We've all felt it that familiar feeling of anxiousness creeping up inside us when entering unfamiliar situations. But what is it like when these emotions get out of control? These people share what it is actually like to go through daily life having crippling social anxiety.
1/18. It's like constantly feeling as though someone is watching and critiquing your every move, like you have to perpetually edit yourself to say or do or be the right thing, or no one will ever forgive you for it and the world will end.
2/18. People assume that it's just feeling nervous. It's not. It's overthinking something so much that it makes you physically ill. Cramps, headaches, that horrible feeling of needing to rush to the toilet. Yes, you get nervous. But that's only the start of it. You find it hard to breathe, you think you're actually gonna die, cos you can't get air. Sometimes you pass out. I do. But it's different for everyone. It's worrying about anything and everything; things that don't even need worrying about. I get so worked up, and my stomach gets so knotted, that I can't physically eat, because it just wont stay down. You're constantly feeling like people are judging you, looking at you, even when they're not. You constantly feel like no one likes you, even when they do. And it's the constant feeling of something bad is going to happen.
Believe me, social anxiety is not just being 'shy'.
3/18. It's like looking at yourself through someones eyes and imagining what they're thinking. But its only the worst thoughts.
Whatever you do, you over-analyze it. To the point where your heart starts racing because of all the shit you put into your head.
You know it's all bullshit that you put into your own mind, but it still affects you.
Then, when you try to be social it's never comfortable, you keep thinking about every word you're going to say and every word you said. Maybe you sounded annoying or ignorant... you'll never know, but you will stress about it.
It's like having 10kg pushing on your lungs and shoulders that your can't get rid of. The weight randomly goes away, but comes back at a random time, just like your anxiety.
Sometimes you have good days, you feel like you're immortal, for the sheer fact that you didn't feel anxious that day. But the next morning, oh the next morning is going to be the worst morning of your life. It's your anxiety multiplied 10-fold.
You can't get out of bed, because outside just sucks and you don't want to stress yet another day. It's just not fair, why can't you live a normal life like everyone else? Maybe that day you feel like eating a bullet. But you hope that it will all go away some day.
4/18. Let's say you've just gotten on the bus. You do realise that everyone is staring at you don't you? And those two people talking to each other - you guessed it, they're talking about you. You're sweating a bit, but you find a seat. Oh dear, what's that smell? There's a scruffy looking person sat in front of me. Oh no, the rest of the bus thinks it's me. I know, I'll get off a stop early and walk from there; I ring the bell and get up to alight - everyone's still staring at me. Am I sweating still? Is the back of my shirt wet? Are they talking about it?
I step off the bus into a cool breeze and calm down. Then I notice two girls smiling at me. No, they're laughing at me. Is it because I look weird or my clothes are a mess?
And continue on, and on...
5/18. It's like being scared, constantly. Physically, it's like the feeling of accidentally skipping a stair while going down the stairs, but imagine that feeling while doing everything in life.
Sending a text, no matter who it's going to, whether your mom or best friend or boss, is like a twenty-minute process. "Does this sound okay? What if she takes it the wrong way? Is the emoji too much? What if she's busy and she gets annoyed that I'm texting her? Does she even like me?" Repeat on and on and on.
Imagine coming out of every conversation, but instead of having a nice time, imagine your most embarrassing experiences and make that feeling every experience of your life.
"Does this person like me? Was I being too loud? What if she secretly hates me and she's just putting up with me to be nice? What if what I said sounded stupid? What if everyone thought I was being obnoxious? What if they actually don't want to be friends with me? What if I was being too much? What if they secretly make fun of me behind their back? etc." It's a lot of constantly worrying, panicking over tiny things that really don't even matter, but to the point where you feel physically sick to your stomach. I've had to leave in the middle of classes, parties, various social events because of my anxiety. It's such a bad way to live life, but I have no choice besides either try medication, therapy, etc.
6/18. People stop inviting you places because you always back out, thereby ruining any friendships you managed to form.
You never contact people first because you think they'll be annoyed when really they think you don't care about them.
7/18. It's like knowing you have a problem, and the solution is right in front of you, but still not being able to do anything about it.
As someone with social anxiety disorder who would probably be quite extroverted otherwise, being at a party or similar event is like someone showing you what you can't have.
You stand there watching everyone else having fun, and know that all you would need to do to join in is just talk and get involved, but, you just can't do it. What you want is being dangled under your nose but you can't get to it, like someone holding the key to your prison cell just out of your reach.
