As I’m walking through the crowd, I can feel my body starting to react; my heart is in my throat, my skin is crawling, my mouth is dry, my head is spinning and all I can think about is running, running, running away. But I can’t. I’m frozen to my place, terrified that one wrong move will draw attention. My eyes are darting from here to there, looking for threats. There are people all around me; laughing, talking, looking. Rationally, I know my reaction doesn’t make any sense. Rationally, I know there aren’t any real threats around. Rationally, I know it’s my anxiety acting up. Rationally, I know I need to calm down. But I also know that rationality and logic are useless against it. They do their best, but they never win. I put my hands in my pockets. With my shoulders bent and my head low, I walk away. I don’t look back.
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is part of the family of Anxiety disorder. Most people who suffer from SAD, in fact, also suffer from other forms of anxiety and depression.
So what is SAD, really?
It’s right there in the name – an intense, uncontrollable fear of social situations.
“People who are afraid of… other people?”
Peculiar, isn’t it? We humans are such social creatures, it’s almost unfathomable there are so many of us who dread being in social situations.
Usually, a little bit of fear is a healthy thing.
But when that fear is so intense, so unbearable… when it goes from just fear to a full blown anxiety attack, right there in front of everyone… what do you do then?
Social anxiety disorder hits you when it hurts the most – the feeling of belonging.
Imagine not being able to pick up the phone. Imagine thinking 50 times on the same sentence before even considering speaking in out loud. Imagine not raising your hand in class, even though you know the answer, because you’re terrified that maybe… just maybe the answer is wrong. Imagine you can’t go out with your friends to the movies – too loud, too many people, too much. Imagine feeling like your skin is on fire and that everyone is looking at you when you walk your way through school. Imagine not going to prom of you own free will. Imagine your voice gets so weak and unheard whenever you’re outside your house. Imagine being unable to ask your classmate where your next class is. Imagine not being able to connect with anyone your age.
If you can’t do any of those day-to-day stuff, then how can you feel… normal? How can you feel like you belong in the society of today? A society that demands all of that – and more – out of you?
When a kid hurts his leg, he’s excused from P.E.
When he is diagnosed with ADHD, his school life are fitted accordingly.
When he has Social Anxiety Disorder and is forced to make a speech in class, is that okay?
The house is a safe place, she thought. It’s warm and quiet. No one would pay attention to her there, no one would speak harshly to her there. She won’t embarrass herself again. She won’t feel the anxiety rising again. She would be… safe, secure. She’ll be free. All she has to do it lock the door and never step out ever again.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder
Anxiety is a very creative thing. Its linked to the imagination. That’s why there are so many symptom and forms to it. Everyone invents their own. Everyone experience those that scare them most.
Social anxiety, on the other way, is usually pretty straightforward and includes the following symptoms:
* Intense anxiety in social situations
* Avoidance of social situations
- * Physical symptoms of anxiety, including confusion, pounding heart, sweating, shaking, blushing, muscle tension, burning\crawling skin, upset stomach. Social anxiety especially rises in the following situations: Eating or drinking in front of others
- Writing or working in front of others
- Being the centre of attention
- Interacting with people, including dating or going to parties
- Asking questions or giving reports in groups
- Using public toilets
- Talking on the telephone
My own experience with Social Anxiety Disorder:
Hey everyone, I’m Zoey. I’m 18 years old, and I have what’s called SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder).
There, I said it.
You see, when I first contacted Jenny (the lovely owner of this blog, may I add) about making a guest post on her blog for mental health awareness week (a.k.a MHAW) and she asked me if I have any experience with mental health, I wanted to tell her: “Oh no, never mind, my mistake!”
I never wrote something so personal about myself in my life. I didn’t know if I could.
But then I remembered: mental health awareness week. If I, someone who struggles with something that is still left mostly unaware, won’t come out and talk about it… who will?
So here I am, about to spill all the personal details.
*taking a deep breath*
Here I go:
For the longest time, I felt like there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
Why do I feel the way I do? Why do I panic for no good reason when I’m outside? Why the mere thought of going out with my friends makes me want to crawl under a blanket and never come out? Why can’t I enjoy going to the movies? Why can’t I enjoy going to events? Why, why, why…
Why can’t I be like everyone else?
High school was especially a nightmare for me. Because the one thing that was supposed to make the stressful high-school life better – friends and fun school events – was the one thing that made it even worse.
It ended with me having a long, dark period in which I couldn’t bring myself to go to school anymore.
I felt so alone, so misunderstood, so sad, so scared, so weak… It hurts. From the inside out. It hurts so much.
My only solace were my books. They were there, as they always were, waiting for me to jump into magical adventures where I could be anything I wanted to be; brave, strong, capable. And among the pages, they taught me something important, something I took to heart. They taught me to never give up.
It took me the longest time to come to terms with my anxiety and SAD.
Coming to terms with it doesn’t mean not feeling this way anymore. Believe me, I feel this way more often than not.
Coming to terms with it means not letting it win.
Because if my favourite character can survive hell raining down on her, the least I can do is fight back too.
You have something you want to achieve, you have goals, dreams, things you want to do. And in the middle of all that there is your constant companion – the social anxiety. What do you do? Do you give up? Let it take over while you stay where it’s safe? Or do you fight the only way you can – getting out, achieving your dreams. By doing the one thing it tries to prevent you from doing, you’re winning.
This post isn’t about giving you the solution to the problem. It isn’t about telling a sad-depressing story either. It’s not only about making others aware to mental health conditions. It’s also about telling you that you’re not alone in this. Here I am, waving at you and saying: “I’m here.” And there are more, so many more… in the shadows, hiding. They don’t come out, they’re too afraid to come out. But they’re there, and one day they’ll find the courage to wave too. There will be times you’ll feel completely alone in the world, there will be times all you want to do is crawl somewhere dark and disappear. But it’s those moments when it’s most important you get back up. It’s that moment when the protagonist of the story rises and discovers something new about themselves. If the protagonist never got back up, wouldn’t you feel betrayed? Just remember: every single one of us is the protagonist of our own story. And there are readers who are always rooting for you. I know I am.
About the author of this post: I love reading books. I love writing stories. I love listening to music. I love watching TV shows, movies and anime. Those are my greatest passions in life. Hey everyone, I’m Zoey. I’m an 18 years old girl with an undying love for books. I love everything to do with magic and fantasy. I love blogging about books and share my thoughts and feelings about books with the world. Not to mention, meeting people in this big, wide bookish world, who share my passion for reading, always makes me happy (: My biggest dream is of becoming an author one day. Until then… I write as much as I can.
And links to where I can be found:
And, of course, my blog: http://magiverse.blogspot.co.il/