It is difficult for me to pinpoint the exact year I started to have social anxiety, because the more I look back, the more I think it was always there. Social anxiety disorder has become so much a part of me, that I don’t know when it started.
My earliest experience was probably elementary school. Anxious feelings triggered by public settings were always present, but the severity increased with age. I feared speaking in front of the class for presentations. In middle school, I raised my hand if I knew the answer to a question, but I grew afraid of even that when I started high school. During my first year of high school, I noticed a fear of speaking to other students. I had trouble making friends even though I wanted some, but not popularity.
The more I looked around, the more I noticed many of my peers were self-centered and treated me as I was invisible because of my awkwardness. I didn’t want a lot of friends. I just wanted a few that I could hang out with every day, get coffee with, visit on the weekends, play video games and to bitch about family life. None of that happened in high school. At least, not to the the extent I had hoped.
Social situations were scarier every day.I was afraid of eating in public by myself. Standing on a line because I felt that the longer I stood stationery, the more people would look at me and make fun of me. I would look down at the ground when I walked outside. Social anxiety also manifested itself, but was not limited to, a fear of men. This fear was limited to men I didn’t know, such as classmates and passersby. Adolescents are usually akward around the opposite sex, but social anxiety can manifest in that awkwardness and multiply it to a fear.
I became anti-social, creating a wall between myself and peers. If they didn’t want anything to do with me, then I didn’t want them in my life. My day would consist of the same routine: Wake up, go to school, come home, do homework in my room, eat dinner, go back to my room to finish homework and screw around on the Internet. In a previous post, I mentioned using fan fiction as an escape. I also played a lot of video games and read books to escape.
I didn’t know where to turn for help. My mom told me she couldn’t teach me to be confident. I was nervous about going to a therapist because I thought I would be committed to an insane asylum.I had a best friend in high school who proved not to be the greatest of friends. I spoke to her about my family problems everyday, but like all adolescents, she had baggage of her own to deal with. By the time I graduated high school, she said, “The psychology office is closed for the year.” I felt more alone than ever during a time that was supposed to be the prologue of a new chapter in my life.
On high school graduation day, I saw my peers tearfully hugging each other good bye. “Where are my friends?” I thought. “I want to cry and hug some people I won’t see again for a long time.” I walked away that night feeling alone.
After some serious thinking in my sophomore year of college, I concluded it was time to go to therapy.I weighed a variety of reasons that pushed me to the decision to see a therapist.
First, I wasn’t getting out much other than to classes and the library to study. I wanted to see more of the world around me, but I needed to learn how to find the courage to do that.
Second, I had trouble keeping friendships with some wonderful people because I shut myself in and never made time to socialize. I never wanted to be a social butterfly, but it’s not healthy to avoid social interactions completely. Too much solitude warps one’s mind, and you begin to develop negative ideas about the world.
Third, I deduced that as a result of being along often, I talked to myself a lot. Many conversations I had with myself were ones I wanted to share with other people. :Wouldn’t those conversations be much more fun if I joined me?” I thought. Bouncing ideas around results in even better ideas.
Lastly, I had no moral support during a time when I had trouble dealing with the drama in my family. Family conflicts always has a way of negatively impacting my quality of life. My emotional resources were pulled every which way; My mom was suspicious of my grandparents, and I felt pressure when I wanted to spend time with or talk to them.The support of a therapist and my boyfriend helped tremendously. Being able to share my troubles with people broadened my perspective on life and the world around me.
To this day, I still have small lapses back to my old self, but every day I remind myself of everything I have worked towards and every thing I want to accomplish. That keeps me from becoming the recluse I once was.