** This post was inspired by @NotAnna who tweeted today about social anxiety. I’m NOT writing about her nor am I going to talk about her. I’m writing about my own experiences, thoughts, ideas, and musings. She is just the inspiration.
I’m going to put a few things down right here at the get go so that there’s no confusion about any of the defintions or meanings about things. This is as much for me as it is for the reader, but mostly it’s for those who have little to no experience with anxiety, social anxiety, and/or introverts.
Anxiety =! Social anxiety
Social anxiety =! Introvert
Introvert =! Anxiety
None of these things are mutually exclusive. You can have none, one, or all three.
When you study to be a counselor you have to take a lot of psychology classes. Included in the very many classes are classes that teach you how to help diagnose varying disorders and conditions. Actually, once you’re at the Master’s Degree level (the minimum needed to be a licensed counselor federally), you take a few classes related to abnormal psychology and varying disorders.
Anxiety and social anxiety seems to allude many people. Many of the fears and worries that people have can be classified as irrational to those not suffering from the illness. It makes no sense for a 12 year old to be worried about tornados or earthquakes in another country. It certainly doesn’t make sense of that 12 year old to have panic attacks over these things, but it happens (I know because I know this kid and their family).
When it comes to social anxiety, people who have it understand each other in a sort of silent way. We get it. Those who don’t or have never experienced it think it’s silly and irrational and completely made up. Yeah, buddy, we’ve all heard your shit before. No it’s not easy to just go outside and make friends. No it’s not easy to just pretend like it’s not there. And it certainly isn’t easy to just “get over it” either. If it were that easy, people who are depressed wouldn’t be depressed anymore (cause lemme tell you, that’s a whole other sort of debiliating mental illness that people misunderstand on the regular).
Social anxiety is more than just being in public. It’s about being around strangers. It’s about feeling like an outsider when you know you don’t fit into traditional societal norms. It’s feeling like no one’s really going to like you and everyone’s just pretending to be your friend anyway. It’s the voice in your head saying that you’re better off staying at home where you can control all of the variables. It’s the rational part of your brain that justifies only have one or two people in your life that you trust with anything. It’s that part of you that is determined to be alone because it’s easier than having to spend your life in fear of fucking something up, because perfection is a totally reasonable expectation. It’s the thought that people are going to discover that you’re a fraud. It’s the idea that you’re really only fooling yourself and no one really likes you anyway, and you’re going to fail. at. everything, so why fuckin’ bother.
These are all thoughts I’ve had at varying points in my life. Some more recently than others, but they’re all still there. It’s like someone wrote with Sharpie on the white board of my brain, in case I ever started to just let it go.
And what’s more interesting is that I go to stranger’s homes, sit with them, and ask them about their bathing and toilet habits. There’s a difference, for some reason, in doing these things as part of my job versus doing these things because I want to.
Being an introvert only really compounds on the problems of being someone with social anxieties. Since I choose to be alone to “recharge my battery” as it were, I find excuses for not being around people. And not being around people keeps the social anxiety irrationalities at bay. And so the cycle continues.
Don’t be fooled, though, these are two very different things that are only related because they play off each other so well that I have a readily available excuse at the tip of my tongue any time someone tries to ask me to leave the comfort of my home to go *gasp* outside.
I suspect there are a million people who’ve written about this. And a significant portion of other people who are better qualified to talk about it. And I can guarantee that you know someone who suffers from social anxiety, you just might not know it. I wish people would simply be more respectful of others. People don’t need to know why someone doesn’t want to hang out or go somewhere.
No, really, you are not entitled to knowing everything about others. You are allowed to be curious, sure, but sometimes you just have to accept that it’s actually okay for you to not know. And if (and when) someone is ready, they’ll tell you. Not when you’re ready, when they’re ready.
So be kind to others. They might be going to war with themselves.
This post is part of the #Blaugust series.