anxiety · life · ramblings · social anxiety

Who Am I Without Social Anxiety? 

Anxiety and social anxiety are parts of me I can’t change, but for a long time they’ve played (and still play) an overwhelming significance in how I deal with people and I do not know who I am without it invading into every pore and crevice of my life. Every aspect of my days, every breath I inhale and exhale during my waking moments, and every thought or perception that skips in my mind always finds a way to link themselves back to anxiety. My anxiety is like my shadow, but instead of it standing behind me, I’m the one trailing in its shadow. I don’t know why the first thought I have when interacting with people, even those who are speaking to me for the first time, is to assume they can see how mentally unwell I am.

The question, Who am I without social anxiety? came to me today at in an unlikely moment. I was on the subway taking an impromptu ride to buy some orchids from a store. I already have three mini orchids that I’ve been slowly but surely learning how to care for since last year. As I envisioned what kind of orchid flower colors I might find this time at the store, suddenly I became aware of the fact that for a moment I wasn’t consciously thinking about my anxiety. It’s possible I have done this before but this is the first time I was aware of it.

What it felt like, in my mind’s eye, was accidentally letting go of the hand railing as I was crossing a large bridge that actually is not unsafe, only for panic to prompt me a second later to grab onto the railing again out of fear and insecurity. It wasn’t wrong for me to let go of the railing or to feel happy for once instead of anxious. To me, not always feeling anxious makes me think there is something wrong with me. That’s how used I am to always having anxiety. I don’t want to be anxious yet can’t help but need it because I don’t know how to live without it telling me what to do. It’s almost like anxiety is the life consultant I never asked for but it’s been there since the very beginning of my life and I have it with me always whether I want to hear its opinion on a daily basis or not.

I can’t say one word to anyone without being mentally suffocated by anxiety telling me I just said the stupidest thing ever and need to hibernate in my house forever to live down the embarrassment. Anxiety tries to shove me into a corner and make me stay there. Why can’t I respond to someone’s question in a face-to-face conversation without anxiety mocking me no matter what I do say or what I don’t say? Why can’t I make plans without anxiety cajoling me to stay home where it’s “safe” from people? Why can’t I make a phone call without anxiety sneering at me about how dumb I will sound? Why can’t I meet a person’s gaze without anxiety putting ideas in my head about the terrible things the person is thinking about me?

This whole topic gives me the urge to laugh maniacally like a crazy person because of how absurd this is. Sometimes I write about my anxiety as if it’s a separate entity living inside me that I have almost no control over. It can feel like that at times. I wish it were that simple, to be able to blame my anxiety on a darkness within me that can be magically purged. I’ve been watching too much fantasy shows.

The second question to add to the first one is, Do I want to be anyone at all? I can’t even tell what my own personality is because it’s constantly overshadowed by anxiety.

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32 thoughts on “Who Am I Without Social Anxiety? 

  1. OMG. The feeling of embarrassment after talking to people is so familiar to me. Once, I spent a few hours leaving comments on blogs and I was so embarrassed that I didn’t go back to wordpress for 2 weeks.

    Sometimes, I’ll spend 3 days agonizing about some trivial conversation I had with a stranger. I can’t sleep, I can’t relax or think straight because I keep analyzing every single word. I keep critisizing myself for not saying “the right stuff”. Do you do that?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha, that’s a good method you have there. 🙂 My not so good method is to hit the send/reply button, cringe internally as I think, “what the hell have I done?” and immediately close the app so I don’t see the notifications section if someone responds. It helps to turn off the app notifications so I don’t get the number thing on the app icon, which forces me to actually open the app itself if I want to see what responses I got.

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      2. Lol, I close the app as well! Even if I’m only going to click back on and avoid the comments area. Ah, I’ve mastered the art of ignoring notifications. My phone always has a long line of them. Occasionally, I read the preview and then leave them for ages until I accidentally click on them. I used to turn off app notifications but then I’d find myself constantly checking anyway because I was anxious that I’d wake up to something terrible the next day.

