Let me explain what social anxiety feels like. Imagine yourself walking out of your house to fetch milk from ten steps away. Suddenly you’re being choked by invisible plant-tendrils, while the floor turns to mush, and the milk is definitely poisonous. None of that really happens, though. It’s all in your head.
Having social anxiety feels like living in a million alternate dimensions at the same time. You’re vaguely aware of a reality far away, but a darker story line is sweeping you off your feet. The tiniest of things seem like mammoth tasks, and you have no explanation why. When people explain it to you, it seems fairly simple. But God forbid you have to actually communicate with strangers. All hell breaks loose!
Whenever I get myself in normal situations just like any other humans out there, these are the main things that cross my mind:
1. I WILL MAKE A FOOL OUT OF MYSELF OUT THERE
I don’t understand what it is about social anxiety that convinces me each time that I will forget human skills when I leave home. I literally behave like an alien trying to pass off as a human being. “Do my legs look funny?”, “Am I walking correctly?”, “What if I walk in a funny way and nobody has ever told me that?”, “Are they staring at me?” Honestly, my mind is a hell-hole.
2. THERE’S MORE STRANGERS HERE THAN PEOPLE THAT I KNOW – TIME TO GO!
We always need a group of friends hanging by us if we are expected to survive a social gathering. Socializing with strangers is the scariest thing I have ever heard of. I mean, how?!
3. I’M LITERALLY SCARED TO JOIN A CONVERSATION THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN GOING
If you started that topic without me, I am going to assume that I’m not wanted in the discussion. No amount of logic is going to make me feel otherwise.
4. I SUDDENLY CAN’T BREATHE WHEN I NEED TO TALK
I don’t know what speaking to a crush must feel like. I mean, I black out from holding my breath, each time. I’m literally hoping for time to freeze and stop for a minute. None of that happens though. And, I’m just the idiot who forgets human speech every now and then.
5. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM?
Hold up. It isn’t my fault that nobody made any rules about how many people are allowed to co-exist in a single room. I can barely handle hanging out with all my friends at the same time, and you expect me to cozy up in the room where all our bodies are touching? Eww.
6. SAVE ME!!
Mostly, I’m mouthing a silent cry for help. I’m just waiting for somebody to love me for who I am. I do not need fake consolation, or generic motivation. I need to see that somebody really cares about what becomes of me.
7. I LOOK STRANGE, DON’T I?
9 out of 10 times, I do not. But let’s focus on that one time. What if I have lettuce stuck in my teeth? Oh God, I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that chocolate pudding. Do I have food on my clothes? How about I check for the millionth time?
8. CAN I JUST DISAPPEAR NOW?
Sometimes, I just want to fall off the edge of the world. I want to hide away in the Himalayas, without hungry bear around me, just doing my own thing. I do not want human contact, or any semblance of a city life.
9. PLEASE GOD, DON’T LET THEM SEE ME!
I avert my eyes every time I find somebody familiar on the road. Google should come up with some radar that tells you if somebody you know is approaching your path. It gives you enough time to think of a plausible excuse to avoid them.
10. HOW DO OTHER PEOPLE DO THIS??
Oh dear God, I cannot imagine how people do this ‘social’ thing. I mean, how are your hands not clammy? How are you not breaking a sweat every time somebody looks at you? What is this foreign kind of confidence you possess?
11. IS SOMEBODY WATCHING ME RIGHT NOW?
No, nobody is. But that won’t stop me from turning around 20 times. I always worry that somebody might be watching me and thinking about how weird I am.
12. I WISH SOMEONE CAN ORDER FOOD FOR ME
I swear, if I had a penny for each time I made somebody else speak to the waiter, I’d be rich enough to appoint somebody to do that job full-time. Have you seen them? So confident, and aware of all items on the menu! What if I mispronounce? What if the item is out of stock, and I have to think of a replacement immediately? It is so much work!
13. THEY MUST BE TALKING ABOUT ME
Nobody cares that much, honestly. I am aware of that. However, when my eyes meet somebody else’s I am always sure they are saying mean things about me to their friends. I have no logical basis to justify this behavior, yet I will bet on it with all the 2 bucks I have.
14. I WILL SURVIVE!!
It’s terribly hard to believe in yourself when the social anxiety is weighing down on you. However, after all the hard days I have seen, I am sure I will make it through this. Time and again, life may try to convince me otherwise, but I am bigger than that.