Anxiety has been a problem throughout history, and it's been underestimated for just as long. People who haven't experienced it before or those who have but not at as extreme of a level will say "You're overreacting," "It's not a big deal," or sometimes a few people will even say "It's just a phase." Well, as someone who personally suffers from this and has since before I can remember, I can guarantee that these assumptions are far from true.
As a kid, I was a little more outgoing but was still cautious of what I said and did. As I grew older, I noticed what was wrong with my personality and physical appearance more and more. I began becoming less and less confident as time went on. If I said or did something slightly wrong, I would continue to think back at it and hate myself for it years later. Because of this, I had a hard time connecting with people, especially those close to my own age. I was afraid I would be judged. That they wouldn't think I was good enough to be their friend, or that I would be annoying.
For most of the time had anxiety, I didn't even realize what it truly was.
I just thought I was shy, or at least, that's what I was told. In fact, I didn't officially find out I had anxiety until my sophomore year of high school when it peaked. I had joined high school my freshman year without a single friend due to being homeschooled for many years beforehand. Like most people would be, I was terrified. Even after making friends and finding a group to sit with at lunch, every time I would consider to talk to someone first, whether I knew them or not, my heart would begin to race and while a part of me wanted to go talk to that person, another small part of me would be keeping me from doing so. Slowly, that small part of me would grow and continue to do so, making me think of all of my insecurities and all of the possible bad outcomes that could come from me approaching someone.
Nearly every time, that growing, a small part of me would win, and I would stay back, trying to stay unnoticed and as normal as possible.
I usually didn't have friends in most of my classes throughout high school, I was often too afraid to raise my hand to ask for help, and I would feel like I had to cry before standing up in front of my classes and giving a presentation, afraid I would be harshly judged. Unfortunately, along with the other problems, I believe that trying to be more timid/unnoticeable led to me being uninteresting because the people I ate lunch with began to ignore me. At first, I just brushed past it, thinking they it was just me being paranoid, but it continued, even when I would try starting the conversation.
Eventually, I just decided to stop eating lunch with them. I ended up sitting alone in a hallway during lunch for half of a semester, believing that it would be better to feel alone while eating alone that to feel alone while eating with others. Along with that, I had also been struggling in my Geometry class, bringing my self-confidence to an all-time low and making me feel like a complete failure.
Because of all of the problems caused by my anxiety, I began feeling depressed all the time.
My parents noticed and mentioned bringing it up to my doctor at my next checkup. I did and my doctor said I probably had anxiety, which led to me having depression as well. Then she recommended that I see a therapist, which I did. In fact, I saw two different ones.
In some ways, seeing a therapist did help me get some of my feelings off of my chest, but I didn't feel like anything was changing, so I began doing some research on how to overcome my anxiety. I read books on it and sometimes looked up information to see if I could find something on reliable sites, but all of them seemed to say the same thing. "Slowly begin talking to people."
While I understand how that could help, it's not easy to work up to that point. Imagine anxiety is like the monster under the bed many people feared when they were children, except the monster isn't under the bed, it's standing right in front of you, blocking the view of what you want to do/your goals. If you're able to build up your courage enough, you may slowly be able to move past it, and if your lucky and try extremely hard you might even be able to make it past it, but as you run away from it, it chases you, and it will never stop. That is anxiety.
Now that you know my story and how it has affected my life if you didn't believe before that anxiety is a serious issue, hopefully, you will now.
So, if you see someone who seems secluded or shy, whether it be a family member, friend, or even a total stranger, consider what they might be going through, and that they might actually be battling something inside of them that seems nearly impossible to overcome, and maybe try to support them, or even just listen. For those of you who may be reading this and have been suffering from anxiety as well, I hope this helps you realize that you are far from alone, and there are people out there to support you and who are willing to take the time to understand you.