your palms are sweaty, knees week, arms are heavy. there's vomit on your sweate-
okay. [SPOILER ALERT] this isn't the beginning of the story of how i became an international rap superstar. but rather, it's the story of how social anxiety can consume your life, and make you feel like a prisoner in your own body.
i want to be clear that i'm self-diagnosed. i've never talked to a professional about it, and i don't know if i ever will. my social anxiety comes in waves, and i'm able to function pretty normally most of the time. i can go to the store (but would rather go alone) and can go out to restaurants, the local farmer's market, and places like that with ease. i'm guessing that's because i don't have to actually interact with a bunch of people when i'm out because there is a large crowd there as well...but that's just a guess. there are groups of people that have known me for so long that i feel safe with them, and i'm thankful for their friendships and their understanding that there will be times where i have to leave the room and just be alone for a bit. and there's ryan, this incredible person who gets absolutely giddy when he's planning on entertaining or socializing with groups of people, who squeezes my hand and lets me do whatever i feel like i need to.
but for me, going somewhere where i'll be expected to conduct small talk, interact on a personal level, or have to feel like i need to be "on" becomes this personal hell. i've missed out on things like weekly coffee dates, church, girls' nights, and parties. sometimes it's just my mind that makes me feel this way, gives in to self-doubt and the belief that people inherently do not like me--and it stops there. and then there are the times where it continues to manifest physically, and i find myself unable to sleep, nauseous, and with a tightness in my chest that is so crushing that it makes me feel like i may die.
and i'm not saying that to be dramatic. that time, which can last anywhere from an hour to days, is torture--and i'm just consumed by it. one of the hardest things is KNOWING that it's irrational...but it doesn't feel that way.
i try coping by using different methods. sometimes i volunteer for tasks so that i am "forced" to commit and follow through because i'd be letting others down if i backed out. other times i pay for the activity, and since it would be a poor decision to waste the money, i go. and you know, i almost always have an incredible time when i DO go. i usually come back from whatever activity or interaction it is feeling drained, but really good.
but then there are the times that an event that i paid AND volunteered for, one that i've written on the calendar and looked forward to for weeks ends up causing so much anxiety that i just can't do it. that the thought of it literally makes me sick, with tear-filled eyes, and an elephant on my chest.
and then i make the call not to go. and almost instantly the weight is gone and i feel free.
i don't know what this all means. i probably should talk to someone, someone professional with a fancy diploma and certifications hanging in their office. and i may, one day.