titles and pay increases, however, were nullified by the additional stress that came with the responsibilities. I began seeing a therapist to help solve this equation for happiness.
Her solution was by revealing to me what I'd been masking. I couldn't handle it so I stopped seeing her. Then the panic attacks started at the office.
I was usually high strung, so I did a decent job of palming them off as standard behavior, but that didn't take away from the frightful reality that I couldn't control my physiological responses whenever I was put in a slightly stressful situation. Acting as a team leader also compounded the pressure and made me feel weaker and more worthless than ever. There had to be a way out of living this type of existence, and I started looking for it in all the wrong places.
Social Anxiety Explained: Anxiety Triggers
After buying into my negative self-talk for months and cutting out alcohol (which I thought would solve my life's problems), I fell into an inescapable pit. In there, I was the preacher, the choir, and the audience, and we were evangelizing self-hatred. Days of no sleep. Days of not eating or eating everything I could. My emotions were random and I had lost all sense of who I was. The fateful day I made that realization, I had two choices; I decided to admit myself to the ER.
After being discharged from a two-week stint at a facility, I thought I'd give a CBT workbook a shot, but also picked up another "out there" self-help book that I felt embarrassed to go to the checkout counter with.
I stopped the CBT work a few pages in. I caught the drift but it was very "eh" and was all stuff they taught me in 10th grade. Instead, I read the other book. Wow. I found another similar title. Wowww. Daily meditation, laser-focused mindfulness practice and 20 odd books later, I'd found my out. And that out was inward, and I've only begun searching.
Since finding all this out, I created Project Footnote — a project focused on shifting mental health from a footnote to a focus of the healthcare conversation by promoting a balance in mental and physical wellness. I'm running 250 miles for Mental Health Month and 25 others have joined in the challenge with me. If you'd like to learn more, explore our Instagram and don't hesitate to reach out.