First of all, I’d just like to thank Kayleigh for allowing me to guest post on her blog. Kayleigh’s a blogger I’ve admired basically since I started my blogging journey, so to have this opportunity is fantastic for me! I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder at around 14 years old, but to be honest I think I’ve suffered with in since I was around 7 years old.
I’ve always been a shy kid, but my shyness crossed the border to anxiety, as it was noticeably more than just ‘typical child shyness’. I’d feel sick at the thought of going into school every day, mainly as I got quite bullied. I personally think the bullying is what triggered me to develop Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), but that’s a different story for a different time…
I still suffer with SAD (I always will, unfortunately) but I’m beyond relieved to say that since finding the right medication and finding healthy ways to cope with it effectively, it’s gotten a LOT better within the last few years. Therefore, in this post I’ll be speaking about the day in the life having SAD when I was around 13-16 years old (my high school years).
Sadly, I barely left the house during this time as my anxiety was so bad that I was fearful of being in public alone, so I’ll be speaking about the rare times I actually left the house, which was usually with another person as I felt safer with someone I know and trust. This was a HUGE part of my SAD, having to be around people I trusted if I ever left the house. The thought of being alone in public would be so horrendous as I knew I’d have to see people and I didn’t like the idea of that whatsoever.
A typical day in the life suffering with Social Anxiety Disorder
So, typically I’d start my day like anyone else: I’d wake up, wash my face, do my makeup and get dressed. Once I was ready, I’d basically pester my friend over Facebook Messenger to ensure they were meeting me before we went out. I become so worried that they’d decide to just meet me there and I’d have to walk there alone. I was particularly bad walking in the dark alone, but I was still awful at walking alone in the day light. I just couldn’t face the idea of it – it was my worst nightmare.
Walking alone was the biggest struggle for me back when I struggled horrendously with SAD. I’d walk with my eyes planted to the ground, unable to look up at anyone or anything around me. I’d walk extremely quickly as my heart would be racing and I’d just want to get to a safe location. Honestly, I think I may have had a little generalised anxiety disorder tied in with SAD, as I was constantly paranoid someone would kill me when I was walking alone. Bottom line: I NEVER felt safe.
Once me and my friend had set off walking to our decided location, we’d often stop at a corner shop. If I wanted a drink or some food, I’d have to ask my friend to go to the till with my money and I’d wait outside. I could not handle speaking to cashiers or buying my own things at a till register, as my SAD meant speaking to strangers was extremely hard for me. I remember some of my friends would go to the till for me no problem, but sometimes they’d try to encourage me to do it and I’d instantly feel myself start to panic.
At last, me and my friend would arrive where we were meeting our friends (often on the park, as we were only teenagers and therefore couldn’t get into any pubs.) We’d usually sit in a big group, so I’d keep myself close to my small circle of friends and wouldn’t leave their sides. Understandably, my close friends spoke to the rest of the group as we were all friends. This meant that the majority of the time out with my friends I was silent and just sat overthinking everything in my own mind: ‘what is everyone thinks I’m weird for not talking?’, ‘what if people are wondering why I’m even here if I’m so awkward and shy?’.
Any time someone did speak to me, panic would set in my brain and I wouldn’t know how or what to reply. I’d often stutter and the whole time I’d just want to go home. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED my friends. This was all my problem, not theirs. I just want to reiterate that. My friends were incredibly supportive of my mental health at this time, but it didn’t make it any easier for me unfortunately. I was stuck in a black hole unable to get out.
As the day went on, I’d begin to constantly worry about getting home. A few hours in the company of many other people was enough for me, so at this point I’d want to get home. The issue was how I was going to get home. It would often be getting dark at this point, so there was NO way I could walk home alone. I had to wait for one my close friends to walk home my way so I could walk with them, and if no-one was walking home my way I’d usually figure this out at the start of the day and just stay home instead of going out and socialising.
My entire day was centred around other people and their plans. ‘What time are they walking home?’, ‘Are they walking my way home with me?’, ‘Are they bored of me and just want me to leave?’, ‘I wish they’d sit closer to me so I felt safer’. This is such a small fragment of the constant racing thoughts running through my hectic mind.
Once I was home, I’d be SO incredibly relieved to be back in my comfort blanket. I’d be so exhausted from the day of constant panic, worry and overthinking that I often wouldn’t leave my bed for days after. This is why I was absent a lot during school, as suffering from SAD often made me so exhausted I felt physically ill. Mental illness really can do that to you. It takes away everything.
So, that’s a day in the life of having Social Anxiety Disorder (or my experience, at least.) I hope this conveys to people just how debilitating anxiety, and other mental illness, is. It’s not a joke, it’s not less serious than physical illness. It’s valid and it’s real. If you are suffering from SAD or any mental health problem, take it from me that things WILL get better. I will always have Social Anxiety Disorder, but I have learnt to cope. Life is now bearable and I even enjoy socialising sometimes. Keep going. You will get there. <3