When you were young, did you worry about fitting in? Or were you one of the popular kids? Did you wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, and have cool parents? Did you get bullied but were unable to defend yourself?
As an adult, have you ever offered someone encouragement only to be left wondering whether they appreciated your sincerity? Have you ever disclosed something personal to someone only to feel a sense of panic afterwards? Have you felt uncomfortable around others because you weren’t sure about fitting in?
I was so painfully shy growing up. I still suffer from social anxiety. Logically, I know I shouldn’t feel this way but I can’t help it. It’s the emotions I can’t control sometimes. It’s the worry and fear. It’s a feeling of insecurity. Everyone else is more qualified. Everyone is more experienced. Everyone is more intelligent. And everyone is more deserving. Any second everyone will see through me as if they have faker-vision (x-ray vision for phonies).
When the anxiety takes hold, it starts out as a strong feeling that something bad is going to happen. I can’t tell you what I think will happen but it feels like impending doom. The fight or flight instinct wants to take over and make me run far, far away from the danger. Goodness knows, I am not a fighter so that isn’t an option. Nowhere is safe from anxiety; the panic takes over and the physical feelings intensify even more. Breathe deeply. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Relax your body. It’ll go away… it’ll go away. It may subside but it never goes away. I’m always on alert. Always ready for that doom to actually take place. It takes every bit of energy from me. It sucks out the life from my body and leaves me exhausted. You’d think sleep would offer a reprieve… but my brain cannot slow down. It races with worry and won’t stop. It takes hours to finally fall asleep. Waking doesn’t offer any sense of renewal. After so much deprivation, I’m a walking zombie. Each of my senses is on overdrive. Noise is overwhelming and physically painful. Light is too intense. My body aches and no touch is soothing. Even taste and smell are often too pungent and bitter. I long for solitude and quiet. If only I could cry and release some of the pressure but experience tells me that crying is too painful and doesn’t offer relief. My tolerance is non-existent and I distrust everyone and everything. Life this way is not fun at all. I am too tired to concentrate and I worry that my work is suffering.