thoughts and questions about my experience of social anxiety
I haven't visited this site in about a year, but recently I've been thinking a bit about my experience with social phobia and was curious about others' reaction to my situation.
I'm 32, female. I've always been pretty shy and quiet, uncomfortable in crowds, not too fond of small talk, avoidant of social situations, but it wasn't until I was around the age of 27 that I started to become anxious about interacting with people in general. This was when I began working in law firms and experienced some bullying from coworkers. I was also working in harsh, cutthroat environments where coworkers and bosses would play mindgames and use psychological intimidation and manipulation tactics to gain power, respect, job advancement, etc. Ever since then I've been pretty fearful of people and tend to expect the worst when dealing with someone new.
There was a slight precursor to this at age 26, when I started a graduate program. There was a social mixer-y thing to become acquainted with new people in the department. I was very nervous and had poor social skills when interacting with people; had a particularly bad encounter with one person who was not very nice to me during conversation, which made me sort of fearful of talking to others there.
There was also a kind of precursor to this from ages 22-25, when I was in law school, and only infrequently socialized with one other student--I felt very different from the other law students, found them irritating, mean-spirited, and cruel, and so I spent these three years in near isolation, living a very solitary life. (But I was not anxious at that time of, say, making purchases at bookstores or being in public places in general--I currently have difficulty making small talk with cashiers, waiters, etc., not knowing what to say, finding it hard to smile genuinely and to be pleasant.)
During college (18-22), I was not socially anxious per se (I was OK with talking to professors during office hours and eating lunch with them, no self-consciousness at all there, but I made few friends and was not really interested in socially much--was content to spend time alone.)
What I dislike the most about my situation, past and present, is that
1) I haven't really been able to have boyfriends, date, have normal relationships with members of the opposite sex, which is really frustrating and prevents from me living a normal, happy, fulfilled life.
2) I haven't been able to develop friendships, meet new people, go out, socialize with friends, etc. The only people I do activities with are family members when I am visiting with them or they are visiting me. This is also preventing me from living a normal, happy, fulfilled life.
3) I haven't been able to find fulfilling work because of the social hurdles (e.g., informational interviewing, learning about careers via shadowing, interning, etc., developing good references/relations w/ co-workers and bosses at jobs, going out to lunch with coworkers/bosses because of SA-related problems. )
I've tried a few things to help. Celexa (for depression and anxiety), but it didn't help with SA per se. Talk-therapy, which at times helped with major depression and some anxiety, but no long-term effect. Group therapy, which had a sort of strange effect (I felt OK talking to others in this group, but rarely felt as I though I were connecting to others, and found the conversions generally dull and unproductive).
So, I'm currently unemployed (trying to move out of the legal profession), am becoming exceptionally bored with my sister's company (with whom I am as of late going out with--meals, movies, shopping, etc.--I really long for a different perspective and personality to interact with and experience the world with), and only fantasize about having a boyfriend. I don't know what to do at this point! I'm also very lonely, feel disconnected from the world and from myself, extremely bored (with life, myself, how I spend my time), and actually wish that I could engage in socializing, meeting new people, dating, etc., which it seems would make life a lot more interesting and exciting.
A few other relevant, random thoughts:
- I'm thinking about returning to talk-therapy but with a different therapist. I've had bad experiences with therapists in general, so I'm reluctant to start again, but really don't know what to do/try at this point.
- One of the reasons I don't like interacting with people, presently, is because I haven't accomplished much in my life to date, haven't achieved any career success or rewards for special talents, etc., so I have a weak sense of self and am very self-conscious about how I come across. (E.g., does this person think I'm intelligent? Attractive? Etc.)
- Another reason I don't like interacting with people is that I am usually bored. When I do come across someone who interests me (conversationally or otherwise), that person is usually "out of my league," I become intimidated and avoidant.
- Another reason is that I am in a sort of "going nowhere" state at the age of 32, and so do not feel like explaining myself and who I am to new people, since of myself I am not particularly proud nor pleased.
Any thoughts welcome. Thanks for reading!