I’m sitting in a chair in my kindergarten class with my head in my hands, sobbing my little heart out. My class-mates are all around me with their heads tilted back with laughter.
This is my first memory, growing up, and it is the start of my years of bullying. It is also the point I noticed my social anxiety, not to mention the shyness I still deal with.
Being the victim of bullying for as long as I have, the effects of it are still prevalent in my personality. I’m the quiet type that rarely speaks up in class or even at my job in customer service.
How do you deal with social anxiety when it’s such a big part of your life for so long? Do you push it under the rug or do you do something about it?
Why can’t you be like other people who are happy to talk to people about mundane things? When we’re called on in class, why is our first reaction to become freaked out?
These are all questions I’ve asked myself during my journey of social anxiety. These are questions I know I may never get an answer to but I ask them in my mind anyway.
1. How do you deal with social anxiety when it’s such a big part of your life?
For me, social anxiety has been a part of my life since I was a young woman. I remember my father telling me about his own dealings with it as a child.
Recalling those conversations years later made me realize I have the same condition. He had told them to me as a young woman but I forgot about the conversation until I was a junior in high school.
By then, I had been dealing with the anxiety for a couple years. It came to life when I was first learning how to drive as a sophomore in high school.
I’ll never forget the stress of high school, nor the diagnosis of my anxiety disorder years later. It was after college that I got diagnosed but it stuck with me.
2. Do you push it under the rug or do you do something about it?
For me, the answer is rather obvious: do something about it. It took me years to do that but I put my foot down after those years. I couldn’t stand living with the anxiety any longer so I took action.
I now have a therapist I enjoy speaking to on a monthly basis. I also have medication for the first time in three years that hasn’t made me have adverse side-effects.
That was my one goal in all this: to find the middle ground I’ve heard so many stories about. It shouldn’t have taken this long but I took the road I needed to take.
3. Why can’t you be like extroverted people?
This question always baffles me, especially if it comes from other people. I’ve heard people ask me this quite often if I’m being especially quiet over a period of time.
It doesn’t particularly bother me but it does bring up a valuable discussion between us. We aren’t all wired the same. Some people prefer to be talkative while others don’t like to speak as much.
It’s alright to have days where you don’t text anyone, let alone call them on the phone. Extroverts might not realize how much anxiety it causes if the extrovert calls them.
This is especially true for me since I grew up in customer service. I had to answer the telephone for my parents’ small business, which exhausted me on a mental level.
I was never good at speaking to people over a telephone, let alone face-to-face. So the thought of answering a telephone for a living is a thought full of dread.
4. Why is my first reaction to stutter when I’m called on about something?
I can remember those times in class when I wasn’t paying attention and I’m called on by the teacher. He or she asks a question of me and I’ve heard half of it at most.
I don’t know the answer to the question and it’s killing me as I stall for time to answer it. I’m stuttering something unintelligible while I’m blushing like crazy.
I couldn’t be more embarrassed, especially when I ask the teacher to repeat the question. I realize I’ve stalled too long, which means the teacher must know it too. Why else am I getting that nasty face?
It brings the worst kind of shame to the anxious person if you’re calling them out for being so quiet. Chances are, you’re interrupting some sort of thought process.
We probably heard you the first time but we’re thinking about a way to answer you. Don’t make it worse by embarrassing us. I’m begging you!
The introvert may have heard you the first time but they’re thinking about a way to answer you. Don’t make it worse by embarrassing them. I’m begging you!
Lisa Fourman is a freelance writer in the mental health niche and the founder of Mystique MGMT. She plans to use her brand as a vessel to make mental illness less of a taboo subject at the dinner table. You can visit her website at http://lisafourman.com.