Social anxiety is something I’ve lived with for a while, probably since I started senior school. I’ve never felt accepted into a group of friends. I find it hard to make friends in the fear of looking weird or rude. I have to think carefully about everything I say to anyone I’m with, so because of this I can’t do ‘chit chat’ or ‘small talk’. If anyone starts speaking to me unexpectedly I freeze up and have no idea what to say back. My normal response is to laugh and then hope the conversation naturally dies so I don’t have to say anything back. I always worry that this comes across rude, which is one of the problems in the first place. It’s a viscous circle to live in.
I have always been distant with people in my life. I hate being the centre of attention and I try everything I can to make sure I’m not in it. I can be an extremely awkward person to be around and I really don’t mean for that to happen.
I did visit a doctor about this at the age of 19. I had CBT sessions (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to try and concentrate on what the reason is behind me feeling so anxious around others. To be honest, this didn’t work for me. I didn’t feel like I gained anything out of these sessions but I told the doctor I did to avoid the awkward conversation of ‘Why do you think it didn’t work’ as I hated the attention. I left the doctor that day feeling crap knowing I was walking back to how I felt before.
Between the age of 19 and now, the anxiety of being around people has become worse. When I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) at the age of 20 I found it very difficult to leave the house alone. I’d never felt anything like this before, but it felt like our flat was my safe place where no one could find me. It was just our little space where we could do whatever we wanted.
Last year, the year we got married, my social anxiety was at an all time low, I was in a horrible job and I was having to deal with being let down by people on more than one occasion. I didn’t feel I could do anything right and I was an extremely negative person to be around. It came to the weekend of my hen party and I effectively had a bit of a mental breakdown and had to go home. I had never felt so low before in my life. The next day I was taken to the doctor who after looking at my records decided I also suffered from depression and I was put on anti-depressants. Mixing this with social anxiety I wanted to run away and hide. I felt no one understood me and I looked like a freak. I completely shut myself off from my friends and stayed no further than arms length away from my fiance.
I’d get the odd comments like ‘Oh just try to forget about what’s happening.’, ‘Ignore the people letting you down, they aren’t worth it.’ or even ‘Can’t you just cheer up?’. It’s not that simple, and this may sound harsh, but the people who say ‘Just cheer up’ to a person who suffers from depression and/or anxiety do not understand at all how it feels. It’s nothing you can control, it’s a mental illness.
Social anxiety, as I mentioned before, is a vicious circle to be in. I can’t handle the pressure of being around people so I hide away, but all I want is to have friends who accept me and understand me, but I can’t open up to anyone so this won’t happen. I hate confrontation so I avoid expressing my opinion or defending myself so I run away and ignore anyone who I disagree with. If I’m ever in a position when I can’t run away from an awkward social situation I start to panic. I go all hot, shaky, teary and completely back off from anyone around me. Depression is another level. I can feel down about something but I have no energy to fix it. As soon as something negative happens in my life I can’t be bothered to work for it anymore. It seems like I’m being rude but I can promise you that’s the last thing I want it to look like. Depression physically drains you, so much that it’s hard to get up in the mornings.
The past year or so there has been a number of occasions when I should have defended myself more, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the energy to. I felt like it wasn’t worth it and I’d get no where. I feel much happier in my own little bubble with social contact from the people I know who understand me. As soon as I don’t feel comfortable with something/someone I shut myself away. It’s incredibly annoying, but it’s not something I can help.
Fast forward to now, I still find it extremely difficult to open up. I still find it difficult to be social with others. My husband and parents have been extremely supportive the past year, which I could not be more grateful for. I’m not 100% why I felt the need to write about my story with social anxiety and depression. I guess it’s a mix of trying to understand it myself and to help others understand what it feels like. I really want to express it isn’t something that can be fixed overnight. It’s a constant battle over a long period of time. If I’m distant, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to you or I’m being rude, it’s probably because I’m feeling anxious about talking to you. I probably really want to talk to you, but I don’t want to come across weird or strange.
If you know anyone who suffers from depression or anxiety just be patient with them and be there for them, but most importantly, don’t pressurise them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve felt pressurised to do/feel something, as this just pushes me away further.
I’m sorry if this post isn’t really your sort of thing or if I’ve babbled on a bit too much. It’s a hard topic to right about when you have so many feelings running around in your head.
Thank you for reading my story, and have a nice day!