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      3. I remember one time I read the preview of a comment someone left on one of my posts. It said something vague like, “I can’t believe you…” and the preview ended there, but I legitimately freaked out thinking someone had left me an angry comment about whatever I had written on the blog. I opened the app to look at the whole comment and it wasn’t remotely negative. Lol the things my mind does to me…

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      4. Lol! Oh gosh, I hate when that happens! I’m the kind of person that reacts instantly when I feel attacked but I’m also someone who needs to read through something two to three times because often I see one line and my mind runs with it and concocts something terrible. Even if the words weren’t in the comment. The number of times I’ve written a full on angry reply only to reread it and go, ‘wait…This comment doesn’t warrant this kind of response’ is truly ridiculous. Haha.

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      5. I read too fast too when I’m feeling anxious. It can definitely take me a few seconds longer to get out of the imagined negativity I think I see in the response only to reread and realize that’s not what the person is saying lol.

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      6. This works sometimes but not thinking about it is a problem for me. I feel like my mind hates me sometimes and likes to torture me. Even if I decide not to think about it, the thoughts creep in anyway, whatever I’m doing. Does that happen to you?

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Yeah, it’s touch and go. It does happen to me! Usually it depends on whether or not I have something else to do. If I’m idle, I do find myself thinking about it over and over and wondering why I said that and why I didn’t say that and also I always convince myself that I’ve said something stupid and then it just spirals. Often it takes me so long to write a comment (each word has to be just right ugh) that I have to force myself to do something else before I can get to that stage.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel embarrassed sometimes about how detailed I get with writing blog comments. It doesn’t bother me so much that I lose sleep over it, but I definitely feel self conscious if I leave a comment and I don’t get a reply or any follow up after a couple of days. The normal thing to think in this case is that the person is just too busy to respond and probably has other stuff going on. But the crazy part of me thinks, omg, I scared the person with my long a** comment and I’ve made an idiot of myself.

      I repeat trivial conversations that I have had in my head too. Just today, I mustered up the courage to say to a cashier, “have a good day”, and that’s been something I keep replaying to try and remember how I said the words, or how lame I sounded saying them. I definitely get what you mean by feeling as if you didn’t say the right stuff. The terrible part is I think we never are satisfied with whatever we say because we’ll always perceive what we said as “wrong”. 😐

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      1. Haa yes, the long detailed comments are my nightmare also.

        After leaving a few comments on your blog, I then spent about 2 hours last night constantly complaining to my husband that I hate myself. It’s gotten to a point where it’s just funny because it’s so ridiculous.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If it helps to know, I really liked reading your comments and seeing your point of view on different subjects. Your words have helped me to think about things differently. 🙂

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  2. I have definitely felt the same way before- that I have no personality but there is just depression and social anxiety inside of me. I have to convince myself that I am someone. But you know what? You are someone, lovely, with an amazing personality. You without your social anxiety is you through your blog, which is expressive and thoughtful and kind and relatable and genuine. This is you, and you are awesome.
    Cate xx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts, Cate. It does make me feel a little better knowing you can see my personality shine through even though the majority of my posts are about anxiety/social anxiety. The hard part is making myself believe that I have a personality lol. Maybe it’s a distortion in my perception of myself. I’m aware that what I see in myself might not how other people see me. I often forget that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m happy that you feel better:) because that’s the truth as I see it. It really is hard, though- adding together what others say about you to what you think of yourself. It’s difficult fooling yourself, or rather, your insecurities. Thank you so much for writing this, I can relate so much and it makes me feel a lot better about the whole I-don’t-have-a-personality thing lol xD

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve experienced what it’s like to go out in public with no anxiety whatsoever. It’s when I’m manic. “Everything is perfect, life is wonderful, everyone likes me, and all in the world is great”. Yeah… when I get home and reflect on the day and think the above statement, I know I need an antipsychotic. Once I come down the horror, guilt and shame of being that person is overwhelming and makes it hard to face the world and those people again. However, that “manic” person is the person people know and love. Only a very, very few are aware of the anxiety ridden, sometimes depressed person I am. If they meet me when I’m anxious, they think something is wrong, they think the manic person is the real me. It contributes to my feeling even lonelier and misunderstood. Because of the mania, I have learned to “act” like that person but I’m acting, it’s not me. It’s simply a horrible feeling to do that but over time I’ve accepted that is what I must do to have a social life which I crave.

