Fighting Through the Flames of Severe Social Anxiety

I’m selling my soul. Prices range from lending an ear to opening a mind.

Everything must go, until I am free.

I’ve known fear. Up until a few years ago, I’d been afraid my entire life. Severe social anxiety and paranoia crippled me in just about every situation outside of my close friends. Yet, I was always in the picture. I was always around. I pushed myself into the flames of social and sporting situations. It really did hurt, like I was pulling my mind apart, ripping my pounding heart out of my chest. Most people would never notice.

Well, no one ever really noticed.

After every day of class or work, I would collapse in my room, free from the panic attacks triggered by deadlines and presentations, from the intense pressure of utterly simple group dynamics. I saw all the raw mechanics of every
situation. I always did and always will. I just didn’t know how to translate that into normal interaction. I had failed at everything, mostly because my anxiety crippled me in clutch situations. I played a mean flute but couldn’t handle
performances or being told the flute was a girl’s instrument, so I quit. I had artistic abilities but flamed out because my expression became stuttered and pained in college, so I dropped out. I was a good basketball player. My greatest accomplishment in high school was just the act of trying out for the junior varsity team in my sophomore year. I was cut, but that’s how severe my problems were — just the fact that I put myself out to be judged in any way
shape or form was a victory. I had severe issues with playing in front of coaches and referees and fans. I could barely play against people I didn’t know on the playground. It was my first true love, and I just could not get where I needed to be.

I thought. I think. It’s what I do. Every synapse in my brain would scream at me
in social situations, and I always felt like someone would find out, someone
would know. They would see how out of place I was, how ridiculously painful every word could be. But no one ever noticed. They had no idea about the shredding of my mind because I simply kept going. I would detach from the streams, from the pain, from every instinct in my heart and mind telling me to run, to escape, to hole up and never see the light of day again.

I’ve known pain. But I just kept going. That was always my thing as I got older. I couldn’t live on my knees, never knowing what could have been because of what should have been, what was supposed to be. I was supposed to alone, but I just wanted to be free. That’s all I ever wanted. So I went out. I showed up. I may not have won all the games, but I always played and I always tried.

I always tried. I have burned more brain cells in an effigy to social life than I could ever count. I always felt ugly. I was always afraid someone would see the
scars, see the wounds inflicted by fighting my natural synaptic arrangements. There are innumerate scars; like a boxer my face has been rearranged on more than one occasion. I kept fighting, though, kept moving forward, at any cost. The scars might never go away.

But I’m still standing. I’m not afraid to show my face. Beaten and bruised, but victorious.

I no longer feel the intense fear and painful reverberations of the anxiety. It still exists somewhat, but I have developed skills to quiet it. I’m still searching, still fighting, to be free, but I’m a lot closer to the light than the flames these days.

Closer to the light than the flames.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. This is based on an individual’s experience.

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