[Serious] Mentally Ill people of Reddit, what is your illness, and can you try to describe what it is like?

Hi, I am a lurker but I felt compelled to reply. I have somewhat milder social anxiety, which has also caused me some problems with depression. There have been times where I have gotten into the car to go shopping, drove near the store, and turned around without stopping/going in. Phone calls can also be really hard for me, there have been times when I simply can not call someone, despite them having called me in the first place and asked me to call them back. I feel like I don't want to intrude on them, even if they have asked me to call.

I did want to share something that has really helped me: training service dogs. I think there are three big ways that this helps me. First, when I am out with one of them I am almost totally focused on them. I am not thinking about what I am doing or not doing, I am thinking about what my puppy is doing and how it might react to its surroundings. Second, other people focus on the dog too. Rather than looking at me, they look at the dog, and any interest in me is a result of having the dog. The dog also ends up being a conduit through which I can interact with other people, people are interested in the dog in predictable ways and initiate conversations that are "safe" because they focus on the dog and are predictable and non personal. Finally, having the dog makes me get out more. In order to be successful, the dogs need to be comfortable in all sorts of situations. As a result I go places because the dog needs to go somewhere, I am able to allow the dog's need to experience public places to supersede my need to avoid people. (I am a puppy raiser, I have the puppy when it is young. There is the hurdle of getting involved in the first place, but people in these organizations also focus a lot on the dogs, and are pretty much all welcoming. They want you to be there.) TL;DR focusing on the dog prevents me from focusing on myself or anyone else, so I forget to be uncomfortable.

/r/AskReddit Thread