Living with a Mental Illness: Tips for Going ‘Out Out’

Tis the season for work nights out, family gatherings, hungover sunday roasts and being reunited with old friends. It’s around this time of year that I can feel pressured to go out on the town.

Sometimes when I think about going out for a drink in an unfamiliar or crowded place I have a full panic attack. I couldn’t tell you exactly what makes me panic… perhaps the amount of people, not knowing exactly what is going to happen or maybe the fact that it may be cold and I dislike being cold.

As someone who rarely goes out for this reason and has a few events coming up I am preparing for, I thought it would be a great idea to share some tips and advice. So here is some of mine:

Don’t let people shame you for not drinking

A few months back I was out with some friends and my friend ordered a non-alcoholic drink. The barmaid gave her a funny look and said ‘Really?’. There was an awkward pause and my friend tried to laugh it off but I thought it was extremely inappropriate.

There also seems to be this social pressure on us that if we want to have fun the only way is through alcohol and losing self-control. But what if we are anxious about loosing control?

I am scared to drink at times, particularly if I am feeling low and putting on a brave face. As that face can slip drink by drink and before you know it you are having a full panic attack on the dance floor.

Plan your transport there and back in advance

I tend to find it calming knowing exactly how I am going to get home. This could be checking beforehand when the last train is (and I find having a screenshot of the train times helpful on your phone – in case of internet problems or data running out). Or making sure you save enough cash in a sneaky pocket or in your bra just for the taxi home.

Chat to the people going beforehand

If they are anything like my friends they will understand if you are anxious about the event. I tend to double check who is going and speak to those people before the event. They could share a taxi back, they could be someone else who isn’t ashamed of a good dance in a bar – but most importantly they will know if its all getting a bit too much and make sure you are okay.

I have always been honest with my friends since my anxiety diagnosis and feel comfortable telling them if I am struggling at an event or a bit anxious about going. If you don’t feel as comfortable sharing with a group of friends maybe take one person with you or ask someone along you may understand, e.g. a partner, a best friend, a sibling.

Wear something you feel comfortable in

There can also be pressure to dress to impress – theres nothing wrong with this, but theres also nothing wrong with wearing jeans and a nice top either. Make sure you know the dress code – I recently went to a posh event but in a comfy jumpsuit and flats so I felt much more comfortable than if I had worn a dress and heels.

Do you have any tips for when you go out on the town?

Comment below and share your experiences.

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