As I look to the New Year and think about where I'd like to be down the road, it reminds me to look back and see where I have been.

I like the direction I've taken and I hope to keeping heading the same way.

Then - February

Now - December

Then - I had to move my desk into a small hidden cubicle because I was afraid people might see me and try to talk to me.

Now - I have my desk moved back to its proper area.  I welcome many visitors everyday and feel no anxiety in doing so. I actually enjoy the distraction and sometimes spend too much time chatting with people who pass by. I don't think this is a bad thing. It's a growing thing.

Then - Small department staff meetings were a painful (physically - gut wrenching) experience. I would not attend these meetings if at all possible.

Now - They are much easier. I can voice my opinion in small meetings without feeling too self-conscious, and I think my boss appreciates that. She knows that if she needs another opinion about something, I will be able and happy to add my two cents worth.

Then - I was unable to take the elevator for fear someone might get in with me. They might even (God forbid) say "Hi!"

Now - I take the elevator whenever I want!  If I choose to take the stairs it's either because I'm in a hurry or I feel like getting a little exercise. I speak to anyone who gets in.  I try to say something to them before they say something to me.  I feel like I'm catching up with some of my co-workers that I avoided for a long time.

Then - I was unable to go on break without my friend Sandi. If she was with me she would speak for me. I could count on her to keep up a conversation so that nobody else would talk to me.

Now - I still enjoy Sandi's company when it's time for our breaks. We've been friends for 20 years! But, if Sandi can't make it, I can still go out and make small talk with anyone who happens to be there or I can even sit alone and not feel like I'm being scrutinized.  This is a really "freeing" feeling.

Then - I was unable to teach in classes.  I felt like the whole class was staring at me for what seemed like an eternity and with such open hostility and judgment.

Now - I LIKE to teach in class! I like to be introduced to the class. They all still turn and look to the back of the room where I'm standing, but only to smile and see who will be helping them if they get stuck.  I can smile back at them now.  This causes only the mildest anxiety and I'm not even sure I'd call it anxiety … maybe it's more excitement?

Then - I couldn't provide one-on-one training during Open Lab every Friday morning.

Now - I look forward to Friday mornings!  It gives me a chance to help someone who is unable to attend our regular classes. I can help them complete a project or learn the basics of a software package that is new to them. This is a great feeling!

Then - I was unable to drive on the freeway or take unfamiliar roads.

Now - I take different routes - just because I can!  I take the freeway every week to get to the dreaded (not really :-) group meetings.

Then - When asked how many people I could meet at once (there were only 2 people), I had to answer with an anxiety stricken "none".

Now - I'm much more comfortable with introductions!  If I don't allow myself to think negative thoughts I can meet many people with little anxiety.

Then - I was unable to spend the night alone for fear of some impending DOOM!

Now - I live pretty much by myself and have no problems. I enjoy spending time with myself and feel pretty confident that if something happens I will be able to handle the situation.  I feel like I can take care of myself now.  I don't NEED someone else to "protect" me.  I realize now that allowing myself to be protected all the time was actually undermining my personal growth.  I don't need someone to tell me what to do or how to do it.  I enjoy making my own decisions for myself, even if they're wrong.

Then - I was unable to go to the mall alone. I felt like there were a million people there and they were all looking at me - judging me.

Now - I LOVE to go shopping!  I even walk through the crowded food court at Scottsdale Fashion Square, just to practice building up my courage muscle.

I'm sure there are many more accomplishments that I've overlooked.   A year is a long time!

But WOW!!   What a long way to come!   I wouldn't have believed it 6 months ago!