a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
I’ve personally have been dealing with social anxiety since elementary school so this topic alongside with future topics hits extremely close to home! For starters, it’s important to understand that simply just saying “I have anxiety,” is extremely broad. There are various types of anxiety, however, the main forms are grouped into four categories:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Anxiety
- Specific Phobias
- Panic Disorder
Not to normalize mental illnesses, but I do want to highlight that if you are dealing with anxiety you aren’t alone! 40 million adults in the US over the age 18 suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. 40 MILLION. If you’re a percentage person like myself, that equates to 18.1% of the population annually.
Anxiety can and often does lead to depression. Whether you self-diagnosed or clinically diagnosed, as someone living with anxiety it’s important to take steps to help ease that feeling of anxiousness and find the root causes of your anxiety.
I vividly remember when my social anxiety first started having an ego of its own and started taking center stage in my life. I was in the fourth grade and I was running for treasurer of my elementary school. Everyone running for a position had to write a speech and read it to the 4th-6th graders at an assembly, as those were the grades who participated in voting. I wrote such an amazing speech, proud would be an understatement. I went up to the stage confidently, spoke my truth, and sat down as the sound of scattered applause quietly took over the room. I know they say silence is loud, well this mood was deafening. I instantly felt my heart drop to my feet and physically felt my head drop in disappointment. I started filling my head with a whirlwind of emotions…Was my speech just not as good as I thought it was? Why didn’t I receive the same thunder claps that previous speakers received?
My teacher at the time, Mrs. Duarte, noticed the look of dissatisfaction on my face and asked me if I was okay. I expressed to her how hard I worked on my speech and it didn’t look like people enjoyed it. She asked if she could personally read my speech as I had it written on a piece of paper. Mind you, I’m looking at this lady like, “Did you not just hear me recite this”? After reading, she expressed that she did love my speech but not a soul could understand what in the world I was saying. I was apparently- 1. Speaking way to low and 2. SLURRED the entire speech. It sounded like gibberish lmao. That’s when I learned what the word disbelief meant because that’s exactly the state I was in. Me? A whole me? SLURRED the speech I spent hours working on? Nah sway. Well in this case, yes sway, yes, because the seldom amount of students I asked said, “Yea I clapped because we’re friends, but I didn’t know what you said.”
Literally about a week after that speech, my school talked to my parents and enrolled me in speech classes. I don’t know if y’all had those students who left during English to attend a different class, yuppppp that was muah! I couldn’t pronounce certain letters and I thought faster than I could speak hence when I would speak out loud everything came out as one big slur/mumble. Since then, I’ve always hated speaking publicly. Hate is a strong word, more so extremely scared because I’m unsure if everything will come out intangible. If you know me, you know that uncertainty is something I’m not a fan of (if you don’t know now you know).
I subconsciously knew this was the reason for my social anxiety but never admitted it to myself until about 2017 when my ex at the time asked me to really sit and think about what my social anxiety is rooted in so that I could start taking active steps to overcome it. After admitting to myself what initially prompted my anxiety, I started taking those steps, baby steps of course, but steps nevertheless to overcome it. I started performing publicly in small settings, participating in group dialogues whenever I got the chance, and started increasing my interactions with others by going out more. I still have social anxiety, but it has been getting better and I no longer feel some type of way about having it. It used to be one of the burdens on my shoulder weighing me down, a symbol of social embarrassment, and an excuse I used for my lack in communication skills. But now? Oh baybeeeee, I embrace it like no other. Since I’m aware of its roots, I’ve been un-digging and replanting them with more secure memories. Debunking my fears and anxiety one day at a time.
If you have anxiety:
- Know you’re not alone
- Know you are more than capable of working towards decreasing it’s impact in your daily life
That comfort you’ve found in “accepting” your anxiety is more so content. The real comfort comes in actively searching for your Whys and Hows. Why do certain scenarios and events give me such anxiety, and how can I work towards debunking it? I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of this illness either. It’s more than just searching for your whys and hows. Sometimes my anxiety gets so bad that my body physically shuts down, I start shaking and have to remove myself from the social setting I’m in. Which is then immediately followed by days of isolation and writing. So trust me, I get it! It can be overwhelming, unpredictable, and at times feel like a burden to your life. But we must start somewhere. Admitting illnesses isn’t the hard part, it’s the internal work that comes after to becoming a better version of yourself. We are no longer “accepting the the things we can not change,” because change is always an option! It’s the only constant in this lifetime. You just have to want it, convince yourself you deserve it!
If you have anxiety start with your whys and hows, get introspective, and get to healing. Why? Because that’s #WhatChiSaid! See you next week!
~Professional help is always recommended, if needed.
~Heres some info to help you distinguish between the various types of anxiety that exist
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