I figured I may as well join everyone in sharing my experience with social anxiety
As far as I can remember, I've always been more shy, reserved and sensitive. As a child, though, this never really held me back. I still made plenty of friends, played sports and was, for the most part, a model student.
As I got a little older, though, I was teased by other kids, since I was small, smart and I wore glasses. As I think back, this probably planted a seed of doubt in me, because when I entered 6th grade, I started to feel more inhibited when I was around new people.
As I think back to middle and high school, I would often eat lunch by myself when none of my friends were there, and I always felt embarrassed because of that, like everyone else was talking about me because I was alone. Whenever I had to read aloud in class or give a presentation, my voice would get very shaky, as I was filled with anxiety, and I would never be able to clearly remember the experience afterwards, like it was something traumatic and my brain blocked it out.
I was never able to gather up the courage to talk to a girl I liked, let alone ask her out. Even when I was approached by girls, I found myself making up excuses and then avoiding them or, in some cases, just rejecting them out of fear of embarrassing myself. And doing that only made me feel worse about myself. I even began to ask myself why they liked me to begin with. I was starting to see myself as unlikable.
These feelings only got worse as I entered college. I chose my major because I thought it was a path where I wouldn't have to deal with people, not because it was something I wanted to do. I found myself skipping classes that gave me anxiety, because the professor would constantly go around the class asking questions. I always tried to sit as close to the back of the class and as close to the exit as possible. And my heart would sink into my stomach whenever the professor made us get into groups. I would think "I don't know any of these people. Who would want to group up with me? What am I going to say? If I don't say anything, they'll think I'm weird. Why can't I just work alone?"
I would constantly fall into a deep depression for days at a time. I would lay awake at night for hours, crying and pleading for something to just kill me and be done with it. I would not let any of this show during the day, however. I would put on my mask and act like everything was fine.
One day, I became so frustrated with myself that I typed into Google, "What is wrong with me?" and like it just knew, the first thing that came up was Social Anxiety Disorder. So I read about it. The signs and symptoms read like a biography of my life. Of course I didn't know what to do about it. I wasn't going to see a therapist. I wasn't about to pour out my heart to some strange guy. I'd only worry that he would judge everything I've done, or worse, tell me I'm hopeless and I can't be fixed.
So I graduated and got an office job well below my intelligence and qualifications and continued to power through each week, hating myself a little more every day for all the mistakes I've made and for not doing anything about my problem. Every so often, I would entertain the idea of seeing a therapist, but could never build up the courage to actually contact one. And then I would fall back into depression, think about death, suicide, the usual. Then I would snap out of it, continue to power through, rinse and repeat.
Then I found this website and, more specifically, this program. I saw that it cost about $160 for the whole series and just said "Screw it, might as well give it a shot. It's a better idea than killing myself, anyway."
And so here I am. Almost 25 years old, never had a meaningful relationship in my life, stuck in a boring job that I hate, and with absolutely no social skills whatsoever.
At the time of this post I am almost up to session 4, and I'm already feeling a little better about myself. I'm learning to catch and stop my ANTs and even that small step has begun to clear the fog of depression that has clouded my mind for years. Hell, I've even begun to speak up and tell jokes in meetings. I never would have done that even a couple weeks ago!
I have high hopes about this program and I look forward to coming back to this post in hopefully less than a year and laugh about how I could have ever felt this way.
On that note, thanks to anyone who read this. I know it's long winded and probably didn't make sense all the time, but it felt good to write all that and tell someone about my experience.