Why social anxiety doesn’t define me

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                                            My whole life I always thought I was a weirdo, I just thought that there is something wrong with me and the reason I couldn’t make friends easily or have conversations with people was that I’m just strange. When you’re a parent, social anxiety doesn’t seem like the first thing you would get your child checked for. I don’t blame my parents because this is something they never knew about in our family. My mom suffers from depression, and when you have depression different things like anxiety and depression can be passed on to your children. I don’t blame my mom for this either because it isn’t something you think about.

                              Today is mental health day, and I just watched a youtube video that inspired me to talk about my journey, I have talked about it a few times but not in detail. So here it is: I have social anxiety.

                 I know on some level everyone struggles with anxiety at one point or another in life but for me, it is different. I got diagnosed when I was a freshman in college, and I thank God everyday that I finally found out what it is and was able to take control of my life. Let me start at the beginning, I have always been a tiny person, I am short, and I was slowly losing all the weight I gained through high school. I say “was” because I am pregnant now, and I am learning to accept that I am gaining weight but its healthy for me and my baby.

                 In high school my life started changing, I remember so clearly, I was on the bus home one day from my freshman year of high school and something switched. I became totally introverted, I no longer wanted to spend enormous amounts of time with other people, I couldn’t look people in the eye and I stayed in my room all the time. Now, growing up, I showed some signs of it of course, I didn’t like people touching me, I liked being alone but it intensified that day. I was pretty skinny but, something in my brain suddenly started telling me that I was fat and that I needed to lose weight, and I started to destroy my body and not taking care of it.

                       That was one way my mind was reacting to the anxiety, since I didn’t know what it was, it was just my weight,   suddenly I was just fat. Now, having people in your own home telling you not to eat things and asking things like “Do you really need to eat that? You’re going to be fat” doesn’t help this. IN more ways than one this totally messed me up, and I started staying in my room, I didn’t exercise or do sports like I used too. I gained a bunch of weight from staying in my room all the time and not moving around much, I remember that even with my friends my hands would get sweaty and I wouldn’t touch anyone and I sweat more than all the girls around me so I never wore bright colors.

                       My wardrobe slowly changed to all black, I didn’t even wear white. I wore baggy clothing so no one could see my body and sweat, I obsessed with my weight and beat myself up over one cookie. The four years of high school, not telling anyone I was feeling, really damaged me. I felt like I couldn’t talk about it with my parents because they would think I am messed up or just looking for attention. So I kept quiet. I just always told people that Im awkward and weird. People thought that I was mean, and stuck up because I was quiet and kept to myself.

                         Finally, I got into my freshman year of college, and my english professor explained that he has generalized anxiety. When I read my paper to him to check for errors, he said “I just told you if you fixed these few things you could have an A, and you still look like a deer in headlights.” I finally started to talk about how I felt around people, and the whole time I couldn’t look him in the eye at all. He gave me the number of a doctor and I told my mom about what I was going through and she encouraged me to see the doctor. I went through a bunch of tests and conversations and finally the doctor sat me down and explained something called “Social anxiety”. It can be quiet of years and then one event one thing can trigger it, and that it can stem from genetics, like if your parent has depression it can be a side effect of that.

                             He explained that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain and that the side effects of my anxiety came in many forms, my OCD, my physical traits like sweaty palms and extreme headaches. He taught me breathing exercises and about an herbal supplement that could help with controlling my anxiety. He said if my anxiety ever got worse, that I should come in for a prescription. I eventually went in and got the prescription but I only take it on days when I feel like its going to be bad. The herbal supplement and breathing exercises really helped, but I think the thing that really helped was growing in my relationship with Christ and learning that theres nothing wrong with me. I am a normal person, but I happen to struggle with social anxiety. It took a long time but I had to learn that my social anxiety doesn’t define me, I remember telling a roommate about my anxiety one night, and the next day she started treating me different and that really hurt because I don’t need sympathy I don’t need pity, I just need people to be there when I have panic and anxiety attacks.

                     I think thats the worse thing to do, please don’t ever treat someone who confides in you differently, chances are they just need a friend to lean on when they go through rough days. I don’t need my husband to treat me like a fragile person, I just need him on days where I feel like I can’t take control of my mind and what its telling me. Thankfully, he is great at that, he treats me like the person that I am. I am Monica, I love life, my passions are people knowing Christ and having a relationship with him, writing, music, and painting. I have fears, Im scared of gaining weight, Im scared of lighting, I am scared of losing people. I am a person, who just happens to have social anxiety. My anxiety, thankfully, does not rule my life. I am not my anxiety. It is a serious thing and I am not trying to make light of it, my anxiety really took an emotional and physical attack on me, and I will have bad days here and there but, I am growing, I am learning and becoming stronger.

                    I was able to get my weight under control, I still obsess about it more than I should, but once again, I am a tiny person. I started eating healthy again and exercising, and I remembered how much I loved exercising. I am having to accept the pregnancy weight gain but I know that Ill be able to lose it once the baby is born, I just have to continue to eat healthy and exercise.

                               If someone in your life has a mental illness, just be there for them. Just love them. Do not treat them like they are fragile because they will resent you for the rest of your life if you do. Just be there.  Social anxiety is getting more light now and people are learning about it, which is great, but that doesn’t lessen how it affects people. That doesn’t make it okay because its not. It ruins peoples lives.

Please, love the people around you. You never know who needs to know that they are loved.

Much love,

M

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