7 Things I Want My Friends to Know About My Social Anxiety
I owe my friends an explanation of why I don’t — and can’t — hang out with them much. I’ve kept the reason to myself because I fear judgment, misunderstanding and criticism, but I realize that in order for my friends to understand my social anxiety, I have to explain it to them.
I want my friends to know these seven things about my social anxiety so they know it has nothing to do with them, or me.
1. I don’t want to cancel our plans.
I really like spending time with you, and I really don’t want to cancel the plans we make together. But when we make plans a few days in advance, that’s too much time for me to rack up a bunch of anxiety, and as a result, I cancel. I don’t want to, but I do because my anxiety takes over when it comes to social situations.
2. But I don’t want to make plans either.
Making plans just means I’ll probably cancel them, which I’m afraid will disappoint you and hurt your feelings. I’m hesitant about making plans with you because I don’t want you to be mad at me if I cancel them.
3. Canceling plans disappoints me, too.
I’ve missed out on a lot of fun we could have had together, and that upsets me. What is worse is the amount of fun I still have to miss out on because I don’t have a handle on my social anxiety. You’re not alone in your disappointment when I cancel plans; the disappointment I have in myself really gets me down.
4. It’s not that I don’t like people.
I love people. I love watching them. I just don’t like interacting with them because of the anxiety I feel when I do. I don’t like social encounters with people because of my physical response to my social anxiety. I’m afraid people will see my red, blotchy hives and sweaty face and think I’m “strange.”
5. I’m sorry.
I want you to know that whenever I cancel our plans or deny your invitations, I feel awful. I’m sorry my social anxiety takes a toll on our friendship. I’m sorry for all the cancelled plans and missed opportunities for fun. I’m sorry, and I hope you understand.
6. I’m going to try harder.
It’s always been easier to give in to my social anxiety than to try and make it better. But because I care about our friendship, I’m going to try harder to get the upper hand over my social anxiety. I’ll try different forms of therapy, meditation — whatever it takes — to be able to do fun, social things with you.
7. I miss you.
When I decline your invitation to go out and am sitting in my room alone, I miss you. I miss you making me laugh, comforting me and reminiscing over funny things in our past. I miss you when you’re out with our other friends, and I’m disappointed I’m not only missing you, I’m missing out. You mean a lot to me, and missing you fuels my desire to get control over my social anxiety so I don’t have to miss you anymore.
My social anxiety is a big part of my life. It also prevents me from enjoying my life and our friendship. I’ve spent too long being alone in my room, hiding from socialization, and hiding from you. I care about you and our friendship, and I don’t want to be alone anymore. Please understand, and be patient with me, while I find what works for my social anxiety. And please remember: it’s not you, and it’s not me — it’s my social anxiety.