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When Social Anxiety Makes You Feel Like a ‘Weird’ Person #rwanda #RwOT #HappyBirthdayHanbin

Growing up, I always felt like a “weird” kid. I was a quiet kid, and had trouble making friends. I was small and cried a lot. I remember the feeling of dread when the teacher announced that we would have to do a speech in school. I remember my stomach churning, sweaty handed, white hot fear when the day came, and I would have to speak in front of all my peers, shaking like a goddamn leaf.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I had social anxiety, and this was the reason I was so scared of other people. Why it was so hard for me to make and keep friends. Why I was so nervous public speaking.

It was almost like I went into every interaction afraid of people, convinced they didn’t like me, would hurt or tease me. Sometimes, for reasons I don’t always remember, friends left, and I felt this belief that I was not likeable being confirmed over and over.

I was in my 20s before I was officially diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. By that time, this belief that I was unlikeable had solidified into a schema that I was convinced was the truth. It wasn’t until I began therapy as an adult that I realized this was a false belief that had grown in my head due to spending my childhood and adolescence with undiagnosed and untreated social anxiety and depression. I sometimes wonder if my time at school and with relationships would have been easier had I known earlier that there was nothing weird about me — just a brain that saw, in people, threats that weren’t always there.

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Now that I am older, I still carry this belief but it holds less space in my head than it used to. I also have realized that sometimes, friends just drift apart as we grow as people and find ourselves needing different things from friendships. Sometimes they end because my fear of abandonment causes me to prematurely end friendships rather than doing the hard task of talking about and resolving conflict.

Sometimes, people drift because you discover new things about yourself and — through no fault of the other person — find yourself not being able to express this part as openly in certain company. The point is, as I’ve gotten older and have more years of life experience under my belt, I have realized that friendships end for many reasons — but that doesn’t mean I am weird or unlikable.

I have found myself gravitating towards people who understand me better, who I don’t have to mask my true self around. I can be a little weird around them because they’re weird too! Some of my closest friendships have blossomed through meeting people over the internet who have similar experiences to me.

Figuring out I was gay at 22 years old caused an inevitable change in what similar experiences I was looking for in a friend. Coming out at a later age can sometimes come with a period where you want to be “out and proud” and express your newly discovered sexuality in a big way. I found that friendships with other queer people came easier to me, as I never felt I had to tone down that part of me. My friendships as an adult have become a lot easier when I found my own people, rather than trying to shrink or mould myself to maintain friendships that just weren’t meant to continue.

Now 27 years old, I still feel weird. I still have social anxiety, and still have trouble with friendships and navigating relationships. I feel a sort of guilt about how quiet I can be, and worry that I don’t bring enough to relationships due to my reserved, closed-off nature. I worry that I risk people not knowing how much I care and value their friendship because I am not good at expressing it. It’s this reason that online friendships are sometimes much easier for me, as I can carefully choose my words before I press send, rather than having to endure awkward silences and forced conversation in face-to-face interaction.

Even with technology making friendships somewhat easier, face-to-face interaction still remains an anxiety-inducing situation for me. I still hate phone calls and one-on-one interactions. Mingling at a work Christmas party remains at the top of my worst fears list. I experience high levels of anxiety around my partner’s family.

As an adult, sometimes having social anxiety feels silly, but it’s not something that switches off once you reach a certain age. It certainly doesn’t make you weird to have a mental health issue that many people experience, and talking about it can help make it feel less weird as more people feel comfortable opening up.



source https://www.programage.com/news/_1603294217159953.html

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