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DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

Why my disease caused social anxiety in me

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Bibi

MY PHYSICAL HANDICAP PARALYZED ME MENTALLY TOO

I (@bibi_wheelchair_traveller) had been diagnosed with ALS in 2006, but that didn’t cause me as many psychological difficulties as another turning point in my life related to the progression of my disease. It was when I dropped out of my studies in Vienna at the beginning of 2008 for health reasons when my boyfriend and I had to give up our apartment and I moved back home (at the other end of the country) alone.   That doesn't sound dramatic in itself, but that's how I perceived it. All my friends and people of the same age as me made big steps into the future, into growing up, into being independent. I only took steps backward: moving back home to my parents, not pursuing an education... and furthermore the wheelchair beckoned, which meant that soon I wouldn't take any more steps anyway – neither forwards nor backward.   All these thoughts and circumstances combined with the fact that I lived separately from my boyfriend, led to the definite lowest point of my self-confidence and finally caused social anxiety. It was hardly possible for me to be with people. I felt so uncomfortable and insecure I couldn't think clearly and therefore didn't want to talk to anyone. I stayed away from family gatherings, events, and friends for fear of losing control and embarrassing myself.   I distanced myself more and more, and I myself suffered the most from it. The whole situation made me feel even more like a loser who leads a boring life between parent's home and working place. Especially the contact with people of the same age was difficult for me because I thought I was even more likely to be classified as "strange" amongst them. My boyfriend was the only one who knew about these psychological problems. Of course, he suffered with me, couldn't go anywhere with me and had to excuse me very often.   After two years the situation relaxed. Yes, I've had two sessions with a psychologist who prescribed me antidepressants against panic attacks, which I‘m still taking today. However, I’m convinced that the situation improved mainly because my boyfriend moved back to where I was living because we started looking for a flat together and I finally had the feeling that I was gaining a foothold in "normal" life again. In addition, I have certainly matured mentally in these 2 years and have become a little more self-confident. But maybe it was just a mixture of all three circumstances, who knows.   Today I feel recovered in this respect and I enjoy meeting people, even if sometimes small remnants of this psychologically difficult time emerge and I haven‘t been able yet to COMPLETELY get rid of some nervousness and insecurity in certain situations. But life is a constant learning process, isn’t it?

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