Looking back I see now that the social anxiety I have has been with me for years, as far back as my memories take me I see myself in public, I see how I come across as confident, Happy and full of courage. The inner me, however is totally different.
Today we had a staff Christmas party, I was chosen to be one of the suspects in the murder mystery case we needed to in teams, solve. I was in my element, acting as “Fifi”, my character, who was a vivacious, loud French Teacher ( who eventually, we found out also murdered the head master and the student she loved!) was a lot of fun, and when the day was over I realised that as a lover of drama and acting, being able to become someone else, someone who was confident and seductive, was a true escape.
Social anxiety can be crippling, everyday activities can become traumatic, for some it reaches levels of not being able to go out of the house, spend time with family, friends and others. For me, it is all about the way I look and how I feel about myself, my main anxiety is centred around family events, weddings, bar mitzvah’s etc where other people from the community will be in attendance, it is a true fear, one that can drive me to buy a new outfit just for that occasion, fear of being judged for dressing differently and not fitting the “box” of what is considered the norm in our community. I can not relax, I struggle to breath, and more often then not make an excuse to leave early.
The school playground is a huge issue for me, I have a great group of friends, mums of my daughters friends, others whom I have known for many years, but in the playground, when I do not have who to talk to my social anxiety rises to really stressful levels, I look around and in my mind see that everyone has got who to talk to, I will look for my “safe” people, the ones I know I can always chat to, solely for the purpose of not feeling like an outcast, whilst the rational side of me tells me that I do not need to be constantly surrounded by people in order to feel worthwhile my social anxiety means I am feeling vulnerable, insecure and unattractive.
Most people who have social anxiety create an alter ego, the alter ego is the person I think we wish deep down that we can be. Confident, popular and fun. We may already seem like that to other people, we might even be known for certain things we do to help the school, for example we will volunteer to be class reps, organise the parties and more.
Work is one of the only places I feel secure, and perhaps it is because the work I do means I have a lot of interaction with highly vulnerable people, maybe that is why today I loved being “Fifi” because I know that my work colleagues accept and value people who have so many different issues.
In my own home I feel safe, I feel secure in the knowledge that I can be a sociable , likeable person but take me out of my home environment, beneath my outward persona, is someone, like so many others who suffer from social anxiety who is constantly worrying, looking around for safety, wishing someone would approach me instead of me approaching them.
Christmas/Chanukah is fast approaching, a time where parties are held, there is an air of happiness all around, but there are so many people, including myself who at this time of year suffer more then any other time, the pressures, the “forced happiness” can be debilitating.
I would love to hear other people’s experiences of social anxiety, especially at this time of the year where social anxiety can spiral out of control.