Social Anxiety – Not Often Talked About, Rarely Understood, Reflect & Respect It

Hey there,

I have social anxiety.

For a lot of people who know me personally and are reading this, you might be shaking your head and saying, “No way,” but I can assure you that not only do I suffer from this affliction, but it can be very debilitating.

Some other people reading might be saying, “Affliction? Come on, it’s just anxiety,” but I’ll walk you through better understanding social anxiety so you understand the severity and reality of it.

Unfortunately, for me, social anxiety doesn’t just occur when I’m in groups of people. There is an entire process where there is a build-up of discomfort.

Let me walk you through an experience of my social anxiety:

It first begins with the planning. When a friend reaches out to me with the intentions to get together or hang out, I want to meet up with them, I want to maintain that physical contact and interaction with my friend, but my brain starts with the following conversation:
What are the expectations of me?
What if I’m really tired that day and can’t give a quality hang out?
What will I have to talk about?
What questions should I ask them about themselves?
What if something comes up at that hour of that day and I can’t dedicate myself to it, anymore?
What will I wear?
Etc…

As you can probably tell, there is nothing comfortable about that planning process. The discomfort of meeting up with someone starts immediately. But there is a way to ease someone with social anxiety into a comfortable hangout: find out their favourite place to be (other than their home – otherwise this brings up new anxieties towards cleaning and prepping the space; best to avoid that). For me, it’s being in a bookstore. It is much easier for me  to meet up with someone if it is a place I would have likely already made plans to visit at some point that day/week/month.

The week before meeting up with someone/having a party to attend, there is also a build up of nervous anticipation. I check my calendar and look at the “event” daily. I have a mental countdown of the date. I get more and more anxious the closer it arrives. Sometimes, I consider making other “important appointments” so I can have an excuse to not attend (Don’t hold this against me! I’m just being honest with you, reader, right now!).

There’s a way to ease people through this process as well: don’t make them feel guilty if they can’t come or aren’t feeling up to it. Sending a message a few days before saying, “Hey, looking forward to spending time together! But no worries if your schedule got busy or something. I’ll understand.” By removing the pressure off the individual who is expected to be there (it’s a very heavy weight to bear), you allow them to ease into the hangout, to get comfortable with it, and to not feel guilty if suddenly they “can’t attend”.

And then the day of the “event” arrives. If that event is later in the evening rather than at the start of the day, that day is ruined. I will be unable to concentrate, get comfortable, relax and watch a movie or television show or read a book, I will be pacing the house, I will be obsessively cleaning or organizing or re-arranging the house (that’s my strange outlet for stress). I will be on edge up until I arrive for the occasion. I will get ready two hours early (just in case something were to happen while I was getting ready and I would need to change my outfit/hair/makeup/anything, entirely – it’s neurotic, I am aware). And then after I’m ready, I’ll have to pace the house until it’s time to leave, or I’ll play music on the record player to distract myself as I walk around the room. It sounds absolutely crazy, I understand that completely, but this is what I go through…

It’s best to make plans with people who suffer from social anxiety early in the day. It’s not to “get the event over with” but to relax the tension that the day carries. Keep this in mind.

Most people who know me wouldn’t get the feeling that I have social anxiety because when I’m in a public space, either one-on-one or in a group or “party” setting, I make a conscious effort to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’m usually one to talk right away, and I’m usually one to initiate conversation with strangers, but know that this takes a lot of energy on my part. My way of dealing with my social anxiety when I am out and about with people is to make myself uncomfortable. What this means is that you’ll usually find that I cut events or outings “short”; this is because it takes a lot of physical energy  and mental stress to push myself into these uncomfortable places and I am immensely exhausted after a few hours. The drive home usually has me on the edge of falling asleep at the wheel. My body simply can’t handle it.

But I do all this because I genuinely care about the people in my life and I really try to make an effort to be there when they need me or reach out to me. But I’m sharing this so you understand that it’s really not easy for me to do. Don’t hold it against me when I cancel a million times over or make excuses for why I can’t attend something, or why I’m giving you a “maybe” for attending your event, instead of  saying “yes” or “no”. It’s very, very hard for me. It sounds stupid, it sounds crazy, but I’m being honest.

