I do intend to come back to this project at some point, but currently it is not something I can invest any time in.
Things have been changing quite a bit for me. All for the better, though stressful at the moment. While pushing forward with all kinds of new things, I have had to re-evaluate how much time I have to devote to projects.
For the foreseeable future, I won’t have time to do this project as originally intended. However, I’m not abandoning it! I’m just changing it. Trimming all the excess I can.
The thing I think is the most important in this project is for me to share what I did to understand and begin working with my social anxiety. Everything else, while helpful, is something either that could be done by someone else or can wait until I have more time.
This slimmed down project will still take me some time, but at least now I can complete it.
Still not settled into the workshop, but I am hopeful that in the coming week I will be able to set up more permanently there. I have some exciting personal news that could lead to more income – and paradoxically more time for working on my projects. I think the sheer amount of work involved in having anxiety is vastly unappreciated. It is an unpaid part time job. (Full time for many folks.)
In my experience talking with and reading about other people who have SA, I have noticed a trend towards un- or under-employment. It makes sense. If you can’t follow or understand the social rules at a workplace, it’s not going to take long for problems to crop up. Many folks with SA are branded as unfriendly, dour, rude, or just weird. Nothing that you want to be if you would like to climb a career ladder.
As far as I know, getting on disability with social anxiety is very difficult. Even though it is possible to get on SSI with a diagnosis of social anxiety, many people find getting diagnosed in the first place impossible. There is a financial cost that must be paid; and if you have very little income, there may be no money for that. Additionally, it is just generally difficult to get social anxiety diagnosed. The symptoms don’t lend themselves towards discussion with counselors. Even making a phone call to get an appointment can be too hard for some people.
I think there is some hope in at-home employment, as micro-working and freelancing sites have become widely available. Unfortunately, there is an additional problem here. The more lucrative positions require training or experience that a person with SA might not have. The problems of SA affect students as much or more as non-students seeking to be employed. A person with SA may be unable to complete classes because the social environment there is too much. Or the process of seeking financial aid and getting all signed up may be too much to begin with.
Additionally, any one who doesn’t have any kind of business experience at all can end up doing a lot of work for very little payoff. So otherwise enthusiastic and persistent workers might waste a lot of time without getting anywhere. Some sites, like Mechanical Turk, have plenty of entry-level jobs – but many of them pay poorly and it can take a long time before a new worker there is able to access anything worth doing. Without engaging in the rest of the community that works on Mechanical Turk, new workers can easily miss out on information to make that work worth doing.
Passive income opportunities, like affiliate marketing problems, can be great provided someone has a wide enough audience or knows how to advertise. People with SA can have great difficulty with either of these. Also, some ways to advance in affiliate marketing cost money in the first place, putting them out of range of folks who don’t have any way to save up money in the first place.
One of the larger goals of this project, beyond the book, is to help other people with SA get some kind of income going. I feel that a lot of talent goes to waste because folks who are otherwise able to do work are hindered by unnecessary social requirements. I’m still considering how this might be accomplished. Sometime soon I plan to outline some ideas here and seek feedback and suggestions on them.
If you want the short version of everything I have founds works for dismantling social anxiety, here you go:
1. Observe yourself doing things, so you can note your problems.
2. Experiment with different techniques, and observe how these affect your problems.
Approaching it like this by myself has been helpful.
I’m working on a lot of stuff personally with anxiety. My personal experience with dismantling anxiety is that progress is intermittently interrupted by sliding back for awhile. I think it’s part of the process. It’s also different to slide back, because I observe it happening with new knowledge and skills. I have a better idea that I’m not destined to experience it forever – so the anxiety is blunted a little bit. Almost always, I find the solution is to get something new. A new technique, or a new perspective. Sometimes pulling up old things I’d tried before is just what’s needed to pull me out of it.
My current trick comes from a voice exercise that is meant to loosen the throat muscles up. Basically, put your tongue in an ‘n’ position (as if you were saying ‘nun.’). Start with a note, slide up to a higher note, then slide back down again. The reasoning I was given for this exercise is that the tongue controls the same muscles that constrict the throat. I don’t know how accurate this is – but anything that has to do with loosening throat muscles is of interest to me.
