It’s rather frequent I see something online and my automatic reaction is ‘omg, literally me’, however, this is usually a viral video of a puppy falling asleep, or someone tucking into a vat of mac of cheese in a food challenge, and not a mental health related blog post.
I’ve spoken about my mental health briefly on my blog in a mini-series, but it has been a few years since I wrote those posts and I’ve decided to write an update in response to Sophie’s (Petals Of Perfection) blog post for ‘The Mighty’. In this article, Sophie discusses how the label social anxiety comes with a connotation of always being introverted and house-bound, which isn’t true.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been the stereotypical image of a social anxiety sufferer; unable to leave the house due to what people think of me, having panic attacks in a school lesson because I was asked to answer a question in front of the class and I couldn’t. My social anxiety used to be BAD. When I went to university, my first evening was spent crying at the thought of playing drinking games with a bunch of strangers and going to a nightclub without the comfort of my school friends. Gradually, the more I pushed myself to get to know people around me, my confidence grew. Hey, when I started university I couldn’t do a presentation in front of my tutor group and by my final year, I was able to do it – Albeit with shakes and stutters! Despite these accomplishments, I still call myself a social anxiety sufferer.
It recently hit me how much I had grown in confidence when I told my colleagues at work that I had social anxiety, their instant reaction was ‘No you don’t!’ and to be honest…I could see why they thought that. I definitely have a reputation at work for being VERY chatty. I love having a good natter – but I love a bit of quiet time just as equally. Maybe I’d make a good taxi drive one day?! Lol!
Anyway, all of this got me thinking. I still have social anxiety, even though I’m a million miles away from how I used to be. I don’t find meeting new people that tricky anymore, I love to getting to know people, despite the anxieties, but my original fears still stand – public speaking and being the centre of attention (in an ‘on the spot’ sort of way) – I can’t think of anything worse than being in a large room of people and having everyone’s eyes on me. I’d probably spontaneously self-combust and go bright red in the process. Even at blogger events, my tummy turns when someone says ‘Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves!’ (in that moment my brain is all ‘nope nope nope’).
Similar to what Sophie said, just because someone is confident and able in certain situations, doesn’t mean other ones are quite as easy. Mental health conditions are a bit like a shapeshifter, in that they adapt and mould themselves to cope with different situations in different ways.
If you know someone has social anxiety, and you’re in a situation with them where they could perhaps feel a bit shitty, but it doesn’t show, just remind yourself how hard that person is trying just to be calm and relaxed in that situation. I always think its good to know that if you have a friend with social anxiety and you’re out (a night out for example) and they need a few minutes alone, it’s nothing you’ve done. Sometimes we need a bit of re-charge time before going back into a potentially challenging situation. Also, it’s the most comforting and re-assuring thing to know that your friends know. There was a time when I was going to a gig with my brother, and the night before he sent me a text telling me not to worry and that we could leave the venue at any time. Little things like this can make the BIGGEST of differences.
Social anxiety isn’t JUST about being shy! Peace out! 🙂