Patrick O’Neil is the author of Gun, Needle, Spoon and is a contributing editor to Sensitive Skin Magazine. He works with Natashia Deon on the project Redeemed, helping rehabilitated felons work on receiving a possible pardon. In fact, O’Neil was pardoned by Governor Jerry Brown for his past felony convictions. Yeah, that’s so much fun to say.
Enjoy the show.
Drinks with Tony is hosted by Tony DuShane. The show has aired on KFJC, Pirate Cat Radio, and Radio Valencia since 2001. It has also been available as a podcast on and off over the years, but now, we’re back every Wednesday.
The show features interviews with writers and storytellers. Over the years we’ve had hundreds of guests including Nick Cave, Steve Buscemi, James Ellroy, Wim Wenders, Parker Posey, Marlon James, Amy Sedaris, and more.
DuShane is an author, screenwriter, and writing instructor at UCLA Extension. Go to www.tonydushane.com for more info.
Everyone at one time or another has been nervous or uncomfortable in social situations. Some have gotten unexplained shy when introduced to someone new, or become nervous when required to give a presentation, and others have experienced a sense of panic in a dense crowd. While all of the aforementioned moments can be very unsettling, most people get over them and move on.
However, if you have social anxiety the stress from these situations can be so overwhelming you may begin to avoid all social interactions. The fear of intimacy at the group level is devastatingly uncomfortable. In a room full of strangers you feel like you’re being judged or even talked about. It’s so bad you say you are no longer going to participate in anxiety provoking social engagements. Then that certain “must go to party” pops up on your calendar and you HAVE to attend.
So… How Do You Show Up At The Party?
1. The Wallflower: You know who you are. You’re the one that stands in the corner all alone with your “introverted personality” distancing yourself from the gathering and avoiding the limelight. You really want to be able talk to somebody, or maybe you really want someone to be able to talk to you, but you’re too afraid of rejection and scared of intimacy to make that happen. You watch everybody else carry on conversations and make new friends and wonder how the hell they get out there in front of everyone seemingly without a care in the world. You press your back against the wall, untouched drink in hand, and stare at the carpet hoping they will all just magically disappear. Afterwards you’ll be upset for not being able to engage, but silently vow to never attend a public gathering again. This will leave you sad and in fear of being socially awkward for the rest of your life.
2. The Drinker: Just the thought of talking to that hot guy at the party makes you nauseous. Instead you b-line straight for the bar and down several drinks in quick succession. You tell yourself you need the social lubricant in order to deal with that horrid small talk. But really it’s to deaden your anxious nerves and to not feel the internal panic that you do. Three drinks and a couple of shots later your anxiety is all but forgotten and you’re half naked and dancing with wild abandon. The next morning you’ll wake up in fear with no recollection of what transpired the night before, wondering what terrible things you might have done, and even more stressed out and anxious.
3. The Gossiper: You feel so bad about yourself and your inability to socialize that you negatively focus on everyone else. Instead of getting out there and mingling, you’ll find another equally unhappy person and together you’ll awkwardly commiserate about all the terribly dressed losers that the host has invited. You’ll talk smack about a person until they say, “Hi.” Then you’ll look the other way, afraid to make eye contact. The reality is you judge yourself just as much, if not more, than you judge everyone else. Your anxiety causes you to have a negative outlook towards other people and that outlook is causing you more and more anxiety. Your snarkiness is your dysfunctional social buffer, but when the party is over there you are. All alone, still talking that talk, and endlessly judging yourself.
4. The Quiet One: Social anxiety takes shy to a whole other level. Like the wallflower you want to be able talk to someone but your anxiety isn’t letting you. Eye contact is painful. Some drunk is dancing half naked and his sloppy aggressive behavior is making you even more introverted. You are so wishing you hadn’t come, but you’re here. You look at your watch. You’ll stay another 10 minutes and then leave unfashionably early. On the way home you’ll regret having ever gone. An hour later you’ll scold yourself for having screwed up another opportunity to have a decent social interaction or meet someone new.
5. The Worrier: For you one of the worst parts about your social anxiety is the fear that your anxiety is noticeable. At the party you get so nervous that your avoidance behaviors are showing your hands shake, your damn palms become sweaty, you get short of breath, and your face is flushed. You go to the bathroom and stare at yourself in the mirror convinced that everyone knows you’re anxious. You spend at least fifteen minutes analyzing your every awkward social interaction since childhood. You replay every conversation over and over again in your head scrutinizing what you said that was wrong. Someone knocks on the door and you panic. You leave the safety of the small locked bathroom with your head down, avoiding all the judgmental eye contact, and quietly exit the party.
Social anxiety is the third largest psychological problem in the United States and it is considered chronic because it doesn’t just go away on its own. However, social anxiety is a treatable condition. Psychotherapy, antidepressants, and cognitive behavioral therapy are the most widely used treatments for social anxiety. If you think you may have social anxiety, talk to your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Left untreated your anxieties may end up dominating your life, interfering with relationships, work, school, and your overall general happiness. Asking for the help you need is the first step toward living a less anxious life.
