As a Social Anxiety Enthusiast (by no choice of my own), I’ve spent countless hours wondering if I’m doing it right.
Am I socializing correctly?
Is this how you’re supposed to stand?
Did I say the right thing?
How stupid did I sound?
Are they talking about me? Are they laughing at me?
Is it awkward I haven’t said anything yet? Better look around and check everyone’s eyes. Shit, you made eye contact, abort, abort, abort!
Is a joke appropriate here? That joke was corny as fuck, and they laughed out of pity, better shut your mouth already.
Is it weird that I have no input? Can they tell I can’t think straight? Better just agree with the person next to you. Originality can wait.
Was my opinion too strong? Should I have not taken an absolutist’s point of view? At least Kant would agree with me. But he’s dead so how is that helping? Fuck, just get out of here already.
It’s not just face to face contact, it spills over into emails as well. Blogs. Whenever my words come in contact with another person’s eyes or ears I’m worried of their substance. I’m worried if I appear as an average human to them and if I don’t . . .
Well, I’m not quite sure why my anxiety cares if I appear as an average human to people or not. Sure, I’ve always been confused on how to connect with my peers (since pre-school), but I don’t have a clear memory of caring whether or not people accepted me until late in elementary school. I believe that’s when I grew self-aware that I’m not like the others.
People determining my personality “shy” became an insult. When teachers requested I “speak up” I grew so enraged the rage fell out of my eyes as tears. School was no longer a place to learn, to grow, to develop, it became a house of trauma.
I never grew out of it because it wasn’t something to grow out of. It was something that needed to be addressed that wasn’t.
They weren’t inside of my head, they didn’t know how much I could talk. The only way they could see an ounce of intelligence was through reading and writing, the fact that I ran circles around my peers. It kept my peers from finding reasons to bully me. I was never once bullied to the extent many other quite kids are. Perhaps because I bullied the bullies who attacked the little disabled girls who didn’t know how to stand up for themselves.
Maybe it was because I was with the kids with the tazers and the weed who hung out with the adults and pretended to be adults. Maybe it was because I exploded alcohol in the library, got told on, threatened the kids who told on me, and walked out of the principals office unscathed, no punishment, with the entirety of the school believing the snitches had just over-reacted. And, regardless of my anxiety, I would stand up for myself and if I didn’t, the people behind me would.
Did any of that help? No, it only isolated me further.
Once the cool kids moved onto high school and I was left with two more years in junior high alone. I had to establish my own personality and I couldn’t.
I wasn’t a stranger to being alone in my head. In fact, I quite liked it. I’d liked it since before I new school existed. I created worlds in my head I could never explain in words and they never went away. In fact, I continually retreat to them when I’m not sure what to do. They are the reason I can dissociate, blink, and wonder where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing and how time has passed without my recognition of it.
Although these worlds, and the people I’ve placed in them, have given me better advice than any physical adult has in my life, I wouldn’t want another child to grow up like I had and be forced to retreat into a fake world and merge their personality with the personality of the little people in their head. It comes with a price.
You think you’re “going crazy”.
You ignore the fact that you’ve created them and although sometimes it feels you’re interacting with them on their own accord, as if they’re speaking with you freely, you’re the puppet master. You’re giving yourself advice and soothing yourself through the ruse of an imaginary character in your head. If that sounds confusing, imagine how it would be for a ten year old.
You get very used to being with yourself and talking with yourself, and not very used to speaking with other people or being open with other people to the point where you don’t see a point in trying anymore.
My anxiety was left unattended and depression joined me at age ten. If I were to choose the worst of the two, I couldn’t. They go hand-in-hand; they wouldn’t be as bad as they are if one didn’t exist.
In all honesty, I prefer depression. It’s soothing. It’s calm. You move slow, you think slow, nothing matters. If I wanted to spend my life like that, depression would be ideal. You know, minus the suicidal part of it all.
Anxiety has the capacity to frighten me because it snatches away all rationality. Depression doesn’t always do that to me. Anxiety urges my insomnia, it makes me pay attention to my heart rate, it makes me think the finest cut on my hand will contract the deadliest disease. I carry a USB file of all the files on my computer since 2009 with me at all times in case there’s a fire when I leave the house. I can’t keep a single thing neat. I can’t focus. The tiniest thing causes so much stress I end up doing nothing in hopes of quelling the stress and then stress out about the fact that I’m doing nothing.
The seemingly unimportant behaviors I expressed as a child has birthed something much grander than expected.
It’s prevented me from writing the fiction I used to love to write. And this, you see, is taking it to a whole other level. Now, I’m pissed.
The reason I can’t find myself to write, the reason why it’s so hard for me to type this information about these thoughts right now, is because I feel I’m being watched.
Now, hear me out here.
After speaking with a crisis line the other day (congratulations self, you didn’t blow your head off), they helped me realize the reason I’ve suddenly dropped all the things that used to keep me sane without even knowing they did. It’s not because I don’t have time for it, like I somehow convinced myself over the last few months, it’s because I’m convinced every (fictional) sentence I write, every idea I come up with, is being judged by someone who has either passed on into whatever afterlife there may (or may not) be or by the fictional characters I’m writing about.
It could be the result of unattended anxiety. And it probably is. But I found it odd because when I tried to rationalize my way out of it, I find no loophole.
It’s all spiraling out of control. This is why I’m a strong advocate for educating teachers on mental health. I’m a huge advocate of preventative care done right. Back in 1999, 2000, I wouldn’t have expected any of my teachers to predict this or to recognize those behaviors.
But it’s 2016. We have stylish electric cars, we have smartphones that interact with Virtual Reality headsets. We’ve teleported messages between particles.
I think we can give our teachers and the public a little more education on mental health.