How often have you found someone familiar approaching you from the other side trying to make a conversation? Happens to quite a lot of us, doesn’t it? But, the scenario is a little bit different for someone like me who struggles with social anxiety.
As crude as it might sound, I often tend to just pick up my phone, put it on silent mode and pretend to be on call to avoid making conversations with someone I am awkward with. It is not necessarily because I don’t like the person or I have some beef with them. I just have this feeling inside that I would muck it up and drive the person away.
Poor conversation skill, I know.
Recently though, given that I had to shift to a different state because of my job, stepping out of my comfort zone, I feel like I have overcome this problem a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I still pick up my phone “calling” someone to avoid awkward conversations but I don’t do it all the time now.
This is not the only instance though because my struggles with social anxiety run deeper than that. Did I tell you that I almost prepared myself to just be a freelancer, working from home, because I didn’t want to face people for interviews?
What do you know about the condition?
Social anxiety disorder, also often termed as SAD, is a condition which is marked by the ingrained fear and anxiousness with social situations when one is faced with it.
It could be something as simple as meeting a friend to something as nerve-wracking as giving an interview. The worst part behind this condition is possibly the lack of awareness around it.
It took me ages to realize that my constant canceling of plans, my constant fear of being in public and crowded places and my inclination towards isolation was not me being weird but me suffering from the condition of social anxiety.
It isn’t something I wanted to talk about during the initial stages of my realization because deep down, I was embarrassed. I thought I wasn’t normal because who doesn’t like hanging out with friends, who doesn’t like to explore new places and just gather new memories, right?
Given that I was just a teenager in high school, I definitely did struggle a lot with this problem in the initial stage.
Statistics from National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) suggest that 12.1% of adults from the United States suffer from Social Anxiety at some time in their overall lives. This accounts for almost 15 million Americans suffering from this condition, some knowing and some without having a hunch about it.
The condition of social anxiety isn’t just the mere unwillingness of not visiting a place or not meeting someone.
It is the combination of the physical symptoms of racing heart, a constant anxiousness and a rumbling tumble in the belly making you believe that whatever you do, people are always going to judge you which is why being alone and being at home is the safest option.
Social anxiety disorder is more than just what the movie projects it as.
What we don’t see about Social Anxiety?
Given that I know now that I suffer from social anxiety, I know my triggers. I know which kind of situations to avoid myself from.
But, the only problem with social anxiety is the kind of lack of awareness people have about it.
I have faced innumerable situations when I have been called rude and arrogant just because I failed to show up to the place I was supposed to or because I canceled last minute.
People around you will see the prospect of “She canceled the plan AGAIN” but nobody once asks WHY?
This is exactly where the problem is.
Being from a country like India where half the people aren’t even aware of the fact that mental health struggles are real and not something “made up”, it was hard for me to make myself understand that what I was feeling was okay.
It took me a long time to make myself understand that it is okay to not be okay all the time.
The thing about social anxiety that not many people see or tend to neglect is the kind of effort that one puts into the situation. People don’t see the kind of struggles one has on a daily basis.
The racing heartbeat and the constant sweat dripping down from behind the ear isn’t seen when someone with social anxiety is made to do things forcefully.
For someone who tried to bottle themselves in isolation with contact with a few friends and just family in the initial stages of realization about the condition, I can vouch that majority of the people won’t know what you are feeling unless you tell them about it.
There is nothing wrong in acknowledging that you struggle with social anxiety disorder.
What did I do to overcome social anxiety?
There are still times when I am sat in the back seat of the shared cab and I am anxious thinking of the people it will be filled with, I am anxious thinking what if I trip down while getting down from the cab and make a fool out of myself.
Social anxiety is something that I know I will have to live with. So, when someone asks me how I overcame this condition, I would say that I didn’t. I am still working on it.
It is true that it has become a lot better than before but there are times when I desperately need to be on a “call” because facing people becomes a big challenge in those instances. None of this is easy but I feel like challenging yourself to do something out of your comfort zone every day is what helps.
Coming to a completely new state, building everything from scratch, interacting with different cultured people in the office did definitely help a lot with my social anxiety disorder.
I still remember taking up those weird social anxiety tests and now I am taking every day as it comes. Some days are good, some days aren’t and that’s okay too.