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What It's Like to Be Shamed for Having Social Anxiety

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Every day, I’m more and more convinced the world was not created for people with social anxiety. My introversion and fear of social situations have always been the things I’ve hated most about myself. I’ve had social anxiety for as long as I can remember — I just wasn’t diagnosed until years later. But it’s something that birthed shame in me at a very young age. That shame took root, and as the years passed, it continued to grow, blossoming into a thick web of tangled thorns that poked, prodded, and bound me. 

Piano recitals haunted me. Making friends became harder and harder the older I got. Walking into a room felt like the end of the world. Crowds gave me panic attacks. Seeing extended family brought an anxiety like no other. Phone calls felt like I was holding a bomb in my hand. Interviews were recipes for disasters. The word “networking” was enough to send me crawling into a hole. Happy celebrations like weddings became battlegrounds, trying to dodge bullets and fires from every side. 

But the worst part of all those things was how alone in them I felt. It felt like no one else was struggling. It appeared to be so effortless for everyone around me, and I hated that I was the outlier. I was the one “bringing down the mood.” I was the one who “couldn’t just be happy for someone else.” I was the one who was “rude” because I didn’t talk enough. I was the one people “just didn’t understand.” 

I was made to feel like there was something fundamentally wrong with me because I struggled in social situations. I was shamed for it, blamed for it, laughed at for it, punished for it, yelled at for it, judged for it — it’s no wonder I hate that part of myself; I was taught to hate it. 

There has never been acceptance or understanding from my family when it comes to that. I was scolded after a vacation for not being more sociable, and was told even my aunt had commented on my lack of interaction. It was clear my mother was embarrassed by my behavior. At a wedding, my parents made a comment about how often I was going to the bathroom to “hide out,” laughing at me. Being around so many people at a wedding is hard enough for me, add in people trying to get me to dance which is my literal worst nightmare — I was barely holding it together. I had panic attacks and breakdowns throughout the night, and the restroom was the only place I could be alone to gather myself. 

Whenever I express disinterest in family events with extended family, I’m always met with, “I don’t know why you act like that. They’re family. Everyone else is close with each other, why do you have to make things so difficult?” 

So, when my brother proposed to his fiancé and talk of the wedding began, I felt absolute dread. And then deep guilt for feeling dread. I’m happy for my brother and his fiancé, truly I am. But the idea of being in a wedding brings on a level of stress and anxiety I can’t begin to explain. Out of politeness, I was asked to be a bridesmaid, and of course had to say yes. It was a thoughtful gesture and it’s nice that she wanted to include me. But I don’t know her that well. I don’t know any of her family. None of her friends. Having to go to a bridal shower, bachelorette party, take pictures, and celebrate a wedding with people I’ve never met — my immediate reaction was suicidal thoughts

I told myself it was fine, I wouldn’t be alive by the time the wedding came around. But now, the wedding is days away. I’ve fought with my parents endlessly the last few weeks. I’ve been more suicidal than ever, to the point hospitalization has been brought up to me multiple times. I hate that I have so much dread toward this — that I genuinely believe dying is better than being in a wedding — I mean, who thinks like that? That’s terrible. 

But that’s anxiety

My anxiety becomes so overwhelming, I can’t entertain the thought of living through it. The shame that comes with that makes me believe people are better off without me anyways. Now there won’t be a need to worry about someone “bringing down the mood.” There won’t be a need to feel embarrassed by me if I’m not here. 

Being made to feel shame for something over which I have very little control, is devastating, especially when it comes from my own family. 

But a friend reminded me of something important today. She said, “You know there are so many people around you who do understand and who would literally never ever shame you. You have an entire chosen family outside of them who will do absolutely whatever they can to support you.”

And she’s right. My family may not understand, and I still don’t know how I’m going to get through this wedding, but at the end of the day, I know I’m not alone. I know there are people in my corner, I know there are people who have my back, people who do understand me. People who aren’t embarrassed by me, and instead of shaming me, provide safe spaces for me instead. And that’s what I’m choosing to hold onto today.

Getty image by martin-dm

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