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

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“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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Image via Thinkstock

Originally published: November 7, 2016
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