Not a lot of people know that I suffer from social anxiety. But I do, and for a long time I never wanted to admit it. I wanted to pretend that it was completely normal to go out of my way to avoid any and all social situations and that I would shake, speak faster, and never look a person in the eye, etc. Who was I kidding? This was not normal.
The first time I really was honest with myself was when I went to a holistic doctor and she wrote my diagnosis on my papers: severe social anxiety.
There it was. Plain as day written out in front of me. I could no longer hide.
I think it goes along with my eating disorder; if one thing improves, the other does too. And, like the anorexia, a lot of my life has been taken from me, due to my anxiety.
I’ve missed out on birthday parties, movie events, family get togethers and so on. I avoid hanging out with old friends and I struggle with making new ones. I’ve changed schools over seven times because I couldn’t deal with all of the other kids and people. I would dread waking up in the morning because I knew I had to face another day surrounded by people who made me nervous and I would come home crying because I didn’t want to do it again.
Since I’ve been living with this problem for basically my whole life, I am pretty good at telling when I’m doing well at managing it or when I’m completely letting it rule my life.
I know I’m letting it rule my life when I continually turn down offers to hang out with others, especially if it’s more than one person.
I know I’m taking control when I walk through the grocery store and I don’t get overwhelmed by the hundreds of people there.
I know I’m letting it rule my life when I decide not to go to the gym based on the fact that I’m scared to be around a lot of people.
I know I’m taking control when I push myself to hold a conversation for more than two seconds.
I know I’m letting it rule my life when I purposely try to avoid seeing people I know.
I know I’m taking control when I can wake up in the morning and live my life without worrying about who I might see and what I might have to say.
Social anxiety is a weird thing to struggle with because, like the anorexia, not a lot of people “get it”. They just don’t understand what is wrong with me and why I can’t just be normal.
A lot of people think I’m rude and mean because I don’t talk or make eye contact with them and that hurts, because I am the furthest thing from that, and I wish people could see that.
It has taken me years to finally be at a place of peace with my anxiety and to accept that it’s something I deal with, but I still have a long way to go to be completely free.
It hasn’t been an easy path but I can accept myself for who I am, no matter what other people might say.
I am me and that’s all that matters.
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