A Living Oxymoron: An Extrovert with Social Anxiety
That was the nice term my teachers used to tell my parents I couldn't stop talking during class. I have always been an outgoing person and I've never known a stranger. I didn't care if you were young or old, I probably didn't even care if we were speaking the same language. I just loved to talk.
Through the years my gift for gab hasn't gone anywhere. Both degrees I am working toward revolve around talking to people. However when I entered high school things changed a bit for me.
I was still an extroverted, talkative teenager, but more and more often waves of overwhelming anxiety hit me. I'm not talking about butterflies in your stomach before the big dance anxiety. I'm talking about can't breath, paralyzed on the bathroom floor, sobbing anxiety. These anxiety attacks could be set off by one little thing going "wrong" or by nothing at all.
I started to isolate myself. I wouldn't go to sleepovers or fun nights out, and sometimes I would miss school. Pretty much, it was a crappy situation. What made it even worse was trying to explain to all my friends and family what was going on with me. I wasn't sure why the thought of leaving the house made me sick or why walking through the hallways between classes could force me into a breakdown. How was I expected to explain that?
Some people had a hard time understanding how their outgoing, social friend could be so terrified of being around people. Honestly, I didn't understand it either. Trying to explain something I didn't understand myself just piled on the anxiety and guilt. However, I tried (and sometimes failed) to deal with my anxiety and explain it.
After lots of time, therapy and change I've been able to manage my anxiety. I still haven't figured out the cause of all my anxiety (if there even is one), but I've figured out ways to cope with it. I've come to terms with the fact that my anxiety is a part of me. It's also helped me to be a more compassionate and understanding person.
So, here is a little reminder to be kind, patient and understanding of those around you. People are so much more than what is on the surface.