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It’s been a bit over the year now since my open confession about social anxiety in I Am Leta And I Am Socially Anxious post. A lot of has changed since I wrote that blog post and I decided to write another post about my social anxiety. Think of it as a little update on how I’m doing with a list of few things that I want to make clear for some people who might know what it feels like to be socially anxious.
As you already know, I have social anxiety and it made my life hell for a long time. It still affects it but not as much as it used to. I got better at dealing with this anxiety type, I learned to spot the things that trigger it, I taught myself how to keep it at low and sometimes I swear it feels like I’m all done and over with it. Sadly, it’s not the case. I still have social anxiety and I still experience the downhills of it once in a while but that’s okay.
I fully understand that I won’t be able to just let it go and get over within a day, it’s a process that takes a lot of time, effort, strength and preparation. So I’m not angry at myself for not healing in one year time, no. I’m proud because I made such a big improvement that actually let me enjoy my life more than I did last year.
During my journey of improving, I picked up 5 things that people didn’t know about social anxiety. These things are essential for understanding what a person with a social anxiety endures. I hope that they will help some of you who have a friend or a family member who has a social anxiety. Maybe these 5 things will be the reason you start seeing a social anxiety in a different light than just an ‘attention seeking trend’.
It hits you when you least expect it
No matter how good you think you might have been doing the past few weeks or months, you can never know when a new wave of anxiety will come crashing down on you. You can only hope that it won’t be as bad as it was the last time. That’s why I know that I still have social anxiety. I go perfectly fine for a month or so and then suddenly I get super anxious in the situations I shouldn’t even be anxious in.
It’s a bit of a cruel game that you are playing in against your will when you have a social anxiety. Will this presentation will be the one that will trigger my social anxiety? Will meeting this new friend of a friend will be it? Of course, it won’t come up when you’ll be expecting it. It will appear once you feel like you moved on or when you think that the situation couldn’t in any way trigger the anxiousness in you.
It drains you and makes you paranoid
People who are lucky enough to never experience anxiety or any other mental illness will never know how exhausting it can be and just how paranoid it can make a person be. Every social situation is nerve-wracking, you keep overthinking every single detail about the encounter. You keep thinking that every person you pass by is laughing at you or making fun of you. You can’t even walk down a hall in the university alone without feeling watched and judged by the way you dressed or walked. I am not even talking about sitting on a bus listening to music and changing the volume of your earphones because you keep freaking out that they can hear what you are listening to.
Basically, every little thing that involves human interaction is a nightmare. If that doesn’t sound exhausting to you, I don’t know what is. It’s a constant fear and worry that makes you tense and alert throughout all the day. You make yourself go crazy with all those incredibly stupid thoughts in your head that you just can’t shake off.
It isn’t a thing of introverts and shy ones
One thing that makes me angry is when people say that it’s just being shy and that only introverts experience social anxiety. No, no, no. Being shy is blushing and being quiet more than usual but not desperately wanting to say something to a person or answer a question and ending up not uttering a word because it feels like something sealed your mouth shut and you can’t physically open it to make a sound.
Don’t even try to tell me that only introverts can be socially anxious. It’s a complete bullshit and pardon my language but it’s true. Having social anxiety has nothing to do with a personality type or gender or other crap. It’s an extreme fear of being judged every minute of your life and everyone no matter who she or he is can experience this fear. Being extrovert doesn’t make you incredibly good at social encounters, it only means that you get energy out of being in those situations.
Lastly, it isn’t a thing or a trend. Or even better, it’s not an attention seeking. It’s an actual problem, an actual illness that sometimes leads to depression or suicide if not treated well. So quit believing all those stereotypes and educate yourself about these things. Mental illness is just as bad and as fatal as any other. Click To Tweet
Panic attacks are your personal hell
I can only talk for myself as am not sure if everything that happens to me in the middle of a panic attack is the same for others. It starts with an overthinking, a flood of the worst possible scenarios. Your head gets filled with all those thoughts that wouldn’t even make sense for those who have never experienced an attack. It’s like a blackout, you get blocked from the outside world and trapped like a little bunny who got caught in a trap. When it gets so intense that you start choking from lack of air, it gets harder to breathe until you feel like a fish that suddenly was fished out of the water. Your lungs are burning. The tears start flowing to your eyes, blurring your vision leaving you not only unaware of your surroundings, struggling to inhale but blinded by blurriness and a scream of your thoughts.
In the middle of all of this, you don’t notice that you are already sinking to the ground, closing your eyes and feeling like you are about to die. You desperately try to calm down, you start trying to make your breathing more steady. You are gasping for air, wiping your tears away and slowly letting go of everything that is inside your mind.
Then comes numbness.
Everything stops and you just sit there on the hard floor looking at one point. It’s like one of those scenes in the movies right after a huge storm when everything is still and completely wrecked. That’s what a panic attack looks and feels like to me.
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Social encounters are mentally exhausting
Just from the name of this disorder alone, you can understand that social encounters play a huge part in it. Every eye contact, short chat or any type of situation that involves human interaction are mentally exhausting. Constant overthinking, a need and want to say something but not doing that and disappointment are only a few of the things that make social encounters hell for socially anxious.
You feel drained and completely done with everything after them. Yes, there are days and times when you don’t feel anxious and overthinking doesn’t make your day hell. If you’re lucky, you even get weeks free of anxiety. But they always end with a huge breakdown, a panic attack that drains you and leaves you feeling numb. So if you have a friend who has a social anxiety, be patient when interacting with him or her, you can never know what he or she is experiencing inside or in his/her head at that moment.
Have you ever encountered a social anxiety? By yourself or by your friends?