Personal

Social Anxiety

If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t.  Don’t chatter for endless amounts of time about trivial topics.  If you know me well (or don’t) you know that in real life I’m fairly quiet.  I don’t really care to share details about my life unless asked.

It’s really hard for me getting married and everyone wants to know every detail of Tim and I’s relationship.  How we met, how we dated, about him, about me…the never ending talking about yourself is overwhelming.

The other day someone tweeted at me about going up to NYC.  I fear them a lot.  I don’t like cities as much as I don’t like babbling about myself.  I can talk about running all day because it’s not really about me…it’s about my (or your) running.

How does that tweet about hating cities relate to me not liking to talk about myself? 

The tweet eventually led into the topic of why don’t you like cities…why do you fear them?  Well if you have been following my blog for a while (or know me in real life…gasp…outside the internet who knew?) then you know I have social anxiety.  It manifested itself around sophomore year of college and it has been something I’ve dealt with on and off since.  There have been times it’s been worse (when I found myself crying hysterically to call my boss or when I had a panic attack at a college party) but there have been times (like now) that is hasn’t been a big deal…so I don’t make it a big deal.

My social anxiety has never manifested itself on the internet.  Let’s be honest, you can be anyone you want on the internet.  I could be a 50 year old balding man and you would never know.

Why I love blogging so much is that it is as fast or slow paced as you want.  If I want to “read” and interact with 100 bloggers in five minutes…I can.  If I want to slowly take my time and read 1 blog per hour…I can.  There isn’t any time crunch or pressure to “read all the blogs” and “do all the things”.  So yes, one could argue that internet wise I have absolutely no anxiety. To be clear, I’m not saying the internet is my comfort zone I’m saying that you can never truly get a 100% accurate sense of anyone through just the internet.  

My social anxiety comes about in two different patterns.  It isn’t the typical afraid to meet new people pattern that most people associate social anxiety with.  Meeting new people and talking in front of people have never given me issues.

First, I hate crowded places.  Things like concerts, extremely crowded restaurants or large cities, I avoid like the plague.  Running the New York City Marathon was a big deal for me because it is so big and in a city I’m uncomfortable in.  I made it and survived but I could not have done that without my brother and dad.  I would not have done it.

The second aspect that I deal with is the fear of judgment on certain things.  I never know how much to share or not share.  This includes blogging and real life.  I write short posts because I don’t really know how much people want to know or read.  I don’t talk about myself a lot in real life because I don’t know how much people really want to know. 

If I don’t have anything to say…I don’t.  Sometimes in “real life”, if there is a long awkward silence than that is fine with me…I don’t care.  I don’t mean to be standoffish or just ignore people (I don’t do that either).  I just don’t really feel the need to fill the space.  Here is the best example I can use about someone saying “how was your day?”

I’ll typically respond something like “good, just worked but nothing too exciting” versus something like“it was good, worked and checked emails in the morning, went to lunch at Panera and in the afternoon I had meetings at 1 and 2 and then did some more email work at 3”…

Social anxiety is not easy and it’s not simply something “you can get over”.  I’m glad that I’m not suffering as I was in early college but it is something I occasionally have problems with.  I’m not having paniac attacks as I was in early college but I still struggle from time to time.

I’ll post about steps I’ve taken to be proactive or any questions about it next week.   No questions today, but feel free to post thoughts, comments, questions or anything else.

 

35 replies »

  1. Sometimes I do the short answer thing to people’s questions, makes things awkward at times, but, like yourself I don’t like to fill the air meaninglessly with words. I don’t like going to social circles or dinners where you have to talk much more than polite chatter, preferring to listen instead. Some people don’t mind but often people don’t understand.

  2. I recently started following your blog. My friend said it was good and I recognized your name from races…it completely agree. I also hate big cities. The other day I got slack because I haven’t done NYC. I freak out in crowds. I’m a small town rural girl. I grew up in Mexico ny, not too far from Oswego…Syracuse even scares me. I hate the malls at Christmas and I have panick attacks…I like to be invisible in public Hanna….also, I get nervous about the Internet too….as for your wedding, that is your special day…..sometimes too many questions gets to be tooooo many questions….speaking of panics and anxiety. I also get a lot of slack because I don’t do triathlons. I love swimming but had a horrible time when I was a kid…people think I can get over it In a day…if your social anxiety were that easy to get over, it would have happened and sometimes a private life is quite nice! You are an awesome runner…keep it up! No questions lol….

