Friday, July 3, 2015

Social Anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety, and subsequently many different types of social anxiety. My anxiety manifests like an intense terror/ nightmareish constant worry that I'm hurting people.

It feels like there's an invisible wall around my heart. The wall is not simply to keep me safe, but to keep others safe from me, to keep me imprisoned. When situations get stressful that wall feels like it's squeezing in, trying desperately to cage the darkness inside of me, and subsequently resulting in real physical symptoms such as chest pains and trouble breathing.

I have the kind of social anxiety where I feel fearful going into social situations because I'm worried I'm hurting people by being there. I feel guilty talking in pubic. I worry that all of my words can hurt people, which is why I've stopped ending sentences with "Avada Kadavra."

I feel anxious and guilty believing everyone I know feels unhappy when I am there. I feel genuine guilt for my presence, even with people I love dearly. I feel remorseful for my own existence, which is stupid, because I really should be blaming the mad scientists who brought me to life in their dungeon lab.

For most of my life I felt that everyone I love would be happier if I disappeared from existence, but partially because everyone I love is super into magic.

When I was about 22 a therapist asked me what I had done that I felt so guilty for. The question befuddled me. I was just a bad person, right? That was reason enough to feel intense guilt for existing and taking up space. I just assumed that the reason I had felt this much guilt was that I was simply inherently evil, which is silly because I don't even have a fluffy white cat sitting on my spinny chair.

My therapist pushed be to think way back to my childhood, and truthfully, there were two experiences that caused this intense lifelong guilt. When I was five I witnessed something terrible happen to someone I love, someone I was meant to protect and take care of. The adult who committed the act convinced me that it was my fault, and despite the lack of truth of that, I will carry this guilt for the rest of my life. Additionally, when I was 12 my parents had a huge fight and one of them left for a while, and I was the topic of the discussion. In both those situations I had inadvertently hurt people I deeply loved, and that guilt and complex can never fully be washed away.

Since realizing the source of my feelings of guilt and anxiety, I have gained control over my panic attacks. I guess I really was the one giving them to myself. There is no santa...?

However, every now and then I start to feel the same intense heart clutching anxiety that leads way into my old panic attacks. Right now I'm feeling similarly, like I can't go out to social gatherings without hurting people I care about. I'm scared to leave my house for fear of running into someone I know or like. I cry several times a day when I think about how much everyone must disdain me. I worry that every word out of my mouth is causing pain. Again, I am forced to ask myself, have I accidentally hurt people that I love?


Of course I didn't do it on purpose, but a few of the things I've said recently have been perceived as dismissive or hurtful. Also, my close association with some people who caused hurt to others aligned me with them in their mindset as untrustworthy.

Both of these things are bad. Neither of these things are so bad that I deserve to punish myself with crippling fear and apprehension before every sentence I utter. Neither of these things should make me cry guiltily for hours that everyone I care about would be better if I wasn't around. Nothing I've ever done is so bad that I should feel intense shame and physical pain regarding my own treatment of my friends. Punishing myself won't make anyone feel better.

The only things I can do are attempt to apologize, if I can. I should apologize for what I actually am sorry for, instead of internalizing that guilt as part of my personality and apologizing for every single tiny thing. Someone recently noticed I apologized to a stuffed animal in a comedy video, something I hadn't even noticed that I did.

Also, I can attempt to go forward and not repeat my actions, to be more aware and careful, to make a real attempt to spread love instead of darkness. I really do want to be a good person deep down. I only have hurt people in the past because I'm insecure and weak, easily manipulated by more charismatic individuals.

I'm terrified that I'll hurt more people with my actions and words, but if I let that social anxiety cripple me, I also lose the opportunity to help people with my actions and words. I need to go forth and spread love and compassion, and that will be the only way I can melt the inner wall I have up.

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