Two of the most constant symptoms of my anxiety are tightened neck/throat muscles, and a tightened chest. When it’s really bad, it’s like I’m constantly holding my breath. This leads to injuries if I don’t keep it in check, and just general pain. (In my case, my shoulders, neck, chest, and knees suffer. I also get bad TMJ.) So any new idea I can find that will help me breathe is worth trying.
So far, the exercise itself isn’t fixing anything for me. I’m just too good at keeping everything tense to let a little thing like therapeutic exercises stop me. There has been a benefit, though – I am thinking more and more about whether my mouth is tense. Am I clenching my jaw? Am I holding my breath like I’m a small critter who needs to be quiet to avoid being eaten? I intend to keep doing these exercises daily, because I’m hopeful the increased mindfulness will eventually solve this problem for me.
I’m not sure if I will be keeping my end of year deadline. I may be moving to a two year deadline instead. This week I’ll be settling into new workshop space, making schedules and plans. So I intend to make a decision about it by Friday.
The end of last year and the beginning of this one has been a time of evaluation for me. I experienced a lot of changes, lots of stress. Lots of pushes to figure out what’s really important to me.
I decided that, even though I’ve been cutting extraneous projects out of my life, I still haven’t found focus. So I’ve decided that what I really need to do is pick one thing that is my ultimate focus – the thing that I would talk about if someone asked me, “What do you do?” And then keep one other thing as a side project. There is room for other hobbies, but no more projects than that.
Unfortunately, this book is not my main project. Puppetry, I have discovered, is a natural venue for me to communicate. While there are other things I am good at and enjoy, this is as close as I can imagine to a calling for me. To actually get what I want to get out of it, though, I need to get a lot more rigorous about practice and filming.
Very shortly, I will start writing posts about what I’ve got done so far, and also things that you might want to try out for yourself. I’m also hoping to gather up a list of resources, and spruce this site up.
I was going to try to manage all the art for this book myself, which was the main reason I wasn’t sure if I’d get it done by the deadline. And while I have made progress, and enjoy the skills I have, I wasn’t sure I’d be up to this task.
Thankfully, Tod Wills has offered to do the art for the book. If you haven’t seen his art before, trust me: he definitely knows how to draw red pandas. Check out this bookmark he made awhile back:
He’s also my husband and is totally awesome.
I aim to do status updates on the Sunday prior to the 1st and 15th of every month (and of course now that I’ve planned and announced that, I’m not sure I’ll be able to meet that deadline. But it is important to have goals. I find them a good way to get organized.)
Today I managed to make the final rough outline for the book. I’ve figured out how to organize all the information together, and also keep it from being a gargantuan behemoth of a book that would take much more than a year to write.
The book will have two major sections, and an appendix. Here is a rough, general outline:
Section 1: Dismantling anxiety
This section will start off with how I formed my plan to deal with social anxiety, what worked and what didn’t. It will also include information from a lot of other people – folks who have SA, and folks whose work deals with SA.
Section 2: Coping
This section will have info on figuring out what coping techniques work, and also suggestions on things to try. I’ll be putting in things that worked for me and other folks I know, as well as things found online and in books. Getting permission to cite things is probably going to be a lengthier task for me than it really should be.
Appendix: Social dictionary.
After a lot of thought, I am going to keep the social dictionary minimal. The focus of this book is dismantling social anxiety, so focusing too much on learning different social interactions would dilute the book. It makes more sense to do that as its own project – which will involve getting a lot of other people to help me, so that it can be done right.
So the social dictionary in this book will have to focus on what will be most useful to people right then and there – things that can improve the worst experiences for people, and make coping easier.
So now what I have to do is flesh out the outline more, and decide what goes in each sub-section. Then goes the work of actually writing it, interviewing people, etc. (Thankfully I did write a lot of stuff in brainstorming sessions, so at least some of it only needs to be organized and revised.)
And of course there is the art, which I’ve started thinking about, but haven’t planned out in any detail just yet. I think, though, a book full of red pandas can not go wrong.