Social anxiety is no small ordeal, and while it comes in all shapes and sizes it’s far more than just those dang millennials who don’t know how to talk on the phone.
I often find myself struggling to explain to even those closest to me why I never go through the drive through or check my voicemail. I believe that social anxiety is something easily brushed aside or made light of by those who don’t experience it, and I get it.
Why can’t you just check your email? Why can’t you just go into McDonalds and order yourself dinner? I ask myself the same thing. It seems silly.
However, as silly and arbitrary as it may be, the feeling I can only relate to what it must feel like when a boa constrictor wraps itself around a rib cage feels anything but silly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky enough to have learned skills that allow to push through my anxiety when it counts, and anyone who has talked to me in person or on the phone probably wouldn’t have the slightest clue about my anxiety.
I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is all that socially awkward, I’m very good at talking to people and being around people I know in small groups or classes is where I do best.
Most of these skills I learned at my first job when I was sixteen. I worked in a coffee and frozen yogurt shop, and the majority of my disposable income came from tips. I learned quickly how to flash a big smile and charmingly strike up a conversation with just about any customer to walk in our doors.
At times I’ve felt inauthentic for being able to snap so quickly into character, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not really an act, it’s a skill. It’s not that I don’t care about that customer, or whoever it is I find myself speaking with, but rather that what comes easily for some people takes work for me, and that work leaves me feeling drained at the end of the day.
Drained. Yes, that’s the word.
These past few weeks of interviewing prospective new hires, answering phone calls, dealing with angry emails and anonymous letters have left me totally drained. It’s harder and harder to pull myself into character these days, and the pressure behind my eyes and in my chest is almost constant.
I promise I’m not telling you this so you’ll feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this because on the surface, I look like I’m doing more or less just fine. I recently learned another friend of mine suffers from social anxiety like I do. It’s something I would have never guessed, and it drove me to write about my own experiences with anxiety.
I’m writing about my anxiety because I want other people dealing with it to know that they aren’t alone, and that their feelings are valid. I know it’s hard to explain how serious anxiety can be to someone who doesn’t deal with it, and I know it can feel like no one else is going what you are.
So, from one anxious person to one not-so-anxious person, if you know someone who suffers from anxiety, let them know that you understand that what they’re dealing with is real, and not silly. And lastly, from one anxious person to another, you’re not alone.
You’ve got this.