    I wonder if a person who feels those things, perhaps tamped down a bit, is what it’s like to not have anxiety. If a person was always like that, never coming “out of it like I do” it would be… what… rewarding, happy? I don’t know. Everyone has problems. Even though I experience that, I still can’t relate or imagine, truly, what not having anxiety would feel like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s incredibly honest of you to talk about your experiences and share all this with me. I can imagine how being manic can give you what feels like being happy but it’s actually not. That must be very hard on you every day.

      I think I get that everyone on some level experiences anxiety, but there is an imbalance in everyone having it with the same intensity. It’s difficult for me to imagine what a “regular” person is like with mild anxiety, but I’d like to believe that person deals or copes with it easier without it affecting every aspect of their life, unlike me when I have anxiety before and after I perform any action or say anything to someone.

      Sometimes I have figments of what I think are childhood memories of feeling at my happiest and most carefree. Though I question if I’m imagining something that never was because I long for that feeling so much, or am I truly remembering a time when I was at peace…?

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      1. My childhood memories are of being painfully shy. Then, of all things, my mother enrolled me in an acting class and I got involved with a children’s musical theater. Auditions were horrifying. I even took a class on how to audition but it was still terrifying.

        I was recently asked to do an interview for a TV station for a cause that I love but had to turn it down because of my fears which jumble my thoughts.

        It is what it is. I’m glad I’m able to function as well as I can. I don’t have the diagnosis of social anxiety, officially, but I think it’s because I do function so well. I chalk it up to my age. I’ve had decades to learn, to figure out how to maneuver without falling apart, etc. I also was in the military which doesn’t allow for anything but showing up. It was almost like boot camp for learning to live despite social anxiety. Sadly, a way to survive that was developing an eating disorder. The overwhelming stress probably contributed to starting bipolar. So was it good or bad? Who knows.

        For me it’s just impossible to look back in regards to this because of the overwhelming variables. I suspect though that if the extreme shyness was handled in a different way, things might have turned out differently.

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  4. I like the idea of wondering what one would be like without social anxiety. In some ways the social anxiety is so familiar to me. There is some measure of comfort and reassurance in familiarity. When I am anxious around other people it’s a feeling I’m used to, I know how to handle it. It’s a feeling that sucks but it’s at least familiar. I understand it and have been dealing with it for so long. It is such a part of me that I don’t know who I would be without it. Would I even be me anymore? Interesting food for thought, thank you.

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    1. I completely agree with you about social anxiety giving me a measure of comfort and reassurance because it’s so familiar. I wish I could be good at handling it though. In some ways I can but for others I still struggle with it.

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    1. Thanks for visiting my blog. I’ll be sure to check out your post soon since I’m curious about what your experience with anxiety has been like.

      Being too anxious to speak sucks. I used to have the same problem and I still kind of do in some situations. It feels like the more I push myself to say something, I can just about barely say the one thing I had in mind and after that my brain goes blank as panic sets in from how much effort it took for me to speak while I was feeling incredibly anxious.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is something that I have really struggled with also but am actually beginning to find myself and it feel really nice. The time where I feel myself the most is at home when I’m comfortable and by myself where my mind isn’t influenced by anyone or anything around me. I also think that having social anxiety for such a long time does make you dependent on it and in a weird way & you feel like it protects you which it really doesn’t. The amount of times I’ve wanted to speak or do something but my anxiety has told me I’m stupid & that I’ll embarrass myself which you could perceive as it being ‘protective’ or alternatively holding you back. Anyway, it’s always nice to read posts like this that are so relatable which makes you realise you’re not the only one going through this.

