I experience dread for hours or days before most social events. I try to picture where I'm going and what it will be like, to the point that I end up basically rehearsing it. I don't get anxious about going to work because I can hide in my office unless I have a meeting. I also don't get anxious about parties with people I know very well, especially if I've been to the place before and I can picture it (plus I self-medicate with alcohol at most social events). My biggest triggers are one-on-one social occasions (with anyone except my husband, because I don't trust that anyone else accepts me unconditionally). One-on-one feels like the most pressure to perform. The bigger the group gets, the better I feel... unless it's mostly strangers, and then it freaks me out because small talk makes me feel really self-conscious/awkward/boring. If I have to do any public speaking, I can dread it for months in advance. I was offered to teach a class, and my dread became so severe that I was relieved when I had another excuse to turn it down.
I'm so envious of people who can just say, "Sure, why not?" when they are invited out. I have to think really carefully about whether I'm up to it. The fear sets in immediately. I definitely say no more often than yes. Sometimes I worry that my close friends are going to give up on me, or think I'm selfish and talk about me behind my back. My social anxiety has increased with a bout of depression I've been dealing with the past month, and I'm not regularly communicating with most people in my life. I feel guilty, but then I remember everyone is busy and they haven't reached out in a while either.
What frustrates me most about social anxiety is that being around people, even those I love, often feels more uncomfortable than pleasurable. So I find myself being relieved when I can escape. However, I tell myself that I do feel better after I've been around people, whether or not it was enjoyable. It's like taking medicine. And I try to have hope that someday I will cultivate a social life that is enjoyable and less overwhelming.