#MeVsAnxiety is a weekly column that provides a safe space for people living with anxiety to share their experiences, anonymously.
In today’s interview, the subject—a 25-year old Technical Engineer— shares his experience living with social anxiety and how he’s been able to navigate life and social interactions despite it.
How are you doing today? Really?
Today actually went well. I faced one of my hardest challenges but took a step to do it, regardless. It was my day off and I just relaxed and didn’t think too much about anything else.
Yup. It is.
What do you do for a living?
Well I work as a Technical Engineer in an IT firm.
What does that mean?
It means I support applications used by the firm.
Have you been officially diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder?
Officially, no. But I do know how I feel in social functions and how that affects me on a day to day basis.
How do you feel in social functions? Can you expand a bit?
Uncomfortable. Awkward. Weird.
I’m usually a confident person but when I’m out, there’s this burning urge to run right back home and just chill.
Let’s start from the beginning. When did you start to notice this?
A couple of things happened to me and I would say it developed over a period of time. It’s gotten to the point where, sometimes, I have to look at the mirror before I leave and assure myself I’ll be okay.
I take it you don’t want to say what these things are?
It’s a mixture of molestation, allowing the negative get to me and a pinch of the other stuff life gives to you.
Oh no. I’m really sorry you had to deal with all that.
It’s fine. Funny thing is, I didn’t actually ‘deal’ with it for years. It’s like it was locked away but then I saw my predator and it just came running back.
The feeling of seeing them must be indescribable. I’m really sorry, once again and I hope for healing for you.
I didn’t even know how to feel. I just remember that I started to replay everything in my head. It was extremely triggering.
That truly sucks. Especially as it’s a major factor leading to social anxiety for you.
Yes, it is. I also had a robbery incident. So, add paranoia to the mix and now we have something huge.
Wait, in the same time frame?
It happened shortly after all the memories from the first incident came back, so I sort of had to deal with them at the same time, yeah.
Wow, all of this must be crippling. What points to social anxiety for you in a nutshell? What does it feel like?
I never want to be outside, no matter who I’m with. I’d rather be inside. I’d rather we have a conversation inside. A lot of people believe that it’s just me being weird or sometimes even being an asshole but, once I’m out, I can’t wait to be back home.
Why would they think you’re being an asshole?
Sometimes you meet people and what you normally do is hangout, right? It gets weird when you ask people to come over. Also, the fact that you could be confident and great when chatting/texting but meek and quiet in person.
Oh I see how it’s easy to take the wrong way. Do you have any specific triggers?. If you do, do you know what they are?
Well, it’s bad. And it’s weird stuff. If you talk about things I’ve been through and have left a bitter taste, I’d feel uncomfortable. I laugh nervously when I’m uncomfortable also.
There are days I overthink everything and then there are days that I’m tired.
I have crazy mood swings as well, so I’m never really sure what side of me will turn up.
How do you think this has affected how you relate with your people? Friends, family, etc.
A side effect of feeling anxious whenever you’re around people or outside is when you are uncomfortable, you’ll always find it hard to explain yourself and, in a bid to compensate for that, you’re more passionate because you want to carry everyone in the room with you.
But what people see is someone loud & aggressive.
Other times you get into your ‘zone’ and it becomes clear you’re not ‘there’ at the moment and to people who love you, it just seems you don’t want to hang or you do not enjoy their company. So it puts a strain on relationships.
Dealing with all of this means you have to really think about how you approach social situations and interactions in general. Are there any particular things you’ve learnt to do to help?
I’m still figuring it all out.
Sometimes I medicate. Other times I just wing it.
Medicate? Also, what’s winging it like?
Medicate with THC. Just enough, so I don’t lose it.
Winging it might sometimes mean allowing it to get the better of me and other times just reminding myself it’s a process.
It is a process you’ll get to understand and perfect over time. Have you ever considered professional help?
Nah. I actually just want to do this myself.
That’s interesting. What makes you write it off?
Is it? It’s more like: okay I wanna see if I can do this myself. I probably can not but we’ll see.
Oh no. I acknowledge everything. I know it’s what I need. But I’m just stubborn. If I do eventually want to take that route, I’ll do it at my pace.
That’s a clear way to look at it. As long as you’re comfortable. Well done! Okay, so what social situations are the most uncomfortable for you?
Every situation that I need to have a conversation. Situations when I am with more than two people. It does not matter if those people are my favorite people in the world.
That’s tough. What do you think are things social anxiety has stopped you from doing? or limited in any way?
It has stopped me from realizing my ideas. I question myself and overthink a lot of things. It has definitely limited me in terms of conversations because I genuinely loved talking to people.
How do you satisfy the love for interaction then? Sounds like a bad loop.
Chatting with people. Having conversations only when I have THC In my system. Or having conversations/ hanging out with people who make me feel comfortable.
I’m just happy you actually have people around you that you can be comfortable with.
Of course. It’s easier knowing there are people that know I struggle sometimes, even though they do not know it is social anxiety but they do not make me feel weird or try to overcompensate, and they pay attention to what I’m saying.
What do you wish people understood about social anxiety?
That no one would want to be this way if there was a choice. It is really hard and it is such a big deal for us to concentrate and be in the present. Also, this has nothing to do with being an introvert.
It’s entirely different. I see how they can be mistaken though.
Yup. Most people just classify us under that umbrella. That’s not what it is at all.
What makes you happy these days?
Video games. An understanding girlfriend. Praying helps too.
I hope the happiness grows and becomes more sustainable over time. Thank you for sharing all of this with us.
I hope so too.
The one thing I would not change is being sweet to people. I also try to look out for my symptoms in others and make them comfortable. That pleases me greatly.
Thank you for having me.
You guys rock. Keep pushing boundaries and changing the way people view mental health. You’re definitely an inspiration.
If you’d love to share your own experiences with anxiety in our #MeVsAnxiety column, please send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a dm on Twitter- @WorkingAnxious