Social Anxiety

 I've probably written this blog entry 100 times and then deleted it within a couple small paragraphs. You might ask "why?" and to be honest, the title explains it all I guess. I over think how to explain this, how to make it sound intelligent and sophisticated, but still come from me. But to be honest, I don't know how to make this thing I have sound intelligent or great because it's not. It's this thing that bugs me everyday, that keeps me from doing or saying certain things. I couldn't begin to count the things I've wanted to say during my life but stopped, or the words I've typed and erased. The number of times I could have stood up for myself but simply couldn't because of this is way more than I'd like to admit. I can't even explain it half the time because sometimes its subconscious anxiety and panic attacks that I get. And this thing that I'm talking about that has me so rattled has a name, that name is social anxiety. So here is how i describe it in a 100% unedited, raw, 5am blog post about my social anxiety.
 Social anxiety for me is this crippling fear of how people see me or think of me. Some nights I have to do my makeup three times, other times it can be done in one try only taking me maybe ten minutes. Though other times it simply takes me two hours to get ready so I can take breaks to prevent panic attacks for going out with friends. Some days I just want to call it quits after those first two tries because by then I'm so drained and having anxiety because it's almost time to go out. I'm so exhausted by getting ready that I don't have the energy to go out anymore.
 Some people don't understand that or don't believe me that I have this sometimes crippling thing because I can go out without makeup on somedays. Or I can go to a water park in a bikini, post selfies on Instagram to 40,000 people, and be totally okay with it. But a day later I'm talking myself out of deleting the photo. I have conditioned myself on how to sit so people see my 'good' side, so I know how to pose in pictures. I know how to contour my face so my features look better or even softer. When I was younger I used to photoshop my body so much that when I looked in the mirror and saw the unedited version, the real version of me, I was slightly confused and upset as a kid.
 I can single handedly remember enough embarrassing moments, rude things said about me and to me to fill a library. I used to and still have to think about what I'm going to say before speaking so I don't mess up my words. Once I got so nervous after a game of dodgeball in gym class that instead of simply saying 'good game boys' I said 'good boys game'. I swear a little of me died inside that day, I was mortified and still occasionally cringe over that 5 second moment in 5th grade. When I was in first grade this boy I liked made fun of me when I spoke with my mouth full of food at lunch time, I was eating Pringles at the time, since then I always chew with my mouth closed and never speak when eating in front of people. A girl who was jealous of her crush liking me refused to hang out with me at a local amusement park, insisted I was a catfish, said I looked like a 'bird', made fun of the fact I had braces, and got her friend to hate me so much that even though I've never met either of them they hate me. I had even passed out in front of a bunch of veterans as well as the entire school, plus their family members, during a choir concert. I most likely will never live that down. I remember a little of it but I certainly remember the aftermath- the jokes about that girl who fainted. "Your head sounded like a drum off beat!" my one friend said about my head making contact with the corner of the metal bleachers. I also remember the girl behind me, which just so happened to be BFFs with the girl who bullied me say "Well I'm not catching her" right before I passed out... And then I was a joke in 6th grade, the teachers didn't know it was me but they used my fainting as an example to make sure everyone stayed hydrated that year for the concert.
 Those moments will forever stay in my head. I have 6 straight years that were filled with me being so severely bullied stuck in my head that those years effected how I see myself today. Because of those 6 years, I will forever be effected by this horrible social anxiety. Many people believe so 6 straight years of bullying (3rd grade to 8th) essentially caused my self worth and confidence to become basically non-existent. One person explained it to me this way; I've most likely always had social anxiety but it didn't kick in until my body decided I was able to handle it. When this woman said it, it all made sense. I was always shy and socially awkward, literally for as long as I could remember my sister was able to make friends within seconds at the playground while I sat with my dad on a bench. While other kids my age were able to do things by themselves, I was rarely able to order my own food at restaurants. It was all manageable until sophomore year when it was like a light switch had gone from off to on and boom, it all hit at once.
 I had always been bad at being able to go to school, always. I always hated it, and during middle school it was so difficult because I was bullied and the school did literally nothing about it. It was some blue ribbon school for academics but their policy on bullying was complete and utter shit. So them not doing anything only made me basically hating school worse, and even when I switched schools I was still bullied by those same people so my feelings on school never changed. But when sophomore year came everything was pretty great, I didn't enjoy school but I was able to go. I loved the social aspect of it, being able to see my friends all the time. Though during winter break, when everything was great, that light switch turn on and my life completely changed.
 My social anxiety hit full force. It was so bad that I could barely leave my room for three months. When my birthday came I almost didn't go to my own party because I just couldn't do it. Nothing was working that day; my hair looked bad, my clothes looked bad, my makeup looked bad, I was so exhausted by trying on different things all morning to make myself feel better that I ended up only feeling worse. I ended up going and having a great time, my best friend even yelled 'can we take a moment to appreciate that we're seeing Sophie for the first time in months!'
 After my birthday I had to figure out how to finish my education, because those three months trapped in the corner of my room obviously didn't allow me to go to school. We found out that my school offered an online program at our local college campus. We tried that and it worked, but during those three months one girl decided to start the rumor that I had completely dropped out of school. That rumor came after one boy tried to ruin me because I wouldn't indulge in his whole dating fantasy. So even going to that little room to sit quietly at a computer was hard, but not because of those rumors (which I didn't care about), because I was simply around people. My dad asked me for months on end what caused me to stop going to school. Was I being bullied, did something happen, what was it? I didn't have an answer for him because at the time I didn't even know I had social anxiety. I had no excuse for why I just stopped functioning.
 I ended up having to leave that as well by the end of junior year. During all of junior year I was only able to complete maybe two classes, my anxiety had crippled me so much during the end of sophomore year and all of junior that everyone pretty much didn't think I would be able to finish school. I would get horrible panic attacks about having to go to school that I overwhelmed myself so much I almost drove myself into an asthma attack. If I would have driven myself into an asthma attack and didn't have my inhaler, I quite possibly could have died. That thought only caused me more panic when I could feel one coming on and I didn't have my inhaler. My cat was essentially the only thing that could calm me down because I knew that if I held on to her and didn't calm down, she'd claw my face up.
My anxiety and the panic attacks that followed literally controlled my life during that time so much that simple outings took so much work. My summer sucked because I would make up lies about not being able to go places because I literally just didn't have the energy to go. And all during senior year I had to sit inside my home with a home instructor doing math problems and science equations that gave me more anxiety. All I could think of when I didn't understand a problem or blanked out on what 9x7= was 'she probably thinks I'm so stupid, god I'm an idiot!' Or if I was out somewhere and people were looking at me, I would immediately think they were staring at something that was wrong with me or my face. If they started laughing or talking to their friends, my mind told me that they were laughing at me. My mind always makes me pick out my flaws that would annoy the person I was currently crushing on. If someone makes a comment on my Instagram that I don't understand, I automatically take it as them making fun of me. If someone dislikes me for whatever reason, I feel horrible and question everything about myself. My social anxiety has never once caused my to have a good thought when someone looks at me. It is always telling me that they are making fun of my makeup, my hair, my clothes, my face, or just me. A boy could be staring at me thinking that I'm pretty, then lean over and tell his friend that I'm cute but my brain isn't thinking that. Because in my mind that doesn't happen to me, it happens in stories. That instead, that boy is telling his friend to check out the dorking girl looking at him.
 Though my social anxiety has caused a lot of trouble with my schooling, I was able to graduate high school. I was able to complete 21 classes/semesters in less than a normal school year, I even finished about three weeks early. I was able to make great friends and keep my friends even though I know I annoy them sometimes. I was able to do a job interview with no preparation and get that job (even though I had to quit before I started). I am able to stand up for others when it is needed and am very vocal about things though I can't stand up for myself all the time yet. I am able to go out and have fun, I can ignore the looks most of the time though every once in a while I simply can't ignore them. Social anxiety is something that cripples me some days and only wounds me the others. I have better control over it than I did during sophomore year obviously, I know it will still effect me with a lot of things in my future though. It'll effect my dating, making friends, starting up college, moving somewhere new, getting a job. It's something I'll have to live with forever, it will always be this thing that sits on my shoulder and controls me at least a little bit.
 I wanted to make this post so I can get this off my chest and let people understand me a bit better. Most of my friends know about this, that I have social anxiety. But not everyone knows everything, they don't know certain things that trigger a panic attack or cause my anxiety to spike. Though that is my main reason for writing this post, I also wanted to write it so other people who have this know they aren't alone. My mother says I should be proud of myself for completing high school even with those giant hurdles in my way. But I feel like that shows me more of a failure than an inspiration, norma people don't have to take 21 classes/semesters to finish high school. Though, obviously, I'm not normal. My social anxiety doesn't allow me to be defined as normal, and to be honest at this point in my life I'm okay with not being completely normal. Normal is so fucking boring. I'm not okay with having this thing that controls my life any where from a little bit to a lot, but I'm okay with not being the typical everyday boring person. Do I hate my social anxiety? Hell yes, but I know I'm not the only one who has it so obviously there is a way to function with it. Everyone's is different so everyone copes differently, but that means there is a way to cope and function. I just have to find it.