But the worst part of it is that its your fault. You know you have a problem and if it wasn't for that you'd be having a great time, and that it's because of your fear that you can't join in, unlike having a prison key dangled in front of you just out of your reach. More like you can reach the key, but you're choosing not to, and then getting upset about being in that prison cell. And you always know that, and that's probably the worst part, knowing that its your fault.
8/18. Your friend is having a bad day, so it must be because of something you did.
9/18. As a kid, people would describe me as "shy." As I grew into my teens, I realized that I didn't want to participate in the conversation for fear that I would say something "stupid." If I didn't say anything, then they can't form an opinion about me. If they have no opinion of me, then they neither like or dislike me. Having no opinion of me is better than have no someone not like me or think that I'm stupid.
10/18. A mundane task like grocery shopping seems like a climb up Everest.
11/18. Feeling like every conversation is awkward and it's your fault. Feeling like your wasting other's time by subjecting them to your conversational skills.
Feeling overwhelmed having to come up with questions and answers to questions at the same time while attempting to avoid that dreaded staleness that you are certain everyone knows you for.
12/18. Even writing this I've spent the last hour wondering how its gonna be perceived, its just such a ridiculous notion that everyone in the 'real' world must be talking about you in particular, like those two girls you walk pass are gonna go home and talk about how hideous you are, like you're done kind of terrifying beast, and even when there is a compliment, its surely a joke.
I haven't taken pictures of myself for 2 years, try avoid looking in mirrors I barely manage a hug let alone talking to a stranger, I have to wait until its dark to put the bins even though its only 10 yards outside, but people might see me and that's terrifying. I use to play as a goalkeeper and I cab remember all the goals I've let in like its always my fault, even when I broke my wrist I carried on until the ball went out, then sought attention just so my team wouldn't hate me.
But its like I said, its infuriating because I know there's nothing to be afraid of, yet I'm locked up in my room all day avoiding people.
13/18. It's just a horrific annoyance because of how weird it is in its application. Like, job interviews are great because they're universally structured and formal, but getting food at a place you haven't been to before? Terrifying. Having to look up at a menu in a line that slowly inches forward while you panic over the thought of messing up your order because you're not familiar with a place sucks a**.
14/18. Crying in the grocery store because you can't find the limes, but the thought of asking someone makes you physically ill.
Not going to the dentist/doctor for years because calling to make an appointment is outside your abilities.
Skipping meals because there isn't any food in the house, but ordering means having to answer the door.
15/18. Imagine overthinking minor interactions into oblivion and jumping to the worst conclusions every time to the point of being physically sick.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom left you in line at the store and you panicked like there was no tomorrow? Imagine that every time you go shopping, out to eat, etc.
16/18. People say the definition of an introvert is that being around other people drains you instead of giving you energy. Social anxiety is this on crack. Things that on paper sound like a great time are exhausting. Going to the supermarket and going to happy hour with coworkers are almost equally exhausting. It's just... tiring. You wonder if life is this heavy for other people. I suspect not.
17/18. Job interviews are killer for me because I know for a fact that they're judging me based off of my social skills. They could ask you absolutely anything. One time, an interviewer asked me what my favourite fruit is and to explain to them why. Afterwards, I realized that they wanted to see my customer service skills, but at the time I froze up and had no idea what to say (This was like 5 years ago btw). Not only that, you have to convince them that you are a valuable person when you don't even believe it yourself.
18/18. Its like having a monster live inside of your head. It never leaves. Its there first thing when you wake up in the morning and last thing when you close your eyes at night.
It doubts you and everything about you. It keeps you prisoner. It laughs at you and tells you nobody thinks youre interesting anyway so why bother saying whats on your mind.
It has a sh*tty retort to everything you think. Its like being in an abusive relationship with yourself, living in crippling fear of saying the wrong thing or making people laugh at you because youre obviously a waste of human life.
This fear wears you down until you give into it before it startsyou stay home all the time, stop answering calls, dont even want to comment on social media in case someone pokes fun at what you have to say. You dont even want to go to the grocery store because people might make eye contact with you, or youll have to say 3 words to the cashier. You order things online because the thought of going outside makes your heart race with fear.
So you are alive, but youre not living. You exist. And you hate your existence because you feel youll never be able to live like normal people.
For the record, I keep my anxiety at bay through medication, healthy eating, moderate exercise, and forcing myself to try new things socially. Im very happy now. :)