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Short piece I wrote today, unfinished, much like myself.

Posted 23rd November 2011 at 17:04 by Matt_1983

Of all the life affecting conditions, problems, illnesses, addictions or diseases that effect so many of us at one point or another, I believe that social anxiety disorder is up there with the worst. What makes it relatively unique in terms of how a person suffers from SAD is that we often suffer in silence, without much understanding or support and very little sympathy. By its very nature it renders people with intense shyness, some more so than others, which makes the very act of talking about the problem very difficult, and many simply never do. This results in an affliction that affects so many of us simultaneously being one that so few of us hear about or understand.

If you happen to be an alcoholic, a disease that is also often misunderstood but yet more readily discussed, as long as you also do not happen to be socially anxious or extremely shy, then you can turn to friends and family and doctors and support groups for support and advice. Likewise if you were born in a wheelchair but happen to be by nature outgoing and confident, is that really a worse life to live compared to a fully fit yet badly socially anxious person? Its perhaps not right to compare these different negative conditions, but I think it serves a way to express how low having social anxiety can drag a person down, to the point where I myself as a long term sufferer regularly find myself longing to swap my SA with any of the formentioned problems. Id rather be anything but this.

Its my day off work today. Yes I work, which is a constant surprise to myself and I often wonder just how I ever managed to force my shy way through the hellish process of application and interview and induction day and first day. And how have I managed to survive for 4 years? 4 years working with the same people who have seen for themselves my intense shy and awkwardness, who have tried and failed to coax conversation out of me, and after a while given up trying. How do I put myself through the often daily feelings of intense anxiety just on my walk to work and then throughout the day. Shallow breathing, butterflies in the stomach and a pounding and jittery heartbeat are all now very close acquaintances.

So back to my day off. Its just after 1.30pm and I've not yet left my flat. So far I've listened to the radio, watched a bit of tv and a dvd, browsed the internet and had a large lunch, designed to fill the hole in my life anxiety created. Quite frankly I'm so bored; bored of being bored. Everyday I have thoughts of things I want to do, fun things, constructive activities that "normal" people do without a second thought. Having social anxiety prevents me from even attempting to attempt doing a lot of these things. Even when I do make an effort and push myself and face my anxiety head on ill almost always have some sort of anxiety, even if it is combined with a sense of achievement and happiness for having overcome my arch enemy anxiety. But that sense of achievement, the positive thoughts and feelings I get when I have pushed myself into a situation, are never enough to produce the motivation to live every day in that way. People say that the only way to overcome a phobia or fear is to face it head on. Years ago I believed this was probably true and battled to achieve it. It took me a long time to face life enough to the point where I'd consistantly put myself in such terrifieing situations as a day at work, a chat with the woman in the local shop, a night out with "friends" whereby I don't turn up after firstly getting drunk at home. What I've found has been so disheartening. Yes, if you face a fear head on it will usually leave you feeling happier and pleased that you did it. But I've never faced a fearful situation to the point where I'm no longer anxious again when in that situation. And its such a set back for my motivation to overcome my SA. What is the point in putting in so much intense effort, to put myself through what in the chemical riddle of my mind is a truly awful experience, when there is no real benefit afterwards.

I have missed out on so much in my life so far. If I'd not had social axniety I know that my life would be so different to how it has turned out. Likely I would have followed up my six A's at GCSE with better than the two E's I managed at A-Level. During my A-Level year I was such a mess with shyness and anxiety that I can't quite believe I got through without quitting completely, or something much worse. I often bunked lessons, usually to avoid any sort of group discussion or presentation work. When in lessons I'd sit and not talk, confused and mute, unable to fathom why I couldn't chat as the others did. At this point in my life I'd not yet discovered the term 'social anxiety'. I thought I was just uniquely shy, that I'd been born with some sort of undiagnosed condition that anyone I told of wouldn't understand. At break and lunchtimes I'd sit in the toilets alone, or wander into the woods behind school and hide from the smokers who also used it as their retreat. To look at me you'd never know my anguish. I was fairly normal looking and dressed quite well. I used to think I looked like a member of the "cool" group without having the personality to join them. I used to strongly believe if I'd not been shy I would have been in that group, you know the one with the pretty girls and sporty guys and the funny ones who seemingly have it so easy in life, who get the girls and laugh and play, no worries in the world.

I went to university, somehow scraping into the West of England after a phonecall from my dad to the admissions office. I had such hope on going there, that it would be a chance to have a fresh start in life, that no one would know me and I could be anybody I wanted to be. I'd ditch the shyness even if I had to pretend. As long as I could get through the nerves on the first day and keep up my act for a day or two all would be good. I thought that by the time I'd made friends being "fake Matt" it would be too late for them to drop me upon the realisation of the real me, and anyway by then id be totally cured. But it didn't turn out that way, obviously. To get through that first day, a day that I'd spent weeks of agonising nervousness waiting for, I had to down a bottle of vodka just to take the edge off the anxiety. Yet it did nothing for my shyness and I locked myself in my room whilst my new flatmates chatted and got to know eachother outside. Hearing their laughs drift through my door and penetrate my silent room of pain are memories ill never forget. That awful moment I realised this was how university life was going to go. No fresh starts, just a continuation of the misery of school. I lasted 5 months, during which I drank myself into some nasty situations and cried myself to sleep many a night. My loneliness was compounded by where I was living, surrounded by seemingly happy students on all sides, the person I wanted to be was all around yet so far away. The door of my flat, 4a Waverley House, will forever have an imprint in my mind, a locked barricade between me and the happiness of life.
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  1. Old Comment
    Silver's Avatar
    Thats a good post. I was the same at university thought it would be a fresh start and it never was. At least you have travelled a lot though. Thats an experience sa can not take away from you. Hope your doing ok :-)
    Posted 23rd November 2011 at 19:07 by Silver Silver is offline

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