Social Anxiety is the bishop, if not the king of narcissistic disorders. If you think about it, everything you do and believe revolves around ‘you’.
What would I say if anyone approaches me? What will I do if they try to start a conversation? Do they hate me? I’m sure they are talking about me; why else would they stare at the beautiful scenery behind me! Am I being too quiet? Do they think I’m dumb?
You constantly question and overthink completely absurd scenarios when you don’t even know what they are.
The beginning: where it all began
I was always a shy kid and excessively concerned over what others thought about me. I never had control over my thoughts and feelings. I thought everyone was monitoring me for a flaw in what I did, or my attitude, or even my appearance. School was a nightmare for me; it was the place where you can’t really avoid interacting with people. However, I did try my best to stay away from the spotlight.
It just required a lot of running away and hiding, hoping people didn’t see me and make fun of how weird I was. Mapping out the quickest route to the next class, leaving after the hallway was empty, and eating in an aloof corner was my daily routine. Any social contact would make me panic and worry uncontrollably. Maintaining a conversation was the hardest thing to do as I constantly had lingering thoughts in the back of my head of how these people would make fun of me later. Going to another class was always a struggle. “How does anyone get over the gaze of people you don’t know?” I thought.
However, I never took it seriously. Like everyone else, I had seen several memes on social media and simply concluded I was an introvert. But was I?
My breakthrough: coming to terms with social anxiety
In my junior year in school, I was somehow chosen to give a speech. I don’t remember the topic but I clearly remember the life-changing events that occurred on ‘the day’. I was initially scared and angry at my teacher for choosing me yet I worked incredibly hard for that speech. I didn’t want people to think I was stupid by performing badly that day. I worked for days, practiced in front of the mirror, and gave myself pep talks of how I could pull it off, however my thoughts quickly spiraled downward.
On the day, half an hour before the speech, I started getting expeditiously nervous. I was nervous about how people would react and if they’d even pay attention to what I said. I took a peep at the audience and seeing the large crowd made things worse. My palms started sweating, and cold sweat started dripping from my forehead and down the back of my neck. Very soon I found myself out of breath to a point where I needed to sit and breathe. Everything started to get blurry and it felt like my heart would fall out of my chest. My teacher was worried and asked me if I was alright. I wasn’t! The side of my face started twitching, palpitations increased, and before I knew it I was running out of the hall. I bailed! I ran away from my responsibilities, disappointing everyone. Or so I thought.
This was the situation I knew something was gravely wrong with me and so did my teacher. I couldn’t go back to school for a week thinking about how everyone would laugh at my entrance. Surprisingly the day I returned, nobody was staring or laughing at me. It was like nobody cared! Normally I tried to avoid being summoned by teachers but this time when I was called, I was relieved. I needed to talk about this with someone. I had to do something.
I must say I am very thankful to my teacher for being so supportive and open-minded about my social anxiety in an era where talking about mental health was still considered taboo. The talk I had that day is the reason I can share my story today.
I opened up completely for the first time in my existence. I clung on to the hand she laid in front of me. I told her all about my insecurities, my fears, my stress and anxiety, and how I thought I was just an introvert. She was the first one to suggest I may have a social phobia or social anxiety. I again got worried about what the world would think about me when they found out I had an issue. “They already think I’m weird and now they’ll think I’m sick as well,” was my first thought. My anxiety started kicking in again and it felt like everything was repeating itself like the week before. Thankfully this time I did not run away and my teacher calmed me down.
The recovery process
She talked to my parents about my deteriorating condition and how I needed professional help as soon as possible. I was recommended to some of the best specialists in the city. I started my therapy sessions with my doctor immediately. My parents were surprisingly very supportive and that gave me the extra boost to get motivated and have hope for my sessions. I won’t lie; at first I thought I couldn’t be cured. I’d have to live my life like I have been living it by staying off the grid, hiding and running from the world. The medications and the weekly sessions intimidated me. But very gradually I knew I was getting better.
Recovering from mental health issues such as Social Anxiety isn’t easy at all. It requires you to be patient and leave the very thoughts behind that you have been carrying for a lifetime and firmly believe. It requires a lot of time and even more faith. I have been going through therapy for two years now. In the beginning, it was once a week. Now I just go in once a month or if I need to get something off my chest.
Would I say I am completely fine now? Probably not. Social Anxiety is hard to describe. It doesn’t really come from any rationale, it just happens somehow. I may not be able to say I am a hundred percent cured but if I have to compare myself to what I used to be two years ago, then I would say I am a hundred times better now. I don’t panic and think about what others might think of me all the time. I slowly let it go, though it comes back sometimes. I don’t take shorter routes anymore and don’t run away from opportunities just for the sake of avoiding social interactions. Going to a place with unfamiliar people is still a bit of struggle but I am getting better. My stress, insecurities and social awkwardness have tremendously decreased.
My advice to people suffering from social anxiety
Being a bit nervous about interacting with unfamiliar people can be intimidating and being nervous about doing something new is quite normal. However, you know better than anyone else when the situation is getting out-of-hand and you need help. So instead of denying it and giving yourself lame excuses, go ahead and ask for help. Confide in your parents, siblings, cousins, or anyone you trust. They will take you to the help you need. Stop pulling yourself back and just let your fears go for once. It is a lot more common than you think and nobody is judging you for getting better. You’ll be grateful in the future for what you did today. Just have patience, be motivated, and sleep well.
This shall also pass.
Image credit: neilparnham
April Green is an average college girl who has recently started working with Days of our Lives that deals with the problems and issues of young people like her. She is athletic and loves to travel as well.