Monday, September 19, 2016

If I could change anything.

If I was given the opportunity to change anything about myself, I could get rid of my social anxiety disorder. Of all my various mental health disorders - clinical depression, panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (and possibly attention deficit disorder) - I hate my social anxiety the most. I mean, I can accept my other issues and see how they benefit me and gave helped me to grow over the years, but when it comes to social anxiety, I just feel frustrated. I try to appreciate that it has given me sensitivity to others with the same struggle and has even opened the door to some friendships where I bonded with the other person over being shy, but I feel so limited, so held back from reaching my full potential because of it that it's hard to stay positive.

Tonight, I'm filled with an overwhelming desire to be freed from this steel cage that has confined me for as long as I can remember. I want to be able to join into conversations, show people my real self, make the jokes that pop so easily into my head that have been heretofore limited to the audience of a small group of family and friends. I want to go to events that look interesting. I want to make friends. I want to flirt with guys I find intriguing. I want to meet people. I want to travel. I want to speak without second, third, fourth, hundredth guessing myself for hours, days, weeks, years after the fact. I want to say what I want to say, put my thoughts out there, and know that they are enough without needing to have someone assure me that it was okay to speak at all. I want to think about going to an event without panicking and trying to figure out when to arrive, where to go, who I would talk to, what I would do, when I should leave...

I often feel baffled that other people are fine starting conversations, going to new places, and starting new things. I just can't imagine life without this debilitating condition. And I'm a very driven person so I want to accomplish things, but that can be really hard when you are terrified by networking, mingling, auditioning, marketing yourself, etc. I'm a compassionate person and a relational person and I want to have friends and extend love and help to other people, but I find myself held back so often by my social anxiety, which then leads to a lot of intense guilt.

I've been trying to take the pressure off of myself to force myself to overcome my social anxiety because it's made my overall anxiety worse, but tonight I have to admit that I'm just straight up pissed about being socially anxious. Before, I was frustrated with myself for not being able to overcome my social anxiety, which was unhealthy and counterproductive, but tonight I'm mad at my social anxiety itself. I wish I just didn't have it and I'm mad that I do and others don't and aren't even aware of its existence. I follow a lot of mental health advocacy news and I personally don't see or hear much about social anxiety covered. The website I write for, The Mighty, doesn't even give social anxiety disorder its own category. So we suffer in silence and people write us off as "the quiet ones who have nothing to say", not realizing that we're miserable, trapped inside our own minds.

I guess the impetus of all this frustration is honestly my recent longing for a committed romantic relationship. Cheesy, I know, but my inability to get to know guys because I'm so shy and have such a small social circle is one huge reason why I get frustrated with being socially anxious. I've lately found myself stuck yet again in the familiar position of daydreaming puppy love, crushing on one guy after another who is practically unaware of my existence. Then I beat myself up because I keep blowing chances to talk to them because I chicken out. But lingering in the back of my mind are the times that I did go out of my comfort zone and talk to guys and they showed zero interest in return and I just made a cringeworthy memory to mentally scrapbook.

I know people are always telling you to make blog posts positive, but I just want to be honest: social anxiety really, really sucks and people who don't have it can't realize how difficult it is to fight. My counselors, present and past, and my family have told me so any times over the past couple of years that I've come so far with my social anxiety and pushed myself so much, but I still feel stuck in the same mire with the same reservations that hold me back from everything I want to do. I want to overcome, but I feel like I just keep playing it safe, boxing myself back in. Part of it is that my family has raised me with such an overly-cautious mindset that leaves me constantly deferring to them and evaluating risk verses reward and potential consequences.

I wish sometimes I could break free and take more risks and push my boundaries. I know I should look at all I've accomplished to encourage myself, but maybe there's some merit in giving oneself space to feel angry about your condition sometimes.

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