I’ve never been diagnosed with social anxiety. I often refer to what I feel in certain social situations as ‘social anxiety,’ but it’s done much in the same way some people say ‘I’m depressed’ after their great aunt has passed away; it’s probably true, but it’s not an official diagnosis and is in no way meant to be lumped with stories where the feature is how to handle mental illness. Note that neither of these situations is at all the same as referring to the term in a completely misinformed manner (like sugar jokes about diabetes or moaning about depression after missing your favorite TV show). Neither one is good. I’m just now realizing that as I’m typing, so you know, fml. I will, from now on, call it ‘social stress.’ Done. Ok.
One of the more pervasive ways this social stress presents itself is when I’ve just become friends with someone I really like. I super like them. I think they’re awesome and every second talking to them is the best ever and it should never stop. This feeling is always accompanied by a roiling undercurrent of failure. The knowledge that if this person were to hurt me, I would feel it in every part of my existence, the knowledge that I would sacrifice valuable things to keep this person, and the worry that I would let that compromise travel past my sanity and my health, are concerns that prevent me from being 100% myself with new friends that rock my world.
Bear in mind that when I say ‘100% myself,’ I don’t mean I hide anything. Ahahahaha no. I mean that I have a hard time trusting. I worry. It’s not 100% me, because there is a part of me that trusts completely, and I panic over letting that part roam the uncharted hills of new intimacy. I think the panic is from repeated messages I got as a kid and in my first intimate relationship where I was not heard and my humanity was negotiable according to terms that were not my own. I’m a shady fuck, but I don’t know that my panic over trust is a genetic thing; it feels like a mechanism I eventually embraced because refraining from trusting someone has worked more in my favor than not having a mechanism at all.
I had a period of time where the trust-panic place dominated thoroughly and mercilessly. It was years in any single relationship before I could get to a place where I would feel ok about speaking up for myself (I always spoke up; but it was a huge fucking debacle each time). I eventually merged out of that panic driven place (distance from shitty relationships), and into one where I felt the panic as a symptom, like a stuffy nose that is annoying but sadly not enough to get you a sick day. I would wear it around the friendship and hope that all the emotional Kleenex wasn’t off-putting. Just lately, I got to a place where I could feel the panic leave. I’d be mid conversation and all of a sudden realize, ‘I can say this thing. I can say this bit of me and it will be ok.”
I always knew my trust stuff wasn’t about the other person. I knew it was something I encouraged within myself in order to protect that which I value most about my humanity. I guess I’m excited? Maybe being ok with saying my piece means I am finally in a place where I feel strong enough to protect it myself, should the need arise. Maybe it means that the graves in my soul for my stolen, slaughtered bits, have finally become a part of me. Maybe it means that I am whole again.