Social Anxiety and Me

December 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm (Social Anxiety)

I have wanted to write about this for a while but didn’t know how to put it into words.  It’s taken me over a year to even begin to work through it.   

Me and Sue -- about the age when we started singing with our Daddy

Me and Sue — about the age when we started singing with our Daddy


I have spent my life on a stage, in front of people.  I sang with my sister, Sue and my Daddy when I was three years old.  We had a little trio.  I competed vocally and won through the Grace Brethren Church “Nurturing Abilities for Christ” more than once.   

Dad, Sue, Me, Mom and Deb.  We were in 7th and 8th grade

Dad, Sue, Me, Mom and Deb. We were in 7th and 8th grade

I was in two musicals in high school, sang in choirs in college, and played Lucy in “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.”

Playing the piano at Central Cambria High School in 1977

Playing the piano at Central Cambria High School in 1977



Me Kathy McCarthy, Mike Yocum and Mike Boze in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown

Me Kathy McCarthy, Mike Yocum and Mike Boze in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

A Mid'Summer's Night's Dream (I played Puck)

A Mid’Summer’s Night’s Dream (I played Puck)

I sang in church, sang with my family, and we sang with big name gospel groups.  I also played the piano.  In 1997, I began to accompany the Central Cambria School District choirs.  We started to attend Emmanuel Baptist Church and I began to use my gift of music there.  It is a huge church and standing in front of the congregation was second nature to me.  

Singing at Youth Conference - 1976

Singing at Youth Conference – 1976

Singing at my niece's wedding

Singing at my niece’s wedding

Teaching yoga to MS Society members

Teaching yoga to MS Society members

I think this began about five years ago, when I developed Blepharospasm, a big word for eye twitches.  They got so bad that I wore sunglasses so people wouldn’t stare.  I continued to minister with the music team at EBC.  I mostly rehearsed the choir and played keyboards.  I noticed that I would feel anxious as I left the house, but I soldiered through and completed my obligations.    I began to see a new neurologist, Dr. Clark (whom I love) and my insurance company approved Botox injections every three months for the blepharospasm.  I wish he’d hit my wrinkles 🙂 but he gives me five injections around my eyes.  This treatment is effective for me.  I have been receiving this treatment for two years. 

I played the piano for my daughter in her Jazz concert

I played the piano for my daughter in her Jazz concert


I had an MS setback and my TN flared up in April 2012.  May 2012 was the last time I stood on a stage. 

For six months before my last ministry weekend, getting there was another issue.  I developed full-blown panic attacks.  They would begin the day before I knew I had to go to church to rehearse or perform.  I would talk myself through one attack, think it had subsided and then another one would occur.  Another complication was that if I had a TN attack, I couldn’t medicate if I was driving.  Often I’d go to choir in tremendous pain because I was waiting to take my pain meds until I got home.  Because the choir doesn’t sing in the summer, I was able to take the break without really inconveniencing Kristin, the choir director.  My replacement was also named Melody (without the “e”)!! 

Summertime passed.  I went to church if Danny would go but when he was on call or busy and couldn’t go, I’d stay home.  I tried to go, I really did!! I would be fully dressed for Saturday evening service, but I’d have a panic attack.  The last time I attempted to go alone, I turned my vehicle around on 219 (illegally because I used an emergency turn around and you know how I am a rule follower!!).  I haven’t been to church since October 2012. 

Going to Walmart caused me to panic.  I began to go late at night or early in the morning so there wouldn’t be many people.  If I had to go in the middle of the day, I’d take my iPod and listen to music, praying I wouldn’t meet anyone I knew.  If you have seen me in Walmart and feel that I have ignored you, I am sorry.  I probably did ignore you and prayed you wouldn’t see me. 

I began to realize this summer that I really had a problem.  If I could stay at home for seven days in a row, I considered it to be a good week.  I began to research “social anxiety” and “panic attacks.”  There is a lot of information and as I read, I’d find myself nodding in agreement… “this is me.”  “Yeah, this is me too.”  I began to talk to my best friend, Juel, who is a great listener and trained in these areas.  I finally opened up to my family doctor, Dr. Mike.  Because of all of the medicines I am on, I cannot take an anti-depressant.  Quite honestly, in order for me to get a prescription for this, I need to see a psychiatrist.  I don’t want to do that.  I see so many doctors already.  Dr. Mike and I have come up with a plan.  I am going to take one Elavil in the morning and see if that helps.  I am going to begin to see a counselor just to talk about it.

I have been happily married for 33 ½ years to darling DannyO.  He is a very social person.  We have two couples, Dave and Shelly and Mark and Debbie, who we love doing things with.  If Dan gives me enough notice, I can gather myself together and go.  If it is a last-minute plan, I begin to pray in desperation, because I know I NEED to go for Danny AND for me.  Sometimes I will tell Danny that I am not putting any make-up on and will wear my glasses, but I will go.  He doesn’t care.  He loves me!!

I am so blessed that my EBC family hasn’t forsaken me.  My friend Jenn keeps in close touch with me and prays with me and for me on a regular basis.  Debbie, EBC’s visitation coordinator has corresponded with me.  I get regular cards from Melanie and Laurie.  Keith is my FB EBC encourager.  I keep telling them that I will be back.  I will be back.

