It wasn't until I started graduate school that I realized SAD was something I might be experiencing. Although some areas of my life have been unaffected, I'm just now beginning to process how much other, more critical areas of my life have been severely limited by this disorder. I've never been officially diagnosed, but I know I suffer from SA. Here's my story:
My SA began to develop during my elementary and middle school years. While most children are teased in school, my family has a history of debilitating anxiety and depression. Having inherited a tendency to be anxious in social situations, being bullied in elementary and middle school left an indelible mark on my life. It started on the playground when other kids would tell me that I screamed like a girl. I remember crying to my parents about this on several occasions. Their support is the only thing that got me through this time in my life. That's when I began to conform to the expectations of others in order to avoid being made fun at all cost. In middle school, I was called faggot, queer, homo, and all kinds of homophobic slurs. I would avoid walking up and down the hall during break in order to avoid being made fun of. I was also chased up the hall by someone from the farm clique who tried to shove a broomstick up me (I'm from a very small town in the Southeastern US). This is also when I began sweating profusely, with sweat rings often going down nearly to my waist. This only increased my SA. What's ironic is that I have always been a confident person regarding how I look. I had several girlfriends in middle school and still notice women when they notice me, but I have still never been in a serious relationship to this day; I'm now 30 years old.
During a grad school lecture on mental disorders, for some reason it finally clicked that my current situation might be explained by a disorder that I have acquired as a result of these experiences. My symptoms include avoiding any kind of social responsibility. I have never hosted a party or anything similar, and the thought of being rejected by potential guests is terrifying. I never initiate any kind of social gathering or function. I always rely on others to invite me or organize events. I hate making decisions because I'm afraid someone won't like what I decide, whether it's a restaurant, bar, or something similar. I never date because the entire process of dating scares me. As a man, it's my job to initiate contact, choose a venue, establish a time, and so on. This entire process subjects me to the possibility of rejection. To this day, I have had one intimate encounter with a woman. It was a co-worker who initiated the encounter and basically did everything.
All of these habits have resulted in me feeling isolated and alone. In graduate school, I wait on others to invite me to functions. Although there are several groups that often hangout, I don't really belong to any one group, and I don't feel like I can ask to attend functions with them. I often discover that they are somewhere fun whenever I go on social media and see their pics and snaps. I'm tired of feeling lonely and truly want to become a husband and father someday. However, unless I can overcome SA, this will never happen. This forum is exactly what I have needed. I purchased the book by Dr. Richards and am going to read it. I may seek counseling at my university as well.
Thanks for reading.