My heart pounds like a hundred race horses are running on the track. My palms sweat like a running faucet. My muscle tense up, and my stomach gets upset, and I shake like a tree. I encounter all of these unpleasant feelings whenever I’m in simple or complex social situations because I have social anxiety disorder (SAD).

SAD causes me to have irrational and unreasonable fears in social situations. I have the constant thought that whoever I encounter in person or on the phone will scrutinize, judge or criticize me, and that makes me want to avoid social situations all together. Unfortunately, not every social engagement can be avoided, and not every phone call can be put off. When the unavoidable happens, I experience a ridiculous feeling of terror, and freeze. Every social situation is like being on stage, naked, in front of hundreds of critics.

I’ve gotten help for my SAD: therapy, medications and holistic treatments, but there are times when nothing makes a difference. I freak out over the smallest social encounters: ordering coffee from Starbucks, calling the pizza place and paying the gas station attendant. I’m afraid I will do or say something “stupid,” like pronounce a word wrong or trip over my own feet. I’m constantly afraid I will humiliate myself, and that fear keeps me in my house and off the phone most of the time.

I use the self checkout at the grocery store so I don’t have to talk to the cashier. I’ve started ordering my pizza online and requesting the delivery guy leave my pizza at the door and take the money from the mailbox. I do my clothes shopping on the Internet so nobody sees me trying anything on and lose the opportunity to make rude comments. All of this is completely irrational, and in the back of my mind I know that. But when presented with these situations, I can’t help but be a turtle and hide in my shell.

I can’t go on dates or have intimate relationships with anyone other than my family. I’m afraid to make new friends because they might find my flaws and point them out. I can’t go out to bars, bookstores or boutiques because I think I’ll fall flat on my face and everyone will point and laugh. I want to do these things, but I just can’t.

Currently, SAD controls my social life, my love life and my ability to seek employment. I don’t want it to be this way but have no idea how to change it. I try to force myself to pick up the phone, to step out of the house. But the anticipation of making myself do something makes me even more anxious and afraid. I want to be able to order pizza and pick it up myself. I want to be able to enjoy clothes shopping without being afraid of what other people think. I know I need more help for my SAD, but I’m too afraid to pick up the phone and call my doctor.

But there are some things I am willing to try to combat my SAD. Deep breathing, essential oils and taking walks with my daughter are all safe techniques that don’t just push me into social situations. I figure I can start there and work my way up to taking my daughter on play dates, going to a yoga class or even going on a date.

It will be a slow process, but I know if I want to be truly happy and enjoy my life, I need to fight my SAD. It’ll be scary, and I may sweat like I’ve been in a sauna for three hours, but I have to do it. I can’t live if I don’t take back control of my life, and finally gain the confidence I need to be able to order pizza.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


author's son picking out barbie doll You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. Because you don’t know me, you don’t know about the daily war I wage with my anxiety and that being an anxious person makes me overly aware of my surroundings, usually to a fault. So when I walked past you with my son — who on that morning chose a fuchsia rose headband to wear with his Batman flip flops — as he pulled me towards the Barbie section, I saw you. I saw the look.

Going places with my son can be difficult for me. I panic when I think of the stares and the thoughts people are thinking about him. He, thankfully, does not appear to notice or care. On this particular outing, we were going to buy him a new Barbie with the money he’d saved. Oh, if you could’ve seen the happiness on his face when we arrived at the all pink-purple-and-glitter aisle filled to the brim with beautiful dolls. Pure. Innocent. Joy.

But we passed you with your husband and sons in the aisle filled with trucks and action figures, so you did not get to see that joy. You probably didn’t notice me catch my breath as we approached your family in that aisle, wondering what my reaction would be should you or one of your sons point and laugh. But I noticed you. I saw you.

You looked down at my boy with his pretty headband and beaming blue eyes, and then you looked up at me. Our eyes met, and you smiled. You smiled. And then you looked back at your boys who were staring at my son, and you smiled at them. And so they went back to picking out Hot Wheels, and we went on to find the perfect ballerina Barbie doll.

It was a mom-to-mom high five. No words exchanged, no hand gestures… just a smile and a small reassurance that maybe it’s all going to be all right. Right there in the toy section of Target of all places. So thank you. Thank you for noticing my son and making sure your boys saw that his differences were just fine with you. Thank you for easing my anxiety that morning. Thank you for giving me the look.

