What It's Like To Have Social Anxiety

What It's Like To Have Social Anxiety

It's more than just being shy.

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Growing up, I always just thought I was a shy person. In elementary school, I realized I had a speech impediment or a stutter. I had my mom order for me at restaurants for a pretty good amount of time, I absolutely hated speaking in front of people, and I never really spoke in class unless I got called on. Even that, I dreaded.

As I got older, my stuttering got better. However, I began to notice it would get worse at times where I was nervous or anxious around people. For years, I didn't really think that much of it.

Until things weren't getting better.

Looking back, I can see that around the age of 16 is when my social anxiety really started to make a big impact on my life. It's natural for people to get a little bit of anxiety when doing presentations. But I would have full-blown anxiety attacks in my seat before I had to get up in front of my class.

I vividly remember in my English class junior year, being in the middle of speaking during an in-class debate and suddenly being so out of breath.

I started pausing every few words to try and take deep breaths, but I would look at my classmates and my heart began to race. I just kept thinking to myself, "I'm making a fool out of myself" and "I wonder if they can tell I'm shaking". That's what it was like for me every time I had to get up in front of people. I hated the feeling of being vulnerable.

Another incident happened in class where I was texting my mom that I was having an anxiety attack and couldn't breathe, all because I had to get up in front of my class a recite a short poem.

Soon, my social anxiety started affecting other aspects of my life, not just school. When I got my first job at 16, I was a hostess at a restaurant. On the way to my first day, I called my mom in my car crying because I didn't want to have to talk to strangers or answer the phone. I was afraid of messing up or sounding dumb and what other people would think. I didn't want to embarrass myself. 3 years later, I'm still at the same restaurant where I'm now a server and have never left this place because I've built up security there. I'm too afraid to get a new job because I would have to start all over.

Even to this day, I struggle immensely with social anxiety. Being a freshman in college is a major adjustment for me because I'm not used to doing things by myself. I mean, it was only this past summer that I went to a public place by myself for the first time. It's challenging because a lot of the time, doing everyday things make me incredibly anxious.

A lot of people don't understand the mental strength it takes for someone with social anxiety to go out by themselves. I can't speak for others, but I know that for me it's embarrassing to get so anxious about it. There have been multiple times this past semester that I haven't eaten because I've been too afraid to get food by myself, even at a vendor.

To help others understand, I always compare it to the feeling you get when you're walking up the stairs at your house in the dark. You feel like there's someone watching you even though you know there isn't. that's what it's like to go out in public. I know people aren't looking at me, but I feel like every single pair of eyes is on me. Watching my every move, saying things to themselves.

Even though every day is a struggle, I am making small steps towards being able to control it. But a big part of that is having people around me who know that I'm not just shy or antisocial. I want to go out and have fun. It just takes a little time.

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My Inner Anxiety Monologue

It's sneaky. It's scary. It's taking too much from me. I know I'm not alone
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I just want to relax. I just want a moment when I don’t feel like there’s something wrong.

Just a moment when I don’t feel so exhausted.

I’m so tired.

Tired of the way that my head throbs when I try to relax.

Tired of the thoughts that seep into my cranium, penetrating my every rare moment of silence.

The thoughts knock.

Knock.

Knock.

Knock.

They unwelcomingly burst in and disturb my happiness.

It’s almost as though they want me to be negative, sad, to destroy everything that’s good for me.

The thoughts I have…

The thoughts of life. Wondering what I did wrong in the smallest of situations.

“Why did I think that?”

“Why did I Say that?”

“What are they thinking of me right now?”

“I know they said we were cool but are we really?”

“What if they change their mind?”

“What if they didn’t want to hurt my feelings?”

“What if they never speak to me again?”

My heart rate escalates and all of a sudden I can hear it beating in my ears, it’s consumed my head. Making me unable to think.

The emotion takes over.

“I have to go solve the problem. I have to go now.”

But I can’t go anywhere, because it’s 1:30 in the morning and I know I’ll look insane calling you up or driving to you to fix a problem that I created in my head.

So I lie there in silence.

...

Then the silence creeps in to replace the thoughts.

Who knew that silence could be so damn loud.

Play music. That’ll ease my mind.

Except for I can’t even listen to one song all the way through because my mind won’t focus.

The lyrics become meaningless. Every song sounds the same. They all mesh together.

I try so hard to take deep breaths. I try so hard.

In through your nose.

Out through your mouth.

Just like mom says.

My heart is pulsating so quickly, I can feel it in my whole chest.

I'm convinced it'll be too much for me to handle.

I find it hard to breathe.

Tears are welling in my eyes.

It’s hot all of a sudden I can feel my cheeks going red.

My mind is becoming light, I’m floating, for a moment.

But it’s not good.

I’m uncontrollably floating into the unknown realm of my own mental prison.

It’s choking me.

It’s pinning me to the bed that is providing no comfort to begin with

And the power of that little monster inside me is taking over me. It’s winning.

Anxiety.

Such a small word. Such a huge impact.

My mind is engulfed in my flaws, my fears, my worst nightmares.

I am swallowed in the problems that I made up. The problems that at aren’t there. They steal my every moment. They rob me of enjoying my life.

All of a sudden, it stops.

And I’m so…tired.

I’m worn out from all that stress. Time to relax.

Maybe the sleep isn’t that good but it’s something, right?

I say that tomorrow will be better, when really….

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Well, Here I Am Again Writing An Article At 2 AM Because My Anxiety Is Not Letting Me Sleep

My anxious thoughts late at night are horrible.

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Life is crazy and rough and sometimes sucks. My anxiety has been at its worst this semester, and if I'm being honest - it's driving me insane. I have lost sleep because of it. I have missed classes because of it. I have skipped out on being around friends because of it. The last one is the one that always confuses me, though. I'm at my happiest when I'm around people. I love it, but lately, there have been multiple days where I would rather curl up in a ball and cry.

I struggle to breathe. I struggle to keep up with life. I have all of these thoughts racing through my head. One after the other, trying to see which one will be victorious. However, all of them are victorious because they all have me wide awake. I haven't had a decent night of sleep in a while. At this point, I could probably say its been almost a year since I slept well.

It's yet another night. 2 a.m. and I'm wide awake, crippling with thoughts I want out of my head.

It's constant. It never really stops. I can hear it early in the morning, as I eat my lunch when I'm walking to class, and especially late at night. Right now, the thought screaming the loudest is "No one likes you. That's why you're here and not there." I know it's not true.

My anxious thoughts late at night are horrible. I hate them. They irritate me. They keep me up all hours of the night. I toss and turn for hours on end wishing for all of these anxious thoughts to end. I think about things from years ago. I think about things from yesterday. These things never seem to end.

My anxiety has been horrible lately. I haven't been able to get a proper night's sleep in months. I've averaged 3-4 hours a night. I hate it. My mind won't turn off. The racing thoughts never seem to end. I am sick of it. I want to get out of this, but I just can't. Why is this happening?

I have not been able to breathe properly in weeks. I have to physically stop, breathe in deeply, and practically yawn to catch my breath. Why? Why is this happening? I hate it. I'm so stressed from life. This needs to stop.

My body is weak. My mind is no longer concentrating. I want to run away from all of this, but I know that is not how I should handle it. This needs to end. My days can no longer be filled with hopes of a class being canceled or pretending like it is so I don't have to go.

Anxiety has overtaken my life, and I am sick of it. I am ready for it to leave. It won't though. It will continue to reside in my body. I hate it. I can't breathe. I want to cry, but I just can't. I'm sick of this. Anxiety can f*ck off because it has no business taking control of my life.

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