When I Discovered the Real Reason I'm So Terrified of People

“It’s OK, I’m introverted, too.”

“She’s just shy.”

These were the things people said to me and about me. It wasn’t until recently I realized this wasn’t the case. I wasn’t “just shy” like other people. I wasn’t simply introverted.

I have social anxiety.

I’m 33, almost 34 years old and I’m scared of people. That’s how severe my social anxiety is. I am 100 percent terrified of people.

Something as simple as placing a fast food order and changing something about the food (such as no tomatoes) is an internal struggle as I try to decide if it’s worth telling the cashier I don’t want them. Sometimes I end up just leaving the order as is and throwing away the tomatoes.

I live in constant fear that everything I do is wrong. I feel constantly judged by everyone I pass, whether I know them or not.

Only recently did I come forward to my family and friends and share about the severity of my illness. I was lucky to be met with open arms by my closet friends. And while it is now easier because they know, it still isn’t easy. I still feel judged for saying that I feel like I’m being judged.

It was harder than it should have been for me to tell the people I’ve been friends with for over 20 years I was essentially afraid of them. Afraid of sharing my opinion, correcting them when they were wrong and sharing my hopes, dreams and fears. I had covered it up for so many years, no one thought there might be something wrong. They all thought me being “shy” explained it.

When I first told them about my social anxiety, they were more understanding and welcoming than I ever could have imagined. This helped me realize I needed to reach out more and to make others aware of what was wrong.

The greatest discovery I’ve ever made was finding out I wasn’t alone. The day I discovered the term “social anxiety” I felt so liberated. I finally understood I didn’t have to live the way I have been living. I learned there is help for people like me and more importantly, there is hope.

While I still have a long way to go, I know the people who matter most will accept me just as I am. In time, I know I will grow comfortable with who I am.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Social Anxiety

Edited illustration of a man in a suit

What It's Like to Have 'High-Functioning' Social Anxiety Disorder

Three years ago I stood in front of 300 people and shared about my mental illness. Two years ago I shared in front of 600. Last year, I shared in front of 700. This year, I’ve shared in front of thousands. Twenty years ago, I developed social anxiety disorder (SAD). Today, I still live with SAD, [...]
woman looking sad

The Self-Imposed Isolation of Social Anxiety

The thing about anxiety is that it does not care how strongly you’re able to intellectualize the reality of your unease. It doesn’t matter how irrational your trigger, anxiety will overcome you, even if it’s only for a moment. At least that’s how it is for me. I’ve been dealing with anxiety my entire life. Generalized [...]
A girl holding a bag as she stands on the sidewalk

How an Anxiety Disorder Shaped My Mixed Race Experience

One of my most vivid memories is from kindergarten. Holding my mother’s hand, I walked into the school building. An adult bent down to speak to me. I don’t recall her words or who she was, but she said something as simple as hello and asked for my name. At that moment, my body took [...]
many people in a waiting room to see a doctor

The Little Trick That Helps With My Social Anxiety

I have been dealing with anxiety/social anxiety since around the time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That’s eight long years dealing with both bipolar disorder and social anxiety. I used to keep myself at arms-length from people for fear of being rejected, because my social anxiety can cause what might seem like “weird” behaviors. These can be misconstrued [...]