What Growing Up With Social Anxiety Was Like

I’m 4 years old and enrolled in a preschool. I’m in music class, sitting there, trying to enjoy myself, but there’s a problem. I have to pee, and I’m too scared to speak up for myself. It isn’t until I start to wet myself that I manage to raise my hand and say, “I need to pee! It’s coming out!”

I’m 5 years old and just got some fancy erasers for my school pencils. A boy sees them, steals them and tells me my teacher gave it to him. I’m too scared to ask for confirmation, so I keep my mouth shut.

I’m 10 years old, and my only friends had moved away, and I am forced to start school without them. I have no confidence in my social skills and don’t think I will be able to make any new friends. I’m terrified.

I’m 11 years old, and I missed a test. My teacher decides to reschedule it for a day she won’t be in class. I don’t realize until the day of the test comes, and my teacher is not there. I wait in agonizing silence, hoping she will mention it again and apologize. She doesn’t. She puts a zero in her grade book. My mom tells me I need to talk to her and get the test made up if I want to have an end-of-year party with my friends. My anxiety makes me incapable of doing this, so I throw a tantrum until my mother agrees to do it for me.

I’m 12 years old, and my teacher tells me my outfit is out of dress code, so she sends me to the principal’s office. I begin to cry, and he reassures me I’m not in trouble. I’m wearing a long shirt with leggings underneath. I go back to my classroom in tears and inform my teacher that the principal said that I am fine for the day but not to wear the outfit again. However, my mother is determined I was going to wear the tunics but with jeans underneath. Although rationally I know this will be fine, I am terrified of getting dress-coded again. I feel sick to my stomach.

I’m 16 years old, and my driving teacher is probably the meanest there is. I am constantly being criticized for driving too slow or not stopping correctly. It makes me sick to my stomach every time I go to a lesson. I don’t know how I make it through.

I’m 18 years old, and the time has come for me to get a job. Nobody seems to listen when I say I can’t get one. They hear I don’t want one. But they don’t understand it’s deeper than that. I finally get a job as a cashier at a grocery store where I’m constantly bombarded with customers and problems. It’s three months of hell.

I’m 21 years old, medicated, and have been through extensive therapy. I can now look back on these moments and realize it was not my fault. I was not weak. I was ill, and I was not getting any help for my illness.

I’m 21 years old, and I am stronger because of the hell I have been through.

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Thinkstock photo via Anna_Isaeva

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