Lately, I’ve been deeply compassionate for people with social anxiety, and for the past traumas they may be carrying around inside themselves. Sometimes they feel that isolation is the only choice. This is only one facet of social anxiety, but it’s the one I’ll be writing about.
The Reality of Being Alone
Fear of rejection is central to social anxiety. Rejection occurs on many level, and the general belief seems to be that those with social anxiety take this ‘too seriously’. We’ve heard it: ‘get some thick skin, move on, it’s part of life’ and so on. The ‘part of life’ makes it even more frightening. One with social anxiety may think:
”Will people never understand me?”
” How does it feel to be in a relationship?”
” I want to be myself, but.. [Insert reason here]”
Naturally, having social anxiety may also stem from depression or vice – versa. Some with social anxiety have physiological reactions in their bodies when facing social situations. This may include nausea, sweating, shivering etc. However, not having these symptoms does not mean that the anxiety is less severe. It may be viewed as such, but we know that the big bad is a certain aspect of us: The Mind which repeatedly conjures of memories and associations that trigger these patterns.
Some with social anxiety and depression isolate themselves. Perhaps they’ve tried everything they thought they could, or maybe they realized that ‘getting some thick skin’ didn’t work and they believe that avoidance is the solution.
They keep to themselves at work, at school and even at home. They want to have friends and be in a relationship, but they can’t bring themselves to take that step. They walk outside with hunched shoulders to hide themselves. This has a profound impact on their self – esteem and self – confidence. Yet, being alone is comfortable.
”It’s better this way. Now I can’t hurt anyone anymore” – Guilt.
” I work better by myself anyway” – Justification.
” I only sabotage my relationships anyway” - Affirmation.
You get used to it. You’re depressed, you’re lonely, but you’re used to it. At least it’s safe. It still hurts, of course it does, when you see two people talking with each other or when you see that couple on the beach. You realize you’ve never been in love. You don’t have any idea on what romantic love feels like and this hurts you even more, because you know you’ll never get the chance. At the same time, what’s the big deal? You know you’re not the only one.
Every day, you remember something. It’s not always where you last left it, much like your car keys. Something you did, something you said, something that was said to you… and it was your fault. You’re not sure if you deserve the pity you’re giving yourself. You know that it’s self – destructive in the long run and you really should just get on with your life. Perhaps grab a snack or two, just to fill the void…
”You’ve gained some weight,” someone comments. You know this inside, but you deny it. They begin suggesting eating and exercising differently. You know they’re right, too. The food just tastes so good.
New Beginnings Turning Into New Hells
You’re nervous but excited. It’s your new job, or your new school. And it’s your first day! You smile to yourself. New beginnings are always good. You chat with everyone. They seem to like you. Then you go home, proud and happy with yourself.
In the following weeks, you start to notice something. Signs. Signs that are not good. You’ve seen them before and then you realize it’s starting all over again. ”I’m not that interesting to talk to,” you whisper to yourself. ”It’s only natural that they don’t find me interesting when I’m not the same,” you continue to affirm. You smile as you pass them by. They smile back.
And you know that’s as far as you’ll ever get.
You’ve had thoughts of ending it. Your life, you mean. Inside, you’re aware that you want to live but you’re incapable of changing your situations. Therapy didn’t help you, nor did ‘tough love’ talks with your family. Even they don’t seem to believe in you anymore. The ones you’ve contacted for help, the strangers, either close the doors when they hear too much (That’s OK, they have their own life and all that) or try to give suggestions. When you respond back, they express their concern but tell you that if ‘you can’t even do these small things…’. That gets you down. A lot. Add on that, you’re failing in other areas of life. No money, no friends, no love, no understanding, no success, no belief in yourself.
Now, you only wait for death. The only thing you have to do is drift through life while you try to survive. At least you’ll be alive.
It’s not as easy as it seems to be.