Follow this journey on Crumble Pie.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a thank-you letter to someone you never expected you’d thank. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

If you live with anxiety, sometimes it’s difficult to understand your own everyday battles — and even more challenging to then explain these to your significant others. That doesn’t mean people with anxiety can’t try to communicate how or what they’re feeling. And it doesn’t mean their significant others can’t do something to help.

We asked our Mighty readers who live with anxiety what they want their partners to know:

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “When I’m anxious and snappy and hiding in bed, join me and put your arms around me instead of avoiding me. Sometimes it’s all I need. To be held together when I can’t hold myself together.” — Michelle Hatfield Prestriedge

2. “Anxiety is like a rabbit hole, the deeper I get, the stranger things become.” — Morgan Victoria

Quote from Morgan Victoria: Anxiety is like a rabbit hole, the deeper I get, the stranger things become."

3. “When we argue, and I tell you I need a minute, give it to me. It’s not that I don’t want to resolve the issue, or that I don’t care about your opinion, it’s that I’m about to fall off the cliff and neither of us wants that.” — Heather Polum

4. “If I’m having a panic or anxiety attack, ask me what I need from you.” — Anna Moore

5. “Please know this is not the real me. When I’m having an episode, it’s like a parasite living within me, feeding off my worst fears. I don’t know why these things happen but you being here with me is the only light at the end of this spinning tunnel.” — Terri Brown

6. “I’m not overreacting… I can’t control it.” — Mayte Garcia

7. “When I run away, let me be. Give me a few minutes. Then come tell me it’s all OK. Tell me my world is not falling apart, let me know it was just a rough few minutes. Tell me you love me and I am important.” — Jasmine Connolly

8. “Sometimes all it takes is a touch of a hand to calm the biggest storms.” — Jeremiah Swing

9. “Don’t rush me to stop being anxious. If I could speed up the process, I would.” — Michaela David

10. “Sometimes all I need is reassurance that I’m not constantly bothering you or that you do actually want my company.” — Jessica Cotton

11. “When I get anxious, don’t take it personal or get defensive thinking it’s because of something you did. It’s not.” — Becky Hone

12. “When I retreat ‘inside my head’ please don’t take offense that I don’t want to tell you what I’m thinking. Most of the time it’s actually a blank screen up there and I’m not thinking of anything. Literally. I’m just recharging.” — Samantha Frei

13. “I know sometimes my fears don’t make sense, but it’s real for me.” — Summer Ivie

Quote from Summer Ivie: I know sometimes my fears don't make sense, but it's real for me.

14. “Just because I have anxiety doesn’t mean I never have a real reason to be upset about something.” — Robin Levin Konen

15. “I often feel ashamed of my anxieties and depression and will keep them from you. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t like feeling weak and helpless in front of you.” — Nicole Howard

16. “I don’t need you to try to ‘fix’ me. If I have an anxiety attack, I often just need to let it run its course.” — Emma King

17. “I still love you, and I know this will pass eventually. Just give it time and remember I’m still me.” — Maddy McCandless

18. “If I have trouble getting things done it isn’t because I am unmotivated or lazy or making excuses.” — Megan Kulchar

19. “I’ll probably try to convince you to leave, but that’s really the last thing I need or want. Don’t leave, stay and hug me.” — Kallie Boothe

20. “Don’t take it personal. Getting upset with me will only make the anxiety worse. Just listen and be there. I’ll come around.” — Angel Deidloff

21. “Please don’t get mad at me if I get anxious over something you might deem as nothing. I can’t help it, and I’m trying my best.” — Taylor Nicole

22. “You need to reassure me you still love me because my mind will make me think the worst.” — Jessica Matthews

23. “I know I’m not being myself, but that doesn’t mean I can just switch it off.” — Robyn Murphy

 Quote by Robyn Murphy: I know I'm not being myself, but that doesn't mean I can just switch it off.

24. “Sit with me and talk with me. More so listen to me. Hold me like you will never let me go.” — Debi Justice Fletcher

25. “Please stay no matter how hard I push away. Be my anchor in the midst of an oceanic storm.” — JT Gentry

Quote by JT Gentry: Please stay no matter how hard I push away. Be my anchor in the midst of an oceanic storm.

