Some call it a feeling, an emotion or a disorder. But I call it pressure, building up inside, almost like the gas and lava pressing up on the earth until the crust cracks and the volcano finally erupts. It’s invisible, just building below the surface until it reaches its breaking point.
Others around me might not notice the anxiety building as I walk into a room. But I can feels the stares, nonexistent as they may be, just sitting in class or standing in the doorway at a party.
Causing my hands to shake, even if it’s slight. Self consciously aware of where my arms are, yet still not knowing what to do with them.
I see myself opening my mouth to speak but feeling the words get stuck on the tip of my tongue until finally stuttering out the words, almost too quietly to hear.
And while it’s not a constant feeling, not constant at all, I’m constantly aware of the possibility that suddenly my chest might constrict and I’ll feel every awkward silence, whispering “What are you doing?” in the back of my mind.
Looking back I know that when I always told people I was “socially awkward” I really meant that I had social anxiety. Not to an extreme extent but enough to make myself hyper aware of my actions and enough to dread going out with friends.
Anxiety: “...a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
Not to be confused with stress. Anxiety, especially social anxiety, affects you more strongly than stress. But for me stress and anxiety sometimes even go hand in hand.
Exceptions can be made, of course. Sometimes it’s not a volcano on the brink of eruption. It can be something as simple as not wanting to speak in class because you’re terrified of the stutter that’s guaranteed to come out of your mouth.
I speak from a place of insight, but not extensive knowledge because anxiety is different for everyone. And people experience varying symptoms and extremes.
Experience has taught me how to handle stressful social situations, or just stress in general, and now instead of letting that pressure erupt it’s easier to breathe in and let go.
Time can also have a soothing effect on my own anxiety. Stepping out of a room or going home early can help more than you would expect. Sometimes you just need to put your own mental health first.You can’t stop anxiety altogether but you can learn and grow to use that building pressure and those emotional reactions in a positive and constructive way. Letting yourself crash like waves can be better than erupting like lava.