    I wish you all the best

    x

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    1. I feel most comfortable at home as well, although even at home I am not 100% at ease if it means I have to be around other people. I am an introvert at heart so there are times I feel relaxed and happy doing my own thing sitting in a cafe and reading a nice book or working on a new blog entry. I’d say I have days like that at home too, but the point where it becomes a problem is when I lean on staying home as a crutch, like when I have plans to go somewhere to socialize and even before I go, I’m obsessing about how things will be for me once I’m actually there so I get so self-conscious that I end up staying in.

      It’s great that you are finding yourself. I still have no clue who I am. It’s so hard to separate my actions and thoughts from my anxiety and/or feel as if everything I do or say is being controlled by anxiety.

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  6. Reading this post and hearing you say ‘who am I with out social anxiety?’ Has made more conscious of my own thoughts. Anxiety for me has been debilitating yet after having it for so long I have wondered who I would be without it. My anxiety is like a rollercoaster I have periods where it is really bad and debilitating and then I usually start taking my medication and it is a lot more bearable and my life is liveable again. But when I’m on my medication I always think why have I stopped this in the past when it works so well.
    But if I accidentally stop taking it my anxiety becomes worse then if I just wasn’t on it, and in those moments I start to think who am I with out my anxiety and it becomes very hard to start taking the drugs again. Even though my anxiety is at it’s worse I wish it would go away, I feel suffocated and like I’m at breaking point. Anxiety feels like my identity and I become so anxious of losing myself I find it hard to take the drugs again. When I’m on the drugs it amazes me that I can even for a second think that Who I am is defined by my anxiety.
    Crazy how powerful anxiety is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s quite a difficult time you are having with juggling anxiety and trying to manage it on and off medication. Have you always been on medication?

      To a lesser degree, I can relate, in that I feel like I have no personality without my anxiety because I’ve never been able to live one second of the day without at least some anxiety, whether very intense or mild in level, telling me what to do. I think it’s also bad for me to have this dependency on anxiety because although I don’t want to be anxious, if I find there is a moment in my day when I don’t have anything to feel anxious over, I tend to go looking for something to be anxious about because I’ve been in such a constant state of “always anxiety” that not having it at any given time just doesn’t feel normal. Like you, I do think it’s painstaking to separate myself from my anxiety and being afraid of who I am without it. For a long time, anxiety has been all I have had. What scares me most about wanting (or not wanting) to know who I am without anxiety is fearing that there’s nothing redeemable or likable about myself underneath it all because anxiety has eaten up most of my potential.

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      1. Yes, it is very easy to feel defined by not just our anxieties but anxiety itself. As a Christian myself, my identity should be in the fact that I am a Christian that is saved by Christ and while that is what I believe my anxiety is so powerful I loose sight of that and at times can fear loosing myself if I loose my anxiety.
        It must be really hard for you to feel so defined by anxiety that you seek it out and feel like there is something wrong without it. If I didn’t have my faith I feel like I would be the same.
        Anxiety is a powerful thing that allows us to be trapped in a mind full of ‘unhelpful thoughts’ with no way to filter them out. If you look at the brain of someone suffering from anxiety, it is being controlled by the emotional part and the logic and reasoning part is turned off.
        So it makes sense as to why you can feel like anxiety defines you, because in a sense anxiety defines the way your brain works (at that present time).
        My anxiety has made me the person I am today, the bad and the good, I feel I am more compassionate and resilient because of it not spite it.
        We are who we are because of our experiences (including anxiety).
        Even if our experiences change we are still that person from before we are just changing who we become not who we are.

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      2. I have been on medication on and off for about 6 years. This was when I was diagnosed with severe anxiety, I was really against the idea but went through with it any way.
        It really helps me be in a place that I can actually do things to reduce my anxiety. If I forget to take it however I can feel worse then when I’m not on it and then I spiral and fear taking it, after a bit I’m back to my normal anxious self and I dont want to take it again because I’m worried I will not take it and spiral again, I also haven’t had any good experiences with psychologists and when you are on medication the doctor wants you to see one, that puts me iff it too.
        Its not until I get to the point that anxiety is too debilitating that I start to consider it again.
        Medication isn’t something I would go around telling anyone and everyone to take but if common therapies don’t work then it can help put you in a place where they can work.

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