26. “When I say I don’t want to talk about it, don’t drop the subject. Ask what you can do to help.” — Amy Waguespack

27. “You don’t have to agree with the reason I’m anxious, but please don’t down play it.” — Emily Simisky

28. “No one is more frustrated with me than me.” — Danielle Pépin

29. “When I am having a panic attack, comfort me with love. Don’t scream at me to calm down and breathe.” — A Marie Bellamy

30. “Your acceptance helps me heal.” — Francesca Marie Cwynar

Quote by Francesca Marie Cwynar: Your acceptance helps me heal.

Editor’s note: Everyone experiences anxiety differently. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

What do you want your partner to know about your anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.

author with dog I can count the number of close friends I have on one hand.

I cannot, however, count how many times I have had a panic attack when put into a new group setting.

I am great at one-on-one conversations.

But when it comes to speaking in front of people I scream inside.

I have coped with being legally blind my whole life, but the social anxiety is a new struggle. In my head I know I do not need anyone’s approval, but I want people to like me. I want to like myself on the days I am overcome with self pity. Every day I deal with insecurities but try to put on a happy face. I’ve found it’s important to note my struggles and figure out how to push myself to the line past my comfort zone. There are good days and bad days.

While “normal” people feel the respect of quiet stares while talking in front of people, I feel pressure building up and a heart wishing to escape my chest.

I always call someone while walking alone.

I am quiet because I worry people will judge me if I talk, not because I am stuck-up.

Going to parties takes all my energy.

I feel overwhelmed in crowded places, like I am suffocating.

I repeat words in my head over and over before I ever say them.

I want to hang out with you, but sometimes it is hard.

I crave familiarity. Going to new places makes me nervous

Realizing these struggles does not make me or anyone else feeling this way weak; it reveals our strengths. Remember to see the light in the dark.

I care about people wholeheartedly.

I invest in what friendships I have long term.

I communicate more effectively on paper than orally.

I am good at talking to people who are by themselves.

I do not have to worry about getting into trouble at parties.

I think before I speak.

You can always count on me to be where I say I will be.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

I told you I was being put on medication a month and a half ago, and you were so accommodating. I warned you I might have side effects, and you told me it was fine and if I needed five, to just tell you. Thank you.

Three weeks ago, I started a new medication. I woke up in the morning hardly able to focus. It was a big weekend at work — a double discount weekend — and I’d agreed to an all-day shift. When I called in sick because I was spacing out and could barely walk, let alone drive, you said it was fine, and if I felt up to it, I could make up the hours tomorrow. This job is my only income. I felt so embarrassed about having the day off.

Today, you were on lunch when I started shaking and hyperventilating and the tightness in my chest caused me to walk out of the back door on a line full of customers, and sit outside, riding out the panic attack. When I came back in, served two more customers and immediately started crying, another staff member suggested I should go see you about going home. 

When I got to the staff room, my face bright red with embarrassment and wet with tears, my voice shaking so much I could barely speak, you told me it was OK. You took me to a side office and sat me down and told me it was OK again. You told me to stay in there until I felt I could drive, and then take myself home.

Those words in that moment meant the world to me. I had never had a panic attack in public before, nor one that lasted more than 10 minutes, let alone the 30 or so this one was. I was scared, I was embarrassed, I was sure I was going to lose my job, but you were compassionate and kind. I can’t thank you enough.


A grateful colleague

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

You’re so negative. You’re a Negative Nancy.

Nope. Not really. But the way my anxiety is set up, I catastrophize events and situations to protect myself from yucky feelings like frustration, worry, heartache or disappointment. I make my perception my reality because I constantly have negative thoughts — I hate and beat myself up every day because of them. When I read a text, Facebook post, or email “presenting” as evil, insolent or dismissive, it takes my brain longer to convince my body (and soul) I’m not in danger or being personally attacked.

You’re so judgmental. You’re a Judgmental Jack.

No, that’s not what I want people to know, but it’s how I feel when I’m accused of being a pessimist. This is especially hurtful when I have disclosed my struggles to people who still stigmatize me for something I cannot control. 

I want people to know individuals do not choose to have a mental illness. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean I don’t have scars. So why shame me because I have cognitive distortions and scars you cannot see? I want others to know I am not my anxiety; I am a loving, giving and charismatic individual who will use my pain as my platform.

So to those who call me “negative,” you don’t know the whole story.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.