My social anxiety came into full ugly force in December of 2009 when i had a melt down in Jamaica which i have talked about openly here. It has taken a lot from me and because you rarely hear people talking about their social anxiety, it is something that I have been dealing with quietly. It has affected my social life, friends, attitude towards life and how I manage everything.
It is hard to explain what social anxiety/phobia is. Everyone feels anxiety around certain social situations; first date, large presentations, work meetings....Social Anxiety/Phobia is greater than that. It is a fear of social interactions, irrational fear, self consciousness,.....basically I feel very scared of all sorts of social situations.
I hide it well. I can function at work, play nice with my family and attend group therapy, but all of that is a lot for me to do. When my day is over at work, it has usually taken me enough energy to make it thorough the day that I just don't want to do anything with anyone. Leading to a lot of seclusion and no social life. I even find asking people/some of whom are my closest friends, to do things with me in the evening brings on huge anxiety. It has started to impact every aspect of my life.
I think that one of the most difficult things abut social anxiety is that when you do make an outreach, it is often difficult for others to understand that, that request is tied into a fear of the unknown. I am usually asking lots of questions about who will be there, is it OK that I attend?, where will we be? can i leave early if its too much? All of this comes out of the an overwhelming fear of any social situation.
The Mayo Clinic has some great info on Social Anxiety here. It lists some of the signs and symptoms of social anxiety as:
- Intense fear of interacting with strangers
- Fear of situations in which you may be judged
- Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
- Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
- Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
- Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
- Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Difficulty talking
One of the best, most irrational incidences occurred recently (about 3 months ago) when I fucked up another friendship. A friend had put out an invitation on Twitter to go for sushi with him and his girlfriend. As part of my social anxiety, I sent him a couple of tweets that for any normal person would be considered completely abnormal and for me were a normal course of thought. I think that they resembled the following, "Is it ok if I join you for sushi?" with it being an open invitation, the response read "Are you f---ing serious? It's an open invitation." Little did he know that I was trying to know that i wouldn't be a social burden for him. Social Anxiety makes one worry constantly that they are not invited, even in an open invitation. I worry that I will be "too much" for others in a casual situation. I think that he had likely had enough of my feeling and acting like I was "special" or not normal. I understand, I just wish that I could have explained to him that these interactions were not me, they were the illness. I do know that 30seconds after that interaction I was "Unfollowed" by him. I wonder how many others I have managed to successfully piss off to the point that they can no longer stand being my friends?
So what am I doing to help get rid of, or minimize my social anxiety?? I'm doing psychotherapy, I take my meds, I am implementing my CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and I'm trying to not be the one "CRAZY Lady" that I know I can be.
This is just one more hurdle to jump up and over. I think that I might send this post to the friend that I once had. I certainly cannot explain it well, but I think this may help. Mental Illness is just difficult on all fronts. You can't see that I'm sick, I can't explain it well and it manifests itself in odd and awful ways. It is one more thing that I have to try and manage.
My only question is "Where is my old, social party going self?" I am scared I have lost her forever.