My Life With Social Anxiety
Social anxiety runs in my family. Most of my family has it: my maternal grandmother, my mother, my brothers, etc.... I even have a cousin who is afraid to leave her house.
My mother tells me that I was once very social. I don't know when that changed or why, but as far back as I can remember (kindergarten) I have always been afraid of being around other people. I used to pretend to be sick so I wouldn't have to go to school. I once pulled that trick off for a whole week before my grandmother said that I had to go to school or I would be left back. I used to at least speak to people my own age, but after getting in trouble for talking to one of my friends, in the second grade, I stopped doing that too. I started to spend all of my time sitting alone in a corner, reading a book or writing a story. Reading and writing became my escape, from the world and all of the people in it. Occasionally I would try to be social (with help from my parents), but it never seemed to work out. I made a few friends, but our friendships never lasted.
I lived in the Bronx, and everywhere I went there was always a crowd. I would get nervous every time I had to go outside. I would get nervous in elevators, buses, trains, anywhere with a crowd. I usually felt better if my grandmother or my mother was with me, but most of the time I was a nervous wreck.
When I got into High school I hoped to become more social. However, during the first week of school I met a guy that told me he loved me seconds after he met me. At first I tried to talk to him and be friends with him, but then he started following me around everywhere I went. It freaked me out, and I couldn't get him to stop following me. I tried to avoid him whenever I could, but I almost always ran into him on my way into the building at the beginning of the school day. I tried to avoid crowds as much as possible. I avoided the lunchroom, spending my lunch hour in a corner of the school library with a book, or doing homework. I didn't try to speak to my classmates, and they usually didn't speak to me.
When my 16Th birthday came along I decided to have a big party. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to be change myself, to be more social. I invited all of my family and friends. My mother took me out to buy a dress for the party, and I purposely chose something that would stick out, so I wouldn't be able to hide in a corner. On the day of the party I got all dressed up, put on makeup, and switched my glasses for contacts. I did everything I could to make sure I couldn't back out of being social. When I entered the room where my family and friends were waiting the DJ played "I'm Coming Out" sung by Diana Ross. I chose that song because I wanted to "come out" and be more social. It seemed to work. The party went well. I danced (badly), I spoke to my friends and family members, and I enjoyed myself. I only felt anxiety right at the beginning of the party, but after that I felt much better than I'd ever felt before in a social situation.
Unfortunately, my victory over my social anxiety was short-lived. A few months later I started having panic attacks whenever I was in a crowd. Sometimes just thinking about being in a crowd would cause me to have panic attacks. I started to do badly in school, which caused me to have more panic attacks. My mother thought that going to a different school would help, so I went from a public school to a Catholic school. It didn't really help. I made a few friends, but in the end I left High school altogether.
My mother took me to see a therapist, who prescribed some medication (I can't remember what). The medication only made me feel tired and depressed, so my mother stopped taking me to the therapist and I stopped taking the medication.
At some point I decided that I wanted to go to college, so I got my GED and applied to some colleges. I was accepted to a college far from home, so I knew I would have to be more social because my mother wouldn't be there to help me. I tried to become friends with my roommates, but for some reason they just didn't like me. I won't go into the details, but they weren't very nice, and I ended up sleeping in my car most nights to get away from them.
Then I met my fiance in the campus computer lab. I was playing Runescape in a corner of the computer lab when this guy came over and started talking to me. He liked to play Runescape to. We started to play Runescape together every day. Then he introduced me to his friends, and we all started to play Runescape together. There were so many of us, we would take up half of the computer lab. Sometimes we would get really loud, doing a quest or PKing in the Wilderness, and someone would come into the room and have to tell us to quiet down. That was the best part of my first year of college, and I was surprised that I was actually being social.
I didn't get to finish getting my degree due to financial reasons, but I now live with my fiance in a nice quiet town. I try to be more social, but there are times when I still get panic attacks when I have to be around a lot of people. I even lost a job as a cashier because I couldn't handle dealing with all of the people. I would have panic attacks every time I had to go to work, thinking about all the people that would go through my line and yell at me if I did something wrong.
I recently started meditating because I was told that it helps to relieve stress, and I try to force myself into social situations whenever I can. I managed to get another job as a cashier in a small store, and I was doing well there until the store went out of business. The only times I felt like I might panic were when the store was unusually crowded, which was rare.
Now I'm trying to find another job but so far I've had no luck, and I'm not sure if it's because I'm not social enough or too soft-spoken during my interviews. I'm told that I speak too softly, but to me anything above my usual volume sounds like yelling.
Wow! I just looked back at everything I've typed so far. I didn't realize I typed so much. I just started typing and couldn't stop. I hope I haven't bored you with the summary of my life story. I'm going to stop typing now...