We live in a world where there are people around us constantly – whether right in front of us or on social media, friends, family or strangers – they are everywhere. We are confronted with their opinions and are judged more or less 24/7. We try to impress people we don’t even know by posting pictures of all the great things we do in life, just to get even more followers that we don’t know but need to impress. This vicious circle spirals out of control until not just once an ‘instagram famous’ person had a mental breakdown because they couldn’t keep up with all the pressure.
Though the average person might not have to impress a couple million strangers, many of us capture a night out with friends on snapchat, facebook or instagram to show the rest of us what we’re missing.
As a person struggling with social anxiety I too use most of the chances I get to cover my social adventures. Only that those chances do not come too often anymore. I love my friends to bits – I probably wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for them – but the ‘going out’ part is where I mostly lose the battle. I don’t want to be around people who I am not 100% comfortable with but living in a big city does make that sort of impossible. I believe that my social anxiety has developed for several reasons:
- I do not like people. Seriously, people suck.. (myself included)
- I don’t feel as though I fit in (99% of the time I feel like I either don’t belong, am unwanted or replaceable)
- It´s a common side effect of depressions
- I have always struggled with my self-esteem
Once I went out on the street and felt like everyone was staring at me. All I could concentrate on was not drawing any attention to myself. The more I did that, the more I thought people could tell that I was not like them – not pretty enough, not smart enough, not normal enough. Not healthy. I got sucked in by all these thoughts until I struggled with breathing. My heart started beating out of my chest, my body went hot and cold within seconds. I had my first ever panic attack. It wasn’t my last. For about 1.5 years now I have been having panic attacks triggered by being amongst people in rather irregular intervals. I can go weeks at a time without and then not be able to go out without one for days. This has led to me avoiding people for most parts. Just knowing that I could have a panic attack if I leave my house stops me from making any plans.
Of course this has had (well actually still has) many impacts on my social life. Not only did many of my friends stop inviting me out but I also developed the weird sensation of jealousy whenever I browse any social media platform – which again lead to me avoiding social media. So whenever I do go out, I feel the need to post things on snapchat etc. to prove to others that I too have a great social life.
Pranita Kochareka, an artist from Mumbai did a series to acknowledge anxiety and in my eyes she perfectly captured what it feels like.
[click on images below for bigger and better view]
These are only a few of my favourites from her series, so if you´re interested in more feel free to look her up.
Additionally BuzzFeed did an awesome collection of tumblr posts that sum up social anxiety. I couldn´t describe it more fittingly.
With that, all I have left to say is that I am dealing with my anxiety and it has gotten better in the last couple of weeks/months. – Over and out.