Some people don’t want to label themselves. I, however, find comfort in having the words “social anxiety” on my side.
I’ve had people ask me to give them a reason as to why I’m so quiet or shy, especially in the classroom setting. For most of my life I’ve simply smiled and said, “I don’t know,” or “I just don’t have much to say.” Those lines were both lies. I knew that I wasn’t comfortable, and I knew that my mind was overwhelmingly filled with thoughts that needed to be shared with the world. And so I turned to writing.
When I started high school, I got into the habit of journaling every night before bed. My journal was less of a list of cute boys like in the movies and more of a, “Hey, this is what I did today. This is who I talked to, and this is the progress that I made.”
I still didn’t have a word or phrase for it though, and I didn’t know that so many people suffered from the same thing that I did. It escalated quickly in 10th grade. My initial thought was that I was depressed. It fit all the online descriptions. I felt tired and sad all the time. I felt like I didn’t fit in, and so I pushed away the people that accepted me. Eventually, I really was depressed.
Now I know that my depression was brought on by my social anxiety, and I fight every day of my life to stay on the good side of it. It’s tough to say that there’s nothing wrong with having high social anxiety, because honestly, it sucks. It means that I have to work hard to hold conversations. It means that I lose out on a lot of information because I don’t raise my hand in class or ask questions. It means, sometimes, that I have to wait a very long time to find a bathroom or find my way around because I’m too stressed to ask for directions.
It all sounds ridiculous, even to me. But it’s not something that I can permanently change. All that I can do is remind myself, in every moment, that it’s just me. It’s just my mind. The thoughts that I’m having are unrealistic or even crazy. I’ve learned how to keep myself calm on the outside, but when my professor starts asking for volunteers, I immediately pretend to search for something. When someone is about to pass me in the hallway, I find something to look at on my phone and pretend to not see the person.
Because I am a mature young adult, I know how to say, “yes, please” and “how are you?” when prompted. But I almost never make the first move. Yes, I worry daily about what that may look like to others. But at the end of the day, it’s my life and my emotions.
I’m a quiet introvert with social anxiety. But if you just hang with me for a few months, I’ll be the best friend you’ve ever had 😉.