Saturday, January 30, 2016

How Social Anxiety Makes Me Feel

When I was younger I was told I was shy. And I believed it. 
It wasn't until I was older, in college, that I realized it was something more. 

I have social anxiety. 

Social anxiety isn't about just being shy.
It's about having actual panic and anxiety attacks in social situations. 
I wish I had known as a child that I wasn't just shy,
That there was more to what I was feeling.
Because understanding I have social anxiety, has made it so much better. 

It's not cured, but it's better, because I know I'm not just shy. 

It's still a struggle sometimes.
But it's something I face.
And knowing it's more than being shy helps me handle it better.

But this is what I feel on a regular basis... 

If I'm late for work and late for our 9:00 numbers meeting, with the permission of my boss, if I am already late, I don't have to go, because walking into the conference room late, having everyone look at me as I go in makes me feel hot and makes my chest ache. 

The other day I knew I had a meeting at noon, a meeting where I would have to read aloud in front of the group, a small group of no more than six. For the ten minutes leading up to that meeting, my whole body was shaking uncontrollably and I felt freezing cold. Breathing was difficult. So you can imagine the exhaustion I felt when noon came and I was told the meeting was cancelled. 

I walked into a bathroom stall to find there was no toilet paper. Instead of immediately leaving and switching stalls, I stood around waiting till I heard everyone else leave the bathroom, terrified of what people might think to see me leave my stall to enter another. 

When paying for items at a store or restaurant, I have a mini panic attack if it takes me a little while to get out my wallet. It terrifies me to have the cashier waiting on me or have people behind me. 

In one instance, I went to buy items at the store and my card was declined. It took all my energy to stay composed as the cashier kindly pointed out an ATM for me, where my card was also declined. There had been people behind me and in my imagination they were all judging me. I left the store and cried from having to deal with that kind of anxiety. 

People know me for being quiet. The reason I'm so quiet is because I'm so terrified people will laugh at what I say or judge me. I struggle with the way people see me and always believe others will think the worst of me. 

I feel intense guilt and shame over the smallest things. Once I let out a loud laugh that made other's laugh. That sound I made echoed in my head over and over again, and my chest ached.

I always want hugs, but am too afraid to initiate them. 

I remember once as I child I overheard my mom telling her friends about something funny I did. I know my mom didn't mean anything by it, and if it were to happen now I would probably be able to handle it better, but as a child, hearing people laugh at something I had done, I gained a fear of being made fun of (a part of social anxiety). I was so quiet as a child because I was terrified of being laughed at. 

I'm terrified of what people think of me, to the extent that I will keep my coat on all day if I'm feeling a little overweight and my distorted mind believes other people will look on and judge. 

I've always loved children and loved playing with children, but when the parents are around I get anxious that they'll judge the way I crawl on the floor with their kids and I become silent and still. 

I am my own worst enemy. I self-sabotage myself in so many situations, simply believing that I can't accomplish something because no one will like me. 

I'm fine with one-on-one conversations, but one add just one more person I begin to struggle. The problem is not knowing when, or how to speak up. I don't want to inconvenience anyone or interrupt them. Even if we're all the best of friends, if there's not a clear gap, I will rarely speak up. 

When I'm in a crowd, there's a dull ache in my chest and a struggle to breathe. Typically if I'm with people I know I do better, but if I'm alone in a crowd I am terrified of touching or interrupting anyone, that I will try to avoid being near anyone all together. 

I stay alone in my apartment frequently. The act of choosing to go out and be around strangers is a struggle. 

I've gotten a lot better at keeping eye contact, but in conversations I'm often fumbling with something in my hands or my eyes dart around the room. It's unnerving having someone look me in the eyes, it feels too vulnerable. 

I hate making phone calls, talking on the phone, texting people I don't know. Phones are one of my enemies. 

People laughing near me, even if I know they aren't laughing at me, makes me feel anxious. 

I am mortified to eat in front of people. What if I spill? What if they don't like what I'm eating? What if I'm chewing too loud? What if my shaky hands become a problem? So many questions go through me, so I often eat alone. (Family and close friends are fine though.) 

I hate to ask for help, terrified they'll think I'm stupid. 

I will often pretend I didn't know something before if someone is telling me a fact or story, because I never want to come across as a know-it-all. I just nod along and give input. Sometimes even someone will ask me a question and I pretend not to know the answer, afraid they will think I think I'm better than they are.

I plan out many conversation in my head beforehand. I do not like being put on the spot. If I ever have to give a speech or lesson I write out everything I plan to say and rarely improvise. 

I feel embarrassed almost all the time. 

While black is my favorite color, part of me knows that one of the reasons I mainly wear black and grey are because I know they won't bring any attention to me. Wearing black all the time can make you invisible sometimes, and while sometimes I hate feeling invisible it's better than being the center of attention. 

I will often wait for others to make a move before I do. I will hold onto garbage until I see someone else throw theirs away, taking it as a signal that it's okay. 

Along with a fear of walking in late, I'm terrified of leaving early. People staring at me, noticing my actions give me an anxiety attack. 

My anxiety is often feeling like I'm suffocating. My whole body shakes, my palms getting sweaty, my chest hurts, my heart is pounding, my stomach feels nauseous, my vision is sometimes blurry and unfocused, and millions of self-defeating thoughts race through my mind. After an anxiety attack my body is hit with complete exhaustion. 


Knowing all of these things makes it better. 
I can prepare, I can be ready, I can find solutions, I can get feeling better faster. 

I'm not just shy.
I have social anxiety.
And I wish I had learned that sooner,
So I could have dealt with it earlier.

Not everyday is bad.
It's a process. 
But I'm grateful for the knowledge I have,
Because I know there's nothing wrong with me.

This is something I have, but it's not who I am. 


  1. Wow! I have never related to something so much ever! Can I just say how brave you are to put this up! This is amazing! It made me feel like I'm not alone. That I'm not the only person that feels this way. Thank you so much! This really made me feel better! I've had a really crappy day and my anxiety has been high! But now I feel better! Thank you so much this was so helpful :)

    1. Thank you. You just made my whole month. I'm transitioning my blog to talk more about my mental health disorders to help others feel like they aren't alone. This comment has truly made me smile and made it all worth it. You're a hero, and I'm giving you a virtual hug right now!

  2. I relate to this too, although with some effort I've managed to get a lot better, especially at the littler things, like agonizing over a work meeting, or being afraid to interact with cashiers etc. Getting out of my comfort zone really helped me.

  3. Getting up and going to work everyday with Social anxiety is hard & not everyone takes on the challenge. You should pat yourself on the back daily for doing it.


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