The only time my social anxiety doesn’t get the better of me is when it’s for work (or family gatherings, but that one is obvious). If I have a meeting or engagement that requires my attention and it’s work related, I am able to make the mental disconnect and it doesn’t cause me anxiety. Meetings or workshops or work engagements don’t have the same effect because it’s an obligation that will advance my career, or simply something that needs my time and attention for my students or class, so I know it’s necessary. It’s the same for other work meetings I have been a part of; I’m not afraid to engage or reach out if a career is involved. There is less expectation for me in those situations. I know how to “advertise myself” for work. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable.

So please, if you’re a friend of mine reading this, know that my constant excuses are not because I don’t enjoy you or your company. It doesn’t mean you make me uncomfortable. The mind is a powerful thing and I’m constantly working on me controlling it, rather than vice versa. Be patient with me.

Do you suffer from social anxiety? What ways do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments below.

xo
C

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6 thoughts on “Social Anxiety – Not Often Talked About, Rarely Understood, Reflect & Respect It

  1. Pat says:

    C,
    Thank you for sharing I had no idea you suffered from social anxiety. I know too well how difficult it is dealing with anxiety. Have you considered consulting a therapist to help you with your anxiety ?
    This is one way I deal with anxiety:
    I analyze what is making me anxious and say to myself what is the worse than can happen ? More often than not it is not that bad of an outcome.

    I also find praying helps me a lot

    Wishing you a nice evening
    PS XO

    Like

  2. charliezero1.wordpress.com says:

    You wouldn’t think. Seeing your pictures and you talking about your experience on traveling and whatnot.
    I’m so sorry your going through social anxiety. I simply understand where your coming from. I’m not saying this just because. I, too suffer from social anxiety. In my case – people staring at me, standing behind me too close, gives me social anxiety. I don’t go out much…nor do I want to be seen in public. The only places I do go to is Barnes & Nobles & a few independent little bookstores. Reading & Writing calms my social anxiety. Did I forgot to mention? I suffer from PTSD. No, I didn’t go to war. All my life as a child, all the way through the end of middle school. People bullied me physically, & mentally. As I got older my flash backs haunt me. I cry from time to time when I get flash backs. I’ve had nervous breakdowns here and there. And yes, I have tried therapy, counseling, everything you can think of. Nothing works, and I say no to medication. However, at the end of the day, poetry and reading is my medicine to cope.

    Nowadays, I’m usually hanging out by my self. I do have 2 best friends who I keep in contact everyday. They are the only 2 people in the world who I let in my life and trust. There have been acquaintances who want to be my friends and I don’t want to. I have 2 best friends already. I don’t have room for more. That’s just me. That’s a personal choice I make.

    My apologies if I shared too much information with you. I just figured you and I have somewhat in common and that we can relate to this ordeal.

    P.S Hope to hear from you soon.

    ~Charlie Zero The Poet

    Like

    • Cloud @ lifeofcloud.net says:

      Hi Charlie,
      Thanks for your message and I’m glad my post resonated with you. Don’t feel sorry for my social anxiety; I don’t feel guilty about it or hate how I am, I just want people to better understand it.
      I have PTSD as well – I’m a sexual assault survivor – so I know what that’s like. I don’t have triggers though, because I had EMDR therapy and it changed my life (google it).
      I like to hang out by myself (or with just my partner). I’m okay being alone with me. It’s comfortable, I’m happy, that’s most important! And the best friends I have in my life understand my social anxiety and don’t hold it against me.

      Have a good day!
      xo
      C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 7ep says:

    I too have anxiety and it is a pain to live with and my anxiety starts off with a sad thought then I overthink it then I get pains in my stomach which start off not hurting much then they get worse and yesterday I had the biggest anxiety attack I’ve ever had and I did calm down and I was calm for the rest of the day yesterday and I guess I am coping with it more but it is hard don’t get me wrong but together we’re stronger together we’re better together we’re can overcome anxiety stat strong I know you can overcome it.

    Liked by 1 person

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