I'm meeting the new person in the office kitchen. My temples are pounding. There's sweat running down my back. I feel like my eyes are about to fall out the front of my face.
I shake their hand but I can't remember their name because I'm too busy going through escape options in my head. I'm thinking about hiding behind the plant, wondering if I would survive a leap out of the second floor window, and fantasising about a zombie invasion that would break this party up.
I've got social anxiety. This happens a lot.
Tonight I'm at a social gathering with my friend. I didn't want to come, normally I wouldn't, but I was feeling brave. Now I'm regretting it. That's the worst thing about social anxiety, things that are supposed to be fun are scary. I wish I could enjoy going to parties, but to me, cancelling a social plan is the most relieving feeling in the world.
Social anxiety is confusing, because even though I'm not enjoying being here, it would have been worse if I didn't get invited. Because then I'd know nobody likes me. I really do want to make friends, but I find it hard to talk to people - sometimes I find it hard to even be around other people. It's not just shyness either, it's a physical reaction. And it's hard to explain because sometimes I can come across as outgoing, like at work I can give presentations, so people don't really understand me when I say I'm anxious.
Honestly, it's exhausting.
It's hard not being able to connect with other people. I'm so afraid of doing the wrong thing, being judged, or laughed at, that I isolate myself or 'act weird'. Sometimes that makes people think I'm a jerk, and that hurts. I'm not surprised that a lot of people with social anxiety suffer from depression, I can get so low.
I can't force myself to stop feeling this way, I wish I could, so being told to 'snap out of it' or forced into awkward situations 'for my own good' doesn't help. I really value friends who let me share my feelings with them. Even if they don't really understand, it makes me feel good that they care enough to listen.
For me, the struggle IS real, but I'm slowly working towards getting better. I've been seeing a therapist and it's helping. I'm learning new techniques to deal with my anxiety and manage how I feel about social situations. It's not a magic cure, but I'm starting to feel better about things. Like tonight, I actually came to a party, that's a big step for me.