Many of us have been there; whether it’s at a party or you’ve had to give a presentation in class, you know the signs. First the palpitations and then your palms begin to sweat. You’re unsure of how people will perceive you and you sure as hell have no idea what to say when you’re approached. Maybe you don’t even make it to the party, because after all, it’s safer to stay in the comfort of your own home, right? At least there, you don’t have to worry about possibly making a fool of yourself. That’s what living with social anxiety is like. Although I have seemed to overcome my own obstacle of having social anxiety, it hasn’t been easy. I wasn’t a shy child and didn’t have a lot of problems in school at least in high school. I was the loud one and the girl who always had an opinion. When I moved out of my parent’s at 21, I ended up living alone for five years and then eventually moved in with a co-worker into a house with a few others. Although, I had my own living quarters, it didn’t make it any easier. I now lived under the same roof with different, strong personalities, including my own. Fast forward three years and I look back and don’t recognize the person I was. I am much happier, vocal and outgoing than I have ever been, but it isn’t like that for all. The following comments were received in response to my question “how has social anxiety affected your life?” If you’ve ever felt alone, be assured that you are not.
“It feels like whenever I see someone and try to approach them that I’m always doing it at the wrong time. I also have a hard time making new friends. I have a hard time talking to strangers. I feel envious of my friends who are social butterflies who know everybody it seems. Here I am over here just awkwardly watching my friends socialize and I’m the quiet one. I try to fight it but it is a difficult battle. There maybe people who I’m friends with on social media but even approaching them is a battle for me even if we’ve talked a lot through messaging or comments.
I win some battles but some days I feel hopeless as if I can never open my mouth to talk. I feel like my mouth is sewed shut as it will not open and that the thought of talking to someone feels like I will suffocate either because my mind is blank or I say something embarrassing to me.”
“I’ve always avoided big events. I didn’t attend prom or a senior trip. I’m now 33 and people know better than to invite me to things like weddings. Other than avoiding stuff like that, I manage to get along fairly well. I’m a special education teacher. Thankfully kids don’t cause me the level of anxiety that adults do.”
“I used to drive 1000 to 1600 miles by myself, now I have a bike, I don’t want a car. I only go places close to me and I stay home most of the time.”
“No job, no friends, living at night, two kids. When I think about the future I’m depressed as f**k. So yeah it affects a lot, but I keep on fighting for these two wonders.”
“Social anxiety has crippled me for years, but in the last month, I have taken a job at one of the local Taco Bell’s as a register person so I am forced to interact and talk with people and be friendly. I pretty much am drenched in sweat for the first 4 or 5 hours of my 6 hour shift but making myself do this is really helping me. Making myself face my mental illnesses head on is really helping me instead of letting them control me. I am on disability right now but maybe by this time next year I will no longer need it and will be working full time, possibly in management. I have had some good support and I just got tired of being controlled by my illness. It helped going to the local opportunity center and seeing people far worse off then I trying to work in the center and trying to work in the community and me sitting around just not doing anything, really put a kick in my pants. I figure if people with disabilities far worse than schizophrenia can work, I should be able too also. Just have to take it slow and move at my pace.”