I am working to “behave” my way through this.  For instance, I knew on Sunday that today, Tuesday would be my errand day.  I began to prepare for it on Sunday.  When I begin to panic, I talk myself through it… “You have a car that goes good in the snow.” “You will be out of the house for three hours, tops.” “You will shower Monday night so you don’t use all your energy before you go.” Showering and washing my hair saps my energy.  “You will wear your black leggings, your Susan Graver sweatshirt tunic, black boots, watch, ‘Joy’ bracelet, and black hat and pink scarf.”  I make a specific list of the order of my day.

  • Recycle plastic and papers
  • Donnie’s
  • Bank
  • Walmart (with another specific list)
  • Check on Mom and Dad
  • Put groceries away

I took a big step towards healing in October.  I hadn’t seen my son, Brent since January and I missed him so much.  I booked a plane ticket to Ft. Lauderdale and actually flew down and had a magnificent time in the sunshine. 

I don’t know if I will ever be able to stand on stage again.  My voice continues to deteriorate because of MS. I don’t even know if I CAN sing well enough for people to hear. I dream of singing.  I don’t know if I could take any criticism, which I would open myself up to if I performed again.  As I work through this complicated issue, I had my piano tuned and pulled out my vocal warm-up CD’s.  I sing in the privacy of my home and know the Lord hears and loves my praise. 

I am now working through another holiday season.  As I shared in my last blog post, this time of year has its own challenges simply because I have MS and TN.  Add social anxiety and the situation can become pretty hopeless.  I am working through it day by day, prayer by prayer, breath by breath.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am!!  I really am!!

 I am aware that some will consider me weak and silly for having social anxiety.  Some would say, “Just do it, don’t think about it.”  If it were that easy… if it were that easy…

I was feeling brave today so, here it is… 













  1. Bonnie Pruitt said,

    Hi Mel!
    Social anxiety is REAL! You are NOT crazy or nuts or anything like that. You have so much to be proud of and thankful for. You are such an inspiration to me! I remember some of the photos you posted from Grace, and I remember your beautiful voice. The lasting memories of the time we spent on 3rd floor Alpha Hall will never be forgotten! I can still hear you belting out a song in the hallway! It always brought a smile to my face…and the memory still does! Even though you find it difficult to sing now, I am glad that at least you still try. You always strive to “proceed with JOY” even when you do not feel like it! That takes a whole lot of courage and perseverance! It also takes a whole lot of courage to “fess-up” to your situation when you would rather just hide. Please know that no matter what the situation or feelings, I think about you and pray for you daily! Please know I am sending my “happy thoughts” and prayers for you everyday!

  2. Christie Mortenson said,

    I think you are brave! I have had social anxiety since early childhood and it’s difficult. It has waxed and waned but when it’s bad it’s bad. I truly believe it is one of those things that people need to experience to truly understand. It can also be a gift as well. It has taught me to be more tolerant of others and their problems and circumstances. It has made me a person who always goes out of the way to try to make people feel welcome and comfortable in my professional and personal life. I try not to judge, I guess I still do, but I find myself more inclined to think negatively towards those who seem to have it all together as opposed to those who have struggles and weaknesses they are not afraid to expose. I have always been in awe of your singing ability and your ability to sing in public. I also believe that you will be able to do that again someday…just keep doing what you’re doing and take it one day at a time.

  3. Melodye Olsavsky Melodye said,

    Thank you Bonnie and Christie!! I think it is so bad now because I don’t have kids to force my hand, as it were. I also just have days when I don’t feel good. It is day to day. Christie, I didn’t know you struggled too. Perhaps there is a familial tendency… :-/

    Like I said, day by day, breath to breath…

  4. Lillace Christianson said,

    Melodye, Thank you for sharing so that we can pray “intelligently” for you. I agree with Christie in that God allows us to struggle so that we might be more understanding of others. This has been proven so many times in my life, and I praise the Lord for this gift. With His help, you WILL overcome. Have a blessed week, Melodye, and hug your Mom for me.

  5. Sharon Brubaker said,

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with me! We all think we’re going through our own private hell, so to speak….we feel alienated, then I get an email from you and know I’m not alone! I wish I could snap my fingers and you & I would be 100%, but it doesn’t work that way. I also have a panic disorder. Only mine hits at any time, home or out doing things. I hate it so much, so so very much!!!!! But it’s here & I have to deal with it. Also having to deal with Fibromyalgia, the pain at times is unreal, very severe. I’ve wanted to do exactly what you’ve been doing and record my days. It sure would help later on when I can’t remember anything. I hope you feel better, I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family, and know you’re always in my prayers…God Bless….

  6. Kathleen H said,

    Dear cousin-in-law:
    I am thinking your plan with your doctor will work.
    Sometimes I wonder if prolonged stress has much to do with the odd things that happen to our human bodies, and while you are a strong person, you have had a lot of stress this year.
    I believe you can overcome the panic,
    and the cyclical nature of things will likely also turn in your favor soon.
    I also have a husband with social anxiety around strangers; I can tell by his face color how high his blood pressure is going up when I toss him into situations with new people. He’d probably stroke out at a family reunion unless I either got him to drink 3 beers before going or promised to sit him at a table with my parents & brother’s family only, so he didn’t have to meet anyone right away.
    Just hang in there and do your best ,while we pray for you & your family to get past this obstacle quickly. Remember God is with you, walking in that valley ( I tend to forget that so much myself in dark places).

  7. Three Subjects, Starting with Tuesday-Shoesday | Melodyejoy's Weblog said,

    […] MelodyeJoy – 2  Social Anxiety (SA) – 0 […]

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