 It took me literally an exact hour to write all of that and no matter how much I want to I am not going to go back and edit it. Even for grammatical errors I'm not going to fix it. If it doesn't make sense then just reread it and think perhaps, if it still doesn't then I apologize. But I know if I go back and change a single comma I will end up taking out something that should be left in or deleting the whole thing. But here it is; 100% raw, unedited, personal, emotional, messy, 5am-6am writing explaining my social anxiety to the best of my ability. Hopefully at least one person understands or relates to what I'm saying, preferably the first because if it's the second I'd like to apologize on behalf of the universe for giving you this stupid thing. Best of wishes and luck for the people out in the world who are where I was sophomore year, when the light switch first turned on. Once you figure out just one single coping skill, I swear it'll dim that bright social anxiety 'light' just a little bit. It'll be just enough to allow you to do certain things again eventually.
Anonymous said...

This was amazing, I always thought I was just over dramatic because I am literally really nervous to do some simple things like you said. But now I know thats not it, I really do have social anxiety and I shouldn't ignore it or feel bad about it like its some nasty tick. Thanks for writing this. It's eye opening.

Anonymous said...

Yes this is a great blog .. It is hard for many to understand how crippling this can be .. And how it can hold you hostage ..

Annie said...

I reread this like once a month, just to know I'm not alone.

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