My Social Anxiety Led Me To Acceptance And A Better Outlook On Life

My Social Anxiety Led Me To Acceptance And A Better Outlook On Life

How could I understand something I didn't even know existed? All I knew, was that stress encompassed my life and I couldn't run away from it.

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First and Foremost

I don't reveal this aspect about myself to a lot of people, and there's a reason behind why. I'd say that before this article goes live, only about 3 people know. And sometimes I think to myself, is social anxiety such a big thing that I even need to share it with anyone? And the answer to that my friends is yes.

What is Social Anxiety?

For a more academic and straightforward definition, you can read this article. But here is a simpler way of understanding it: Social anxiety is the stress of normal, everyday situations heightened to a point where it's too much to handle. So much so, that avoiding all social contact that other people consider "normal" -- like making small talk and eye contact -- make you so uncomfortable. All aspects of your life, not just the social, could start to fall apart. All socially anxious people have different reasons for dreading certain situations. But in general, it's an overwhelming fear of being judged by others in social situations, being embarrassed or humiliated -- and showing it by blushing or shaking, or accidentally offending someone.

Social Anxiety for me

The parts of social anxiety that I experience the most are dressing in ways that won't make me stand out, not being able to tolerate crowded places where people have the opportunity to judge me, and acting in such a pristine way around people I don't know so that there's no room for me to mess up a conversation or make it awkward. Ultimately, what I want to avoid, is being the center of attention. Social anxiety happens to me every single day. It's not something I can turn on or off. And I struggle to make it less obvious that it already is. Each day is a battle starting from when I leave my room until I'm back in my safe space.

Whenever I am put in uncomfortable situations, all I can think of is that I can't represent myself in a way that isn't mature or appropriate for my age. I'm always thinking a level ahead. My day is organized depending on what kind of environment I'll be in, how much social interaction I'll have to go through, and what kind of people I have to interact with. So much detail and thinking go into these normal, everyday activities, making me even more stressed. Because of this, I like to call myself an introverted chameleon who changes their personality, attitude, and actions based on the person I am interacting with. Why do I do this? Because my social anxiety triggers the mindset that I can't let anyone see my flaws or that I am somehow imperfect. It sounds silly writing that but that's how it feels. If I show my true self, I become an open book and fear that I will be judged and stand out when all I want to do is blend in and not be noticed. It's not because I'm ashamed of who I am, it's more so because I don't want to share myself with anyone else. I am my own person and if I don't keep that person to myself, I am becoming just like everyone else, no longer unique and part of the norm. More importantly, I become vulnerable to strangers.

When did it all start?

During Winter 2017 and throughout the Spring 2018 semester, I realized, experienced, handled, whatever way you want to say it…a lot of change. I learned things about myself, people, relationships, maturity, and life in general. I learned not to have the single story, to be accepting of people who have different personalities, beliefs, and cultures, but most importantly: to be aware of myself and who I am as a person. I was introduced to the world of social anxiety and became fully aware that I had it. I can honestly and confidently say that since knowing I have an actual disorder, I have a much better sense of self and of the world around me. But unfortunately, my life didn't reflect that at the time. I lost friendships because of how I changed and because of the decisions I made that were for my best interest.

The Juicy Part

During my time of self-discovery, I had a conversation with someone who I thought of as a friend. My experience with this person was harsh and cold and opened my eyes to people who may not accept you the way you are. I was changing as a person and realizing things about myself I didn't know before. It was new for me but extremely necessary. After revealing my newfound struggle with social anxiety to my friend, he did not understand my feelings and did not want to accept that everything I was saying was true. I expressed things about my personality for the first time to someone else truthfully, and this was their reply:

"I hate who you are now. Everything was cool, we were great until you went and did whatever you did with that person. Nothing was wrong with you, you were fine."

This is why I don't tell people. I don't want to scare people off or make them think that they're a burden to me. I just want to make people aware of it so that they can understand me better.

Thank u, next

The moral of this article is to enlighten you about the reality of social anxiety. Especially if it's something you don't have and know nothing about. And in a broader sense, I hope this helps you see that everyone is different. Every day we conform to our own views that have already been falsely shaped by the negatives and bias of today's society and media. But it's important that we realize what's real and to avoid always being right or wrong. It's about coming to terms with yourself and how you affect other people. It's about creating a space inside your own mind that lets you see more positives than negatives and how it's more important to be at peace rather than influence the disorder and destruction of judgment, harm, and conflict. This may have been an intense read. But for the people that stuck through it till the end, I hope you learned something new.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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To The Friend Who Truly Understood My Depression And Anxiety

Thank you for everything you do.

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Dear friend,

When I started having issues with my anxiety and depression, everyone seemed to pull away. They all wanted space from me, they all said I was changing and I needed to get better. I know I needed to get better, but everyone pushing me didn't make me feel any better or more supported. It made me feel as if I was some sort of problem or issue, and as if I was too broken and damaged to be viewed as normal. They all made me out to be a bad person. But you, you never did.

When I started struggling, you made me feel supported. You voiced your feelings in a way that made me feel as if I was supported and as if you had been through what I was dealing with too. You made me feel heard and understood.

When I started medication for my mental health, you checked in on my reactions to the meds every day. You made sure to keep up with me and keep updated on how I was doing. Since day one, you have made your love and support for me abundantly clear. You have listened to me rant and rave about everything and anything I can possibly rant and rave about. Every decision I have made to help myself and my mental health, you have supported, even from afar.

You have always had such a handle on the best way to be here for me and the best way to unconditionally support me. You validated my feelings while simultaneously telling me they were wrong. You encouraged me getting the help I needed without making me feel as if I was an issue or as if I was a problem.

You've always been one of my biggest supporters, my biggest role models, and best friends. You truly understand my struggles and never cease to amaze me with your unending support.

Thank you for everything you do, and thank you for being you.

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