Shy? Or Social Anxiety?
The views and opinions expressed in following story are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Mental Health Colorado.
By: Ally Zehring
I suffer from anxiety and depression. What I don’t talk about often is the kind of anxieties I stress about. I feel what I suffer from the most with my anxiety is definitely my social anxiety and how much it really does impact my entire life.
For the first year in preschool I would never talk…at least not to adults. My friends would help me explain what I was talking about for me. And I don’t think started calling to make my own appointments or order my own food until at least middle school…maybe high school. Hell, when I went to New Student Enrollment for the college I was about to attend, the night before I didn’t sleep because one, I was low key excited, and two, I was freaking out as to how I was going to survive the day without my dad by my side. To this day, the very first friend I made that day still loves to tell the story of how we met and how he thought I hated him and the world because of how “shy” I was around him and everyone else, also, the resting bitch face didn’t help much either.
I honestly thought growing up that I was just super shy and one day I would overcome it all, but the reality was that I had so much anxiety built up inside of me that I never knew how to react “appropriately” because I feared that if I did one stupid thing that that would be how people viewed me as a person.
Social anxiety isn’t some made-up excuse. It is not only shyness and it definitely is not “cute.” It is not just something special you can “get over” easily.
It is having panic attacks out of nowhere during an important meeting, or crying yourself to sleep at night because you missed a good opportunity. Or having insomnia because of a text you sent or received, or hating yourself and harming yourself because you feel so mad at yourself for being awkward, weird, and stupid.
I will forever lie awake at night and just think of something I foolishly did or said…whether it was that day, or even years ago.
It wasn’t until recently that I figured out how to yes, embrace this “flaw” of mine. In my past, I have been in several different scenarios that I never thought I would ever encounter. Some were good, and some were bad. But, whenever I look back at the bad times I will now replay it in my head and reflect on how much I have grown since that period of time.
During my very first interview for a job I believe I said maybe four words. However, for the past four years I have been working in customer service. I have grown from being your ordinary sales associate to becoming a manager. And thanks to all of the different jobs I have had I gained some of the best friends from it.
Years ago I was too nervous to go out by myself and be social, but now I have figured out that I don’t need to be out all the time, making new friends and destroying my liver. I have become so grateful for the Friday nights I choose to stay in to either clean, work out, or binge watch Netflix. Why? Well, because those are the nights I reflect on the periods of my life and figuring out what kind of person I used to be as to what kind of person I want to be. Those nights, I focus on what I truly want to accomplish on this Earth while I still can.
One of my somewhat favorite high school teacher would always say that the most gifted kids are the ones who visualize and dream big. I used to not listen to it, but as I grew up and suffered so much from my anxiety and depression, I realized how true it is. In high school you are basically forced to remember equations, dates in history, and so on just to be tested on it. And if you tested poorly you weren’t seen as a “good student.” It wasn’t until after my first year of college that I realized I was not book smart at all. I tried everything to study for big tests in my science classes, but it just wouldn’t stick.
After switching majors and taking classes that focused more on projects rather than learn a lesson, study it, and take a test on it all, that I realized how much I love creating something I was truly passionate about. I remember I had one class that I went the extra mile for my final because I enjoyed it so much and was so excited to show my professor how much I improved since the beginning of the semester. Thanks to my college experience I figured out what I want to do with my life and how I am going to leave an impact on this Earth before I die.
So, shout out to everyone who struggles with social anxiety because this shit sucks! I can’t even count how many great opportunities I missed out on because of it. However, if you suffer like I do, I highly suggest to find a time to sit down by yourself and reflect. It doesn’t matter how you choose to reflect but for myself I love making lists and writing, but if that isn’t how you roll, find a method you enjoy that feels almost therapeutic. Try to figure out what you love and what gives you that nasty gut feeling where you feel as if the world is about to end. Then, think of ways you have grown as a person from those moments and how you are still continuing to grow as life keeps moving. Shit will amaze you after you have seen your growth. One thing I can tell you about my own personal growth is that I ain’t finished yet.
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