Remember how nervous we were upon entering high school? We would, once again, be small fish in a big pond. All we had were the shadows our older siblings left behind for us. The things we were looking forward to—prom, picking our own classes and parties with cool seniors—included moments we would never forget. Remember how cool we felt keeping our garage parties a secret from our parents? Boy, did we feel rebellious. High school was one, big social event, and it was implied that we’d always stick by each other’s side during these times.
I wish you knew how hard it was for me to look forward to these nights out. I wanted to be excited. I wanted to get dressed up and feel that jolt of excitement waiting for an adventurous night. I didn’t want to feel self-conscious. I didn’t want my heart to be pounding, causing my chest to flush and my voice to quiver. I mean, I did look forward to parties and girls night out, but once the time to get ready came around, I became too anxious. I was too scared of what people would think of me, what they would say and what the night held.
Social anxiety caused me to repeatedly avoid your texts or make up excuses whenever you’d invite me out. I had hoped you’d pick up on these cues and ask me what was wrong. Either you didn’t care that I didn’t join you on nights out or you flat out couldn’t see there was something different about me. You didn’t understand my shyness and shakiness was part of my anxiety. You couldn’t see that my inability to date or lack of conversing was because social anxiety was such a monster and made me feel helpless. I couldn’t come out and tell you I had social anxiety. I couldn’t utter the words “I see a therapist once a month.” I was too confused, angry and above all ashamed. Ashamed that I couldn’t live like a ‘normal’ teenager who wanted to socialize or engage in 15-year-old mischief. Our experiences couldn’t have been more different.
I’m not trying to blame you for my hiding and missing out. I’m just saying I feel like you didn’t care for me the way I cared for you. This was the time our friendship began to slip. I wanted you to ask me why I wasn’t at school for a week. I wished you had pressed on and wondered why I had gotten kicked out of school for missing 2 months of sophomore year. But you didn’t, and that hurt. I constantly blamed myself for our friendship ending. I wish you had known it wasn’t really me who was rejecting the invites—it was my anxiety.
I wish you had known how much social anxiety sucks. Social anxiety makes you question every move you make in social settings and makes you analyze every single thing someone says to you. I needed you to calm my mind when I was worrying and stressing out about little details.
I needed you all to be there and show me you noticed something was off.
Social anxiety is hard. I wish you all had known.
Image via Anna Thetard