So this post topic is based on two things :1) My actual experience with dealing with social anxiety and 2) the fact that a lot of people don’t understand what it is. I’ll explain number 2 first.
Social Anxiety is, as you can tell, an anxiety based disorder that is rooted in extreme fear of being judged/scrutinized in social situations or performance situations.That sounds like being shy, right? NO! One of my main peeves is when someone says I’m shy. I’m not…seriously…Like most people tell me “shyness goes away with time”, social anxiety does not. It doesn’t disappear on its own, you have to work through it and get the proper treatments. Instead of thinking of it as a reluctance to speak up think of it as a phobia. I have an irrational fear of social/performance situations which can range from talking to a stranger to eating in front of people. I have been called mean, cold, weird, and unfriendly because of this but it’s not true. There was a time when I made friends easily, but that was before the wiring in my brain shorted out a bit and reset itself with a whole new set of rules. (I blame the horrendous stress I was under in college). I like having friends and meeting new people, I want to do group activities and go to conventions….but a part of me is vehemently against this. So much so that I actually get sick due to how utterly nervous I get before or after meeting people.
- Social Anxiety is NOT Shyness
- The fear IS irrational, but knowing that doesn’t change how it affects us
This is what I feel or react on an average day at the store
- Stomach twisting and clenching – You know the feeling where you go over a hill really fast in a car? That…constantly.
- Extremely amped up – I get a ton of energy
- Hands/body shake – This is my tell. I actually shake when I talk to people I’ve known for a very long time including my best friend and sometimes even my parents. It’s usually the only way someone can easily tell I’m freaking out
- Mind/heart races – Imagine you’ve just been given a test in your least favorite subject and now in order to pass you have to run a marathon at the same time…that’s what I feel like.
- Nauseated or Stomachaches – I’m sure you can figure out what that means
- Embarrassment – Sometimes I feel like I’m making a fool of myself and if I say one word wrong then it bothers me for hours. I feel like I’m being judged, even when I know that’s not the case.
- Exhaustion – Once the store closes or a customer leaves I feel a huge wave of exhaustion hit me.
The bottom line is social interaction is hard on me. I try really hard and some days it’s really easy, it feels like I can handle it…but that can all change at the drop of a hat.
On the off chance one of my customers reads this….I swear I’m not a mean person and if I don’t seem to be chatty it’s usually because I have no idea what to say or can’t get the courage up to actually say anything out loud.