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.
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