So, I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time. Social anxiety. . .it’s not an easy thing for me to talk about. In fact, I don’t. There are only three people in this world who I have mentioned my social anxiety to – my husband, my mother and a writer friend. Those people who are close to me might describe me as shy, quiet, introverted. But those words don’t even begin to describe the irrational thoughts and paralysing fear I experience in certain social situations. The cold sweats, the trembling, the inability to speak. . .they’re all symptoms of social anxiety.
Thomas A. Richards from the Social Anxiety Institute describes social anxiety as “the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression” often resulting in avoidance. He goes on to say that people with social anxiety know that their fears are irrational but that their thoughts and feelings persist despite “facing their fears” every day of their lives.
Social anxiety is something I have suffered from my entire life, at times it has been more prevalent than others. However, I only came across the term a few years ago when, after feeling rather depressed and alone with my social inadequacies, I turned to the internet for answers. I stumbled across the term, amazed that I ticked so many of the boxes and relieved that I wasn’t actually a freak; that there were others out there who felt the same as me.
Knowing that there is actually a reason for the way I feel has helped me come to terms with the fact that I’m not a social butterfly. I feel like I can stop trying to be someone I’m not; I can stop fighting who I really am. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the symptoms of social anxiety don’t present when I’m faced with my fears because they most certainly do. But accepting myself for who I am has helped me to climb my way out of the depressive funk I was falling into.
When I decided to start writing and I was throwing around ideas of characters and plot, I considered the commandment from the new writers’ bible, “write what you know”. One thing I know well is social anxiety. In my book, A Place to Belong, the heroine suffers from social anxiety. When we first meet Beth, her life has become what I fear mine could so easily have been – she has no family and, because of her social anxiety, no friends to call her own. At a crossroads, she decides to relocate to the small town of Blackwood. Of course, finding her place is not easy, but more than one resident of the town welcomes her with open arms. . .or rather, pulls her in for a bear hug despite her protestations.
Writing Beth’s story has been good for me. It’s helped me to understand my own social anxiety better and has given me self-confidence. Despite the fact that there aren’t many people close to me who know I’m a writer, I feel better about myself knowing I’ve achieved something as epic as writing a book. I’m less inclined to care what they think about me (I know I shouldn’t anyway, but I’m irrational like that!). I hope that once the book is eventually published it brings an awareness of social anxiety to readers and hope to those suffering from the disorder.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I applaud Tamar Sloan, fellow blogger and writer, over at Blue Mood for blogging about her experiences with depression. We live in a time where people are finding the strength to talk about mental illness. This can only fuel acceptance and understanding. Congratulations Tamar!
***DISCLAIMER***: Let it be known, that I don’t condone anyone ignore a state of depression. If you feel you may be suffering from depression, it is best to seek advice from a medical practitioner.