Thursday, April 19, 2018

What No One Tells You About Social Anxiety

hiding with anxietyThe majority of people who know me just think that I’m quiet and shy. What they don’t understand is that I have social anxiety and it’s so much more than just being a little shy. I’ve made a list of things that I wish my friends (and family) understood about my social anxiety and how it really feels to be me.

As a child, I often times hid behind my mother’s legs whenever strangers were around, even if they weren’t strangers to her, just strangers to me. Everyone laughed and thought it was cute. As I got older, the shyness never really went away. All throughout my school years, I never spoke to anyone unless they spoke to me first. I had a good amount of friends in school, but they were the more outgoing type that made the effort to talk to me and eventually got me to open up.

Once I became an adult, I attempted to step outside of my comfort zone and strike up conversations with strangers here and there. Most of the time it worked and I became better at talking to strangers, but it made me very nervous and self-conscious.

My social anxiety disorder didn’t hinder me completely from getting out into the real world, though. I had jobs, but it took quite awhile for me to feel comfortable enough around my co-workers to open up and let them see the real me. Prior to that, I just sat at my desk, did my work and rarely talked to anyone. People joked about how quiet I was right to my face.

I often feared that those who didn’t know me well enough thought I was a huge flake who didn’t want to talk to anyone. The real me is sarcastic, sweet, funny, and caring, but most people don’t take the time to get to know the real me. I wanted to talk to other people, I was just too scared to.

I eventually got married and had kids. I was forced to do things I didn’t want to do or didn’t feel comfortable doing like mingle with other parents and teachers.

It wasn’t until last year that I finally realized that it’s more than just shyness, I have social anxiety disorder. It all makes so much more sense now.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

  • Feelings of being judged negatively by others; feeling inadequate
    • I just don’t fit in anywhere. I always feel out of place and like all eyes are on me.
  • Feeling anxious and nervous when in a social setting.
    • Only feeling completely comfortable when I am in my own home, away from other people.
  • Having emotional stress when meeting new people.
    • Hiding behind mother’s legs! As an adult, I get extremely anxious when I know I will be meeting someone new.
  • Being the center of attention causes excessive nervousness, trembling, blushing, dry mouth..etc.
    • Worrying about having to give a speech or getting up in front of others for days, even weeks going over every possible scenario in my head again and again.

anxiety words of doubt

I try not to go anywhere by myself. I will if I have to, but I don’t like going anywhere by myself, not even to the grocery store. I’ve gotten used to it by now, but if I can take one of my kids with me, I will talk them into it!

When I walk into a public place like a restaurant, I find myself looking at the floor, hoping to slide into my seat without anyone looking at me. I am very self-conscious about how I eat in public because I feel like other people are staring at me, thinking, “look at that fat lady eating like a pig!”. Despite knowing that in reality most of the other patrons aren’t paying any attention to me. Whenever I’m in public, I try my best to stay out of view and not attract any sort of attention to myself because I don’t want people looking at me, staring, laughing. Making eye contact with someone is the worst!

Going to school functions for my kids is never much fun. I look at all of the other moms and feel like I just don’t fit in. I’m not like them and they’re not like me. They all know one another, talk, and laugh, and it’s just me and my kids. Do they look at me and think the same thing, that I’m not like them? I don’t really know, but it’s always an uncomfortable situation for me.

I do have friends. Sometimes they invite me to do things with them or come over for a party. Sometimes I will accept and push myself to go. When I do go, I typically end up having a lot of fun and am happy that I went. Sometimes I accept their invitation and then after overthinking everything, I end up making an excuse not to go. Being a single woman, one of the worst situations for me is being somewhere where everyone else is there with their significant other, and I’m there alone. It’s the most awkward and uncomfortable situation, and I despise it. Even if none of them notice or think anything of me being the only single gal there, I feel completely out of place. A few years ago I went to a party that some friends were throwing. They needed to run to the store and asked me if I wanted to tag along. I did. We had fun, but afterward, I had these thoughts in my head like, “did they just feel sorry for me because I was there by myself?” or “am I the weird friend? Am I that person?”. I don’t know, am I?

I overthink everything. Everything. For instance, there are times when I force myself to try to be friendly and outgoing and end up tripping over my words or saying something really stupid. I will think about it for days. Why did I say that? I sounded so stupid! Once in awhile, a memory from 8 years ago will pop in my head and I remember something stupid that I said and I feel embarrassed all over again. The other person probably didn’t think anything of it, but I will dwell on it forever.

As a teenager, I could stay on the phone with my friends for hours at a time every day. I’m the complete opposite now. I only talk on the phone if I absolutely have to, and I don’t like it. Even something as simple as ordering pizza makes me nervous and I will order online if the option is available. If a friend calls, I most likely will not answer (sometimes I will, depends on the situation) and will text them back with an excuse as to why I didn’t answer. I have one friend in particular, a newish friend, whom I’ve told that I don’t like talking on the phone and prefer texting, but she still insists on calling me and then gets angry when I don’t answer. Hey, I warned you.

I watch other people be so cute and friendly, and it seems like everything comes to them easily. They get the promotion, they get the good job, they get the nice house and the husband who makes a crap-ton of money. I sit here and wonder if my social phobia keeps me from getting what I want in life? I’m positive it does. Everyone likes the funny outgoing type of personality. That’s not me. I look at those type of people and wonder how they just go up to a stranger and talk to them as if they have known them for years? How do they start at a new job and not get nervous knowing that everyone is going to be looking at you as the new person? How does it come so easily for them and why does it have to be so difficult for me?

My social anxiety has held me back. I get passed over for jobs, for promotions, even for dates due to this anxiety disorder. I want to be the fun super outgoing person, but my head stops me from being that person. I wish people could understand this and would take the time to get to know the real me. She’s in there and she’s lots of fun; she just won’t come out until she knows that you are accepting of her and won’t judge her for all of her fuck ups.

Many people don’t know about social anxiety and some don’t even believe that it exists. They think that a person is shy and should just suck it up and stop being so shy! Social anxiety disorder is a mental disorder just like depression and bipolar. It can’t just be turned on and off like a light switch. It’s a constant battle inside of your head and it never stops. I so desperately want to be out there with my friends having fun, but my anxiety knows that I will be more content sitting in my own home in my safe little bubble. I just need an extra little push to get out there some days.

The next time you think someone is just a bitch or a flake, put in some effort to get to know the real person they are before judging them. They may be fighting a difficult war in their head called social anxiety disorder.

I have social anxiety and and I want to go home t-shirt $9.97

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