Millennial…but what struggles could millennials possibly have this early in life?
I remember the night I decided to blog about my struggles of dealing with mental illness. My husband sat me down to say, “Your ideas sound great, but are you sure that is the best thing for you right now? Are you mentally prepared for negative feedback?”
No. Will I ever be? Probably Not.
According to the DSM-5, Social Anxiety Disorder is used to describe the persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be embarrassing and humiliating.
Social Anxiety has placed chains on so many areas of my life. I was in the 10th grade when I had my first experience with social anxiety. I had moved to Georgia from New Jersey in the middle of my high school year and it was my first time living in another state. I would go to class everyday to feel like I was being sniffed out by the hyenas around me; I felt like something foreign. I had a huge fear of being noticed, being talked about and being spoken to. I brought my lunch everyday and ate outside in the rain, hail, sleet, and snow (what little we had) in order to avoid any unwanted social encounters. The cafeteria was something I was extremely afraid of. Everyone had their own tables, their on seats, and their own friends to sit with. I would become light-headed at the thought of people staring at me and was convinced that everyone could sense my weakness. I eventually made friends who would come and sit outside with me. They never questioned why I would not go inside, and I did not know how to explain to them why I would not.
The same day my husband had sat me down to question if I was ready for this, was the same day I took off of work because I was feeling “indifferent” about living. I had explained to my therapist that I was feeling hopeless and I was tired of feeling the physiological symptoms of my anxiety. My body would ache from being tense, I would have migraines, (sometimes 15 in a month), I have dealt with digestive issues, nausea, and an overall weak immune system. My therapist politely threatened to call a “10-13” on me if I did not take a sick day off from work. The truth is, I was so worried about what my boss and fellow co-workers would think of me when I called out.
My social anxiety has shaped the way I live my life. I have walked out during group dinners that have become too intimate and I refuse to put myself in situations where I feel awkward. I will not pick up the phone to speak to someone I do not speak to daily. I do not go out to meet new people, nor do I introduce myself in a room full of people without sweating profusely. I rarely engage in small talk. I rather sit quietly and give the excuse of “being tired” when asked why I am so quiet. I keep myself isolated and my circle small. I have provided myself a security blanket that feels safe, but prevents me from becoming the person I am destined to be.
I try to keep all of my information cleared off of the internet. I am Facebook-less, Twitter-less and Snapchat-less, all because of my fear of being judged or not having control over what people know about me.
Having social phobia was never something I felt comfortable discussing with people. I do know that there are other sufferers out there. You are not just “shy.” Please consider sharing your stories in the comment section below. We cannot prove this to be a real phobia until we tell our stories.
When Your Brain Hurts