A Day in My Life With Social Anxiety
I wake up dreading a day full of people, with no time alone to rest. I wake up early, but am too anxious to fall back asleep. I get ready, being careful to style my hair and find a nice outfit, nervous my client will judge me, along with my classmates later on. A lot of days I don’t have the energy for this, but this morning, my nervousness compels me to put myself together.
I’m running late for my first client. I’m nervous she will criticize me for being late. I work as a home health aide. Today, I don’t feel up to going to her senior yoga class, with all the people there, so I try to convince her to go walking at a park instead. It’s a gorgeous day — 60 degrees and sunny. But she says it’s too cold and wants to go to yoga. In her yoga class, I am self-conscious. There is a whole wall of mirrors in front of me and I try not to look at it. I feel like all of the senior citizens in the class are judging me. I’m 34 and they are better at the yoga moves than I am. What’s wrong with me? OK, so maybe they have been going to this class for years and I have been coming with my client for six weeks. But I think I should catch on quicker. What are they thinking about me? Are they judging me for being too slow catching on to the routine? Are they judging my outfit? Am I being too quiet? Maybe I should be friendlier? Maybe if I’m just really quiet, no one will notice me. Finally the class is over and we can leave.
As soon as we get outside of the building I feel a wave of relief. Then, back at my client’s house, I am OK again. At her house, I can relax and recharge.
In the afternoon I see my other client. While I am with her, her nurse visits. The nurse asks me a few questions and I am embarrassed that I don’t know the answers. I feel so awkward. I wish I knew more medical terms. I feel dumb and incompetent. The nurse leaves and I feel relief again.
I leave the house and notice I have voicemails from two co-workers. I gather my energy and call them back. The calls are simple, but I keep worrying I said the wrong things. I put down the phone in relief and head to class.
In class, we are working in groups. I am anxious because someone joins my group who is always criticizing me. I keep worrying I am saying the wrong things. I keep stuttering as I try to explain my point of view. I feel my face flushing as I look away, down at my laptop. I keep my laptop open so I can sit safely behind it.
In class, our professor keeps asking us questions. I look down at my laptop and try to avoid her gaze. I’m too afraid of saying the wrong things and sounding dumb. It’s safer to be quiet. There are long pauses as no one responds to her questions. I feel more and more anxious by the silence, but I stay quiet.
We watch a documentary in class that triggers anxiety for me. I can feel my anxiety building. I suddenly realize I am about to have a panic attack. I try to put my things into my backpack very quietly. Then I try to slip out of class quietly without too many people looking at me. I have to get out before the panic attack hits, because having a panic attack in the middle of the class would be mortifying.
After I leave, I wonder what my classmates thought of me as I walked by them. I wonder what my professor thought. As I walk to my car, I wonder if the people I pass can see the anxiety on my face. I feel completely exposed. I walk faster.
I finally get inside my car and breathe deeply again. I feel safe. But then on the drive home, I have to call my mom to wish her a happy birthday. I take a few deep breaths and call. I am nervous that she will hear the anxiety and panic behind my words. I tell her about leaving class early and am afraid about how she will judge me. She doesn’t judge me. It feels silly that I even worry about how my mother views me.
I hang up the phone and relax a little more. I get home and relax, finally starting to calm. Finally alone, I start to feel like I am OK again. But then I text a friend from class about what happened with me during class, about how the documentary upset me. He doesn’t respond for a few hours. I start worrying I offended him. I worry he judged me for leaving early. I wonder if he is tired of hearing about my problems.
He finally responds to my text with encouragement. I feel more relief. Then my husband finally comes home. I feel safe and secure with him home. But my anxiety isn’t over, I have difficulty sleeping due to a stressful day of social anxiety. And then it is time to get up and start another day again.
My social anxiety makes many everyday things difficult. But I am so grateful for my alone time when I can relax. And I am grateful for the safe people in my life, like my husband and friends, who give me relief from my anxiety. It was a difficult day, but it ended happily, relaxing at home with my husband, discovering a new show on Netflix and telling each other funny stories about our days, while I connect with the friend who had my back in that night’s class.
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Thinkstock photo via artant.