I've had what I think is a mild case of social anxiety disorder. It was probably at it's worst in secondary school (or high school) when I used to experience symptoms such as going extremely red in the face, sweating a little on my forehead and sometimes going faint. It would mainly happen when a girl talked to someone or me I don't know very well talked to me. The worst times were the first three years of secondary school. I had no confidence at all, not a single girl had looked at me my whole life and I'd slipped out of all the top sets in most subjects.
To avoid social situations I used to pretend to be all laidback, passive and vacant if you like. I would always avoid eye contact and I would usually answer people in a lazy drawl to sound uninterested, thereby hopefully shutting the door on any would-be conversation. People used to call me ignorant for avoiding conversations and arrogant for my often sarcastic responses and passive body language. Obviously itís just a persona, and underneath it all I was always trying to think of something interesting to say, something that would make an impression on everyone, but I couldnít. I was like a swan; calm and serene on the surface but underneath always struggling. I would always be listening to other peoples conversations for one that I felt I could contribute, to and waiting for an opportunity to say something on the off-chance one of those rare occasions materialised where I had the balls to speak up came along. I canít really explain these rare occasions, sometimes the inhibition could just be fought by sheer will power. This started to happen more frequently and eventually I had a number of people in my year group who I was comfortable with.
Things did better after the 3rd year of secondary school. I started hanging around with a group of lads from school. In all honesty, they weren't exactly nice people, they were mainly troublemakers who liked to smoke green and go about vandalising the streets. I liked it though, they all claimed that I was funny "outside of school" and so I kept hanging around with them. It was just nice to be part of a group of friends after isolating myself for the best part of 3 years, spending every evening and weekend alone watching films or on the PSOne. They also used to play football (or soccer ) alot so I lost a hell of alot and looked better. This turned out to be the biggest step away from SAD, since I looked better people would treat me better and I started talking and meeting with girls a lot.
So compared to the rest of my life the last two years of school were blissful. I had made alot of new friends and I had a reputation for coming out with side splitting one-liners and sarcastic comments. I often used to ask what was so funny (due to the lack of belief that I actually <I>was<I> funny) and one person said ďitís not just what you say, itís your timing and deliveryĒ. Getting perfect timing and delivery was a by-product of SAD.
When I left school and got my first part time job things got even better. I made myself popular with most of my colleagues and all the supervisors thought I was an excellent worker and would nearly always give me as many hours as I wanted. I was amazed at how Iíd turned my life around without any help at all and proved many doubters wrong. This was probably part of the reason why how things then started to go tits-up again. I became arrogant, stubborn and probably too amazed at how Iíd broke down all the barriers between me and everyone else and finally become a normal person.
After I left my job for an Apprenticeship that led to a decent-looking career I seemed to go back to square one. I often think it was my decision to start smoking green. Green somehow increases my social inhibitions. Either that or itís brought back the disorder that I thought I was rid of. Thereís no physical symptoms like sweating anymore, but the little voice came back with most of itís favourite put-downs and think-agains. Why would they wanna hear that? What makes you think theyíd be interested? It might sound right coming from him but not from someone like you. Donít flirt with her, sheíll think your just after some, sheíll think youíre a player, sheís probably heard about you from other girls. Donít try and impress them with big words, theyíll think you show off. Donít try and impress them with slang, colloquialisms or fad words when they just want you to talk properly.
I feel like Iím back where I started. The group of mates I spoke of earlier in the post have disbanded since school finished, everyone going entirely their own way. Thereís one or two I still talk with and hang with occasionally, but nothing more. For the greater part of my free time Iím sat staring at a laptop/tv screen through a funky green smoke screen, with the same group of people all the time. Iím simply clueless how to make more friends and rebuild my social life again. Most of the lads at work are quality and a good laugh, but most of them have 30 years on me and so obviously we have very little in common so itís not like Iím going to make any close friends from work. And this is the part I really hate; but if I stopped smoking green so I can fight SAD again I would have no friends to spend time with (since all they wanna do is smoke) and if I keep smoking the SAD will worsen probably to the point where I wonít even know itís there, finally accepting it as the norm and the way itís always going to be. I donít want this to happen so I need to stop smoking, or atleast only smoke occasionally by myself or whenever Iím with my stoner friends only.
Trouble is, where do you go to meet new friends? Most people my age make new friends in college or at their part-time jobs but this is a lot easier for them for the simple fact that thereís more young people and more like-minded people for them to associate themselves with than there is at my workplace. (Average age of workers on the shop floor is in the late 40s and I am 20).
Anyway these are my experiences with SAD so far. Iíve read through a lot of other peoples troubles before posting and I can safely say that I am nowhere near an extreme case and I really feel for some of you who seem to be worse off than me. Any feedback would be appreciated. I donít expect someone to come up with a magical solution or anything (if only, ey?) but itíd be good to read some replies. :)
You're right--most people meet friends through work and school. So I don't know what to tell you except that this website is a good place to talk with people who can relate to each other. When I first joined, I was very lonely, but having a place to go--even if online--helped a lot. It made me feel more connected to someting out in the world.
My SA is bad enough that I can't work, so I don't have the workplace, but back when I could work in my early 20s, I made a lot of friends there. Even with the "old" people. :D There was a man I became very good friends with who was 30 yrs older than me. But yeah, that doesn't happen every day; it's not a typical experience.
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