  3. Social anxiety is tough…I’ve struggled with it since I was a kid but was able to successfully hide in books. When I got into my 20s and was forced to have adult interactions I started having dizzy spells that I later found out were anxiety attacks. Sheesh! Like you, it’s why I don’t like big cities (or crowded parties or clubs) and always enjoy small races more than the big races that most my friends run. (Like marine corps marathon – once was enough for me!!)

  4. Oh social anxiety…how I could write a book on this subject. It’s affected me for pretty much my whole life (since I was about 5?), but I’ve only been slowly talking about it for a few years now, and hardly any of that has been public.

    As I’m learning to deal with it more, I’m learning that it manifests in different forms. It has different triggers, and different effects, for different people.

    For you it sounds like it’s triggered around crowds of people you don’t know, and conversations about yourself. Where as I’m very comfortable around large crowds of people I don’t know, but I fear having to talk in front of any crowd of people I do know. I’m also prone to an attack when I’m approached by surprise by someone I know.

    Also, I’m more afraid of the panic attack itself, rather than the situation. So I fear situations which might cause these attacks! For some reason a panic attack is triggered more in an unnatural indoor environment, so I hate being indoors but I’m very comfortable in an outdoor environment. Whatever it is, outdoor park, cafe, whatever, I don’t really get social anxiety at all outdoors anymore. I used to as a kid.

    Thanks for opening up. People think that social anxiety is just feeling sick, like stress related anxiety. But it’s completely different. It’s more of a chronic phobia of some kind of social reaction that you might anticipate happening. The more people that open up, the more we can inspire other people who are suffering, and educate people, and help each other to learn how to deal with it :)

    • Hey Mike, well for the first time I see someone else describing EXACTLY my social anxiety … being approached by surprise by someone I know, speaking in public, indoor situations worsening and triggering attacks. And that’s happening on the other side of the world too (I’m Italian).
      I’m in my forties so I could also write a book on this (well maybe not in english though)
      This is a very weird situation, I and guess we all know there is no reason to feel this way, I am a good person , I have beautiful kids, still this is something I CAN’T always CONTROL.
      Well, on the bright side, running has made my life better. I still struggle with SAD, but running has somehow added something good in my life ( and yes I can’t have a panick attack while running ;-)
      p.s. Hollie thanks for sharing ! I have met your blog a while ago and even if I’m usually a silent reader I do enjoy it very much

  5. I have to be in the mood and with certain people in order to enjoy big cities. I much prefer a beach with no one on it. And I totally agree about not knowing someone based on the internet. How could you possibly get a good picture of someone through words alone?

  6. I am also a fan of big awkward silences. Well, not necessarily a fan, but I don’t dread/fear them like a lot of people. If I don’t have anything to say, I think it’s worse to try and force an awkward conversation than to just sit and be. I don’t know why everyone feels the need to fill silence at all times when they’re with someone, but I don’t. So we can just sit together in silence, haha!

  7. I go through stages, some days I come off as super offish, totally unintentionally. I just have learnt I need a lot of me-time. I am happiest when I am on my own. Even with an amazing boyfriend, and we live together too – I like my own space. I don’t handle crowds of people well. I also seem to go through phases where I don’t make an effort to see people.

  8. I can definitely relate. I have never been comfortable in large crowds. My wife calls what I do “shutting down” which is pretty accurate. I have trouble focusing on anything and I get real short with people. If it is a loud environment that is even worse. I have to focus on breathing and relaxing so I don’t panic. I also find it helps me to find the most “open” part of a crowd to at least get some elbox room.
    I am also very content with silence and feel little need to fill the “void”.

  9. Unfortunately for me, my anxiety leaks into my social life ): Like you, blogging really helps because I can choose how to interact with someone. I can tweet like a bird but sit me in front of the people I’m tweeting with in real life and I start panicking. I’m glad your social anxiety has been easing up over the years because it honestly really sucks. I recall 2 years ago, I had to skip class one day because after I made it to the subway stop something set me off and I couldn’t go through with it ): Just thought I’d share

  10. The first time I went to NYC by myself, I got off the plane and immediately met up with my friend at his office for lunch. All was fine up until this point. After lunch he had to go back to work and the friend who I was staying with wasn’t getting out of work until later that evening. So I had this gap of time by myself in the BIG city. One would think I’d go out exploring. But I was instantly SOO lonely! I found myself on a bench, crying and reaching for my cell phone to call my boyfriend (who was back in Boston). And I was just sobbing over the phone. It was strange to me and a very odd feeling of loneliness. But I’ve read that before – that sometimes big city dwellers feel extremely lonely. I think I was just so overwhelmed by the hugeness of the entire area.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on subsequent visits to NY and am able to appreciate the vibrancy and different events and activities. BUT, I can only take it for 1 or 2 days and then I want to crawl back to the “safe” and quiet suburbia. I definitely don’t have anxiety like you describe but I do LOVE being alone and quiet more often than anyone else I’ve met :)

