Let me start off by saying that I am in no way, shape or form a psychologist. Nope, not even close. Actually, to be quite honest I do not have the slightest desire to even try to delve into the behaviour and mental processes of another human being. To me that is just plain exhausting. However, from time to time I get all sentimental (yes I can be a suck) and think about the one commonality that most of us share in this world. The desire for true Happiness. My quest for knowledge on such a topic is not necessarily because I myself am not happy (although, there have been times which I could tell you otherwise) but rather because of how desirable it is. The feeling of happiness is one of the most beautiful and amazing emotions that we are able to experience so it makes sense why we all yearn for it. But is it really attainable and if so, how does one capture and ensure it will never slip away? And an even bigger question lies within a paradox itself; if so many people are really searching for it then why are so many without it?
This post is not necessarily as the title suggests. In fact, I would like to make it clear that I do not advocate any kind of excessive drinking lifestyle that all of us young adults are so accustomed to. However, I would like to take a moment to discuss why one, such as myself, would feel more comfortable in a social setting after a few stiff ones. Everyone, meet my long life worst enemy: SOCIAL ANXIETY. For those of you who do not know what that is The Canadian Mental Health Association defines a social anxiety disorder as a mental illness in which a person may experience feelings of nervousness and a lack of comfort in “social situations”, such as meeting new people. Simply put, this definition alone screams MY LIFE…On the daily.
Let’s be honest for a minute, I am an extremely outgoing person and those who know me would argue that I am not this social outcast that I deem myself to be. Yes, I absolutely love the company of others and enjoy a good conversation every now and again. But let me tell you, I am probably the most “anti-social” social person you will ever meet. There is not a single moment that goes by where I am not constantly questioning every word, sentence or phrase that comes out of my mouth, whether or not people think I am slightly strange or awkward, or how to ensure a conversation does not result in that dreadful moment of silence. I know, I know, this all may sound silly right? Maybe I just need to tell myself to stop over analyzing and give my brain a break for once in a blue moon. Well unfortunately that is not the case. Because when your mind is in overdrive and you are on the verge of a panic attack at the slightest thought of having to communicate with someone (especially those you may not know) it is equivalent to an arachnophobic being enclosed in a confined space with over 1000 Poecilotheria rajaei tarantulas (for the love of God if you are afraid of spiders DO NOT Google this).
I am not trying to be dramatic. I am just trying to simplify what myself and many others experience with our brains.
- We ignore our phones (call it “telephobia” if you will). No, not because we are trying to personally offend you or because you did something wrong; actually this has nothing to do with you at all. The truth is we cannot handle the idea of maintaining a conversation, especially on a freaking phone.
- We prefer to spend time alone. Why? Because we do not have to constantly worry or criticize our social skills. Thus, nothing satisfies me more than some good ole one on one time with yours truly. I would like to think I am probably my own best friend.
- We DESPISE being the center of attention. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that we do not do any type of public speaking…So long, farewell and adios to any type of presentation or even “scenario” that focuses on us for that matter. Strangely, the oxymoron is that I am actually pretty good at presentations, but hey! No one said we were bad at these things. It is just that there is an intense battle going on inside our head during these moments that makes it an unpleasant experience.
Now that this terrifying nightmare has been illustrated to the best of my ability, I should point out that I know that I am not alone. In fact, there are many in this world that are completely aware of what I am talking about and even better they can sympathize with me (which is comforting to know). But just to be a little more specific, social anxiety disorder is actually one of the most common types of anxiety disorders, and is one of the most common mental illnesses in our world today. How common? Well I am glad you asked! Approximately 8% of people will experience symptoms of social anxiety disorder at some point in their life, which is quite a big number if you ask me. So let me just put it out there; if you happen to be one of the “lucky” ones among this 8%, do not fret because as you can already tell I TOTALLY feel you. Furthermore, to those who have been blessed enough with their outgoing nature I say embrace it! But every now and again remember people like me and how something as simple as having a conversation can be ones worst nightmare.
So next time you are personally bothered by my behaviour because you think that I am trying to be a snob, simply because I refuse to answer my phone (or respond to texts) on countless occasions (sorry!), decline an invite to an event (meeting new people terrifies me) or get extremely panicky when I am singled out (please do not make a scene), just remember that this is a “me VS my need for comfort” and not an ambition to see how quickly I can lose friends.
Although this struggle is real, I would like to think of it less as a “mental illness” and actually more of a reason for me to step out of my comfort zone. However, in the process this girl may need to shoot back a few while she is out, living her younger years and trying to keep her social life in check, despite this damn social impediment.
I had an interesting phone conversation with my great aunt sometime last fall. It had been quite a while since we spoke so it was nice hear what she has been up to. We did not talk for long but we discussed the things that were taking place in each of our lives at that point in time. Throughout our conversation I could not help but notice how she spoke about one topic in particular. One very close to her heart- My great uncle.