Being sad is a normal human emotion. It’s natural to feel despondent when someone you love dies or you’re dealing with life altering events such as an illness or divorce. While these challenges are never forgotten the subsequent emotional distress usually dissipates over a normal period of time. However, if your sadness is constant and intense and never seems to go away then you may be suffering from depression.
Depression affects over 7% of all Americans. It can cause you to have overwhelming feelings of sorrow and a loss of interest in most activities that were once enjoyable. It can affect your appetite and sleep. You may start abusing substances in order to self medicate in the hopes you’ll feel better and in the end become more depressed. You may experience a persistent feeling that life isn’t worth living. Fortunately, depression is treatable.
Here are the 5 most common solutions for depression:
1. Medication: The most common treatment for depression is the use of antidepressants. These drugs work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions. There are several categories of antidepressants. The best way to find out which one could work for you is consulting your psychiatrist or physician and obtaining a prescription. These drugs normally take 2 to 4 weeks before you will notice a change in your mood. Most people with depression find that medication works.
2. Therapy: Therapy can be a very effective treatment for depression. Most therapists require you meet with them in person on a regular basis or over the Internet via telecommunication. Weekly sessions can help you deal with stressful situations, address your negative beliefs, cope with challenges, and increase your self-esteem—all of which help in treating depression. There are other types of therapy that have also proven helpful, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and Group Therapy, the latter of which provides a safe environment to share your feelings with people who can relate to what you’re going through and it helps to not feel so alone.
3. Lifestyle Changes: In addition to medication and therapy changing some of your negative behaviors and habits can help with treating depression.
Some of these changes would be:
Get a Routine: When you’re depressed your days become similar in their lack of enjoyment and hard to distinguish from one another. Setting a daily schedule can help you get active and become involved with your life. Your routine could include: getting up at the same time every day, scheduling an activity for each night of the week, and making one phone call a day to a supportive friend or relative.
Set Goals: A major symptom of depression is the sense you can’t accomplish anything and because of that you feel bad about yourself. Setting small daily goals such as making the bed, taking a shower, or going for a walk can help. By completing small contrary acts you’ll feel better about your abilities and in turn feel better about yourself.
Eat Healthy: When you’re depressed the last thing you probably want to do is eat healthy. Regrettably eating overly processed foods like fast foods and sugary sweets may be adding to your depression. Processed foods contain refined carbohydrates that have no nutritional value, and unhealthy levels of sugar and salt. Clinical studies have found that a diet high in refined foods impairs brain function and encourages depression. Eating healthy foods has been shown to reverse these issues. What you eat directly affects your brain and your mood.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: People who suffer from depression desperately want to alter the way they feel. Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a solution. Unfortunately alcohol, tranquilizers, and opiates act as depressant to your nervous system and make your symptoms worse. Amphetamines can give the illusion they reduce depression, however the come down, the physical toll on your body, and the withdrawal, result in an even worse depression. Adding drugs to your already depressed system never helps.
Exercise: Regular exercise boosts the naturally produced endorphins that your body uses to help you feel better and less depressed. Endorphins interact with your brain’s receptors and trigger positive feelings. Exercising, especially outdoors and in sunlight, invigorates your body. You don’t need to compete in a triathlon; something as simple as walking for an hour every other day can help get your endorphins flowing.
Sleep: It’s recommended you get 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night. But depression can make it hard to sleep, and with too little sleep your depression can get worse. This is where setting a routine can help. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Do not take naps as they can alter your sleep schedule. Sometimes, getting rid of the distractions you engage in at night before sleep—watching TV, looking at your cell phone, or shopping on your computer—helps to calm your mind and it’s easier to get a good night’s sleep.
4. Meditation: Stress and anxiety are major triggers for depression, and meditation has been proven to alter your reaction to those feelings. When you’re stressed the body produces a hormone called cortisol, and meditation lowers cortisol. During meditation your brain is also producing theta waves that usually only occur when you’re asleep, and alpha waves like when you’re daydreaming. When your body gets as relaxed as when it’s sleeping or daydreaming it starts producing dopamine; a neurotransmitter that’s released into your body during pleasurable situations. If you add all those together meditation is probably the best natural treatment for reducing depression.
5. Challenging Negative Thoughts: A lot of the work in treating depression is changing how you think. When you’re depressed, you embrace worst-case scenarios and obsessively dwell on the negative. Challenging these negative thoughts is a common treatment for depression. You feel no one loves you, but what real evidence do you have? You think you’re a worthless horrible person, but is that really the truth? Try challenging these beliefs and ideas. When the thoughts come say, “no, we’re not doing this today.” When you’re telling yourself what a terrible person you are, think about how you would respond if a friend talked about themselves that way. You would probably tell them to stop being so negative. Apply the same logic to your own thoughts. It takes practice, but if you address the negative thoughts head on, don’t embrace them, or indulge, they’ll eventually become less persuasive.
The majority of people suffering from depression will not see a doctor or a therapist or ask anyone for help. Left untreated, depression can be detrimental to your mental and physical health. The over all consequences are not worth the risk. If you are depressed, feel that you may be depressed, or just can’t seem to find joy in anything—its probably time you talked with a professional.