Life can be hard no matter what kind you’re living, and everybody knows it. All over the internet we can see that everyone has a story to share, and everyone wants to help everyone else. Even though there are such things everywhere, it seems to me that no matter what direction I look in I am still alone. So here I am joining the masses with the hopes that sharing my own story and views will help me, and maybe someone else as well.
As of now I am a 23-year-old woman with a high school diploma, no college education, yet, working a low level job making under 10 dollars an hour, suffering from crippling social anxiety. The unfortunate truth is that social situations terrify me. The way I handle social interactions, because of this fear, limits me in every aspect of my life. I deny myself a college education; I deny myself any opportunity for promotion; I deny myself close friends, or friends of any kind really; I deny myself fun and excitement; I deny myself a life. The point is, that by not doing anything to take control of my fear I am responsible for what it takes from me. I look at it this way; to me my fear is like the ocean, and the way I’ve handled it my entire life is like me tying a cinderblock to my ankle when I get pushed in. The obvious solution is that I need to learn how to swim, right? Yeah, well picture this:
You are a person with crippling social anxiety, and you want to go to college. So you get the ball rolling by getting your financial aid forms filed; however, after this you find that you need to set up a series of one on one meetings with some of the colleges officials. Now, in retrospect, this should have been obvious, but you were so busy trying to figure the whole college process out on your own, because you obviously can’t ask for help, that the news literally seems to slam your heart into your throat. On top of that your stomach is now being held in a vice, your lungs have somehow malfunctioned, your jaw has locked shut, and you feel like you are about to crawl out of your own skin.
Later you’ll realize that that all over body tremble is your fight or flight instinct begging you to run. You will understand that this response was irrational, because you were alone staring at your laptop, but right now, in this moment, all you know is that fear. To make matters worse, now you’re being forced to confront what you have conveniently been ignoring all along. You were never going to be in that class room all by yourself. At this point you are completely overwhelmed. It may feel something like this; rapid heartbeat, pressing nausea, uncontrollable trembling, and flickering vision. So now you push it all away. You tell yourself that you will come back to it fresh once you’ve calmed down, but deep down you know you won’t. You very successfully convince yourself to forget all about it for a while, and a lot of time passes. The crux? You have dreams, and desires, and wants, and needs. Eventually you can’t stand it, or yourself, so you try to work around the issue. You think your making progress, but it’s just the same process over and over and over. You lie to yourself again until reality punches you in the gut, and then you run again. After this you begin to rationalize your fear. You later calm down, and hate yourself for running. You call yourself all sorts of horrible names, and just beat yourself into the ground about it all. You begin to assimilate the rationalizations you made in a state of panic and fear while ignoring the fact that doing so is self-sabotage so well you don’t actually know you did it at all.
Sounds rough doesn’t it? You would think that knowing all of this would help, but it doesn’t take away the fear. Pointing out that the extreme fear response is irrational doesn’t help. Little nothings like ‘It’s all going to be okay’, or ‘You have nothing to be afraid of’ don’t help. To be honest, if you don’t suffer from this crippling anxiety, and you were to try to help me with these methods you would only get anger as a response. It would make me angry at you and myself. I don’t know how other people in my situation handle this, but for me it just reinforces the belief that I am week and incapable. It makes me believe that that is what you think as well. Depending on how it is delivered, I may believe that you are genuinely trying to help; however, I will still believe you think these things of me deep down. If you know someone like this, they need your support. They need you to be understanding when they just can’t do it, but they also need for you not to indulge the fear. If you are someone like this, then you need to forgive yourself when it’s all just too much, but you also need to not indulge your fear. They say you should take life one day at a time, but I try to take it a moment at a time. Every day starts with the challenge of a social interaction, so don’t let one failure destroy your day, or your week, or even your life. Look to every individual challenge you face as a new opportunity to succeed, keep trying, and remember to breath. I want people like me to know that they are not alone, I want to know that I am not alone, and if this can be a place for people to come together where they are understood then I will have succeeded. If this can be a place where people can find their beginning, or even a leg up, then I will have exceeded expectation.