    Thanks for this post! And please only share wedding and other details that you WANT to share. I am sure that you don’t but definitely don’t feel obligated to put out there more than you feel comfortable. Some people will just have to live with not having every detail – imagine that ! They WILL live. :)

  11. Okay, I just wrote a really long comment but my thingy does NOT want me to talk to you apparently. Long story short… I’m glad you have your family and Tim to help you ease back into high social events. It’s really important to push yourself out of comfortable positions, but having someone with you is almost essential. I’m definitely quiet around some people, but I never really seem to mind. I feel kind of boring most times, but… I can’t really help it. Lol

  12. I very rarely leave comments but I really like this post. I also have social anxieties, which only manifested themselves after University. Although I think a) being British and b) living in London helps. I recently went to Canada and the difference in social interaction was staggering.

  13. I am terrified of using the phone. I ran out of contact lenses a month ago and I have been stretching out the use of my last pair because I don’t want to call an eye doctor to make an appointment. I’m pretty sure I have cried at least once about not wanting to call someone on the phone. Give me an online form or email customer service any day.

  14. *LOTS OF HUGS*

    I can definitely relate to this a lot. I feel really awkward and uncomfortable in public a lot. Once it becomes conscious, the anxiety can get really bad. I’m not sure if it’s worse for me now or if it’s better. In some ways, things are easier now because I feel more free to be myself, but I also feel like I’m being judged a lot more now too. I’m learning to deal with it more and more by just “owning it” and I think that’s probably somewhat obvious in how I present myself online, but it can be really tough.

    Making phone calls is particularly difficult for me. It’s always been. My anxiety around them gets really, really bad to the point where I’ll completely shut down. It can take me days to work up the courage to make an important call. It’s not so bad with closer friends, family, or coworkers I work with often, but with strangers, it can be debilitating. Unfortunately, I’ve had to do a lot of this over the last couple years with name change stuff, doctors appointments, etc. I’d like to say I found an easy way to deal with it, but I haven’t.

    If you ever need to talk through any of your anxiety, I’m here :-)

  15. Very brave of you to share this online Hollie! I also hate really crowded marathons but I think its more because I don’t have any personal space and it freaks me out.

  16. I absolutely *hate* talking about myself. Hate. It. Doesn’t matter if it’s a date or job interview–it’s the worst. Maybe because of this–or maybe because I’m a curious, inquisitive person–I try to keep the attention on others through asking questions and listening. I’d much rather listen than talk. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, right? ;)

  17. I very rarely talk about my anxiety in real life, except with people I’m really close with. I find it much easier to talk about on the blog and even there I try to throw in some jokes along the way :)
    I can really relate to the crowded places. This weekend I HAD to leave the expo because it was just too crowded and I could NOT handle it at all.
    I’ve slowly learned that a lot of the time the anticipation makes me MORE anxious about an event than the actual event itself, so where I can I’ll just to get it done as quickly as possible so I no longer have to worry about it.

  18. I also just recently found your blog. I wouldn’t say I have social anxiety myself, but I DO hate talking about myself. That was my least favorite part of getting married too! When everyone says “This is YOUR day,” and all that sort of stuff I just cringed at the thought. On the bright side, your wedding will be SO much fun and you’ll feel like it just flew by at the speed of light that it won’t feel like it’s all about you the way you might fear. Also, be prepared, once you are married a zillion people will ask you, “How’s married life?” I never knew quite what to say to that one lol. As for cities… I think that with that one it might depend on whether or not you’ve lived in one for a while. While a million people all around can be scary, you can also think of it as a way to blend in because you’re one in a million and can hide in the crowd so to speak. I kind of fear rural areas where everyone knows you, probably because I did grow up around a city and lived downtown for six years. Anyhow, I hope you don’t mind if I follow your blog :)

  19. Ah, the interwebs are an interesting place, don’t you think? People tend to think that if you’re online and they’re online, all topics are free range. They can ask any question they want and they’ll get an answer. The thing is, that doesn’t have to be true, does it? I’ve realized that I don’t have to answer every tweet or post just because someone asks me. I just choose not to answer the questions I don’t feel I want or need to. Maybe try it? It felt weird at first but now I’m okay with it. Just because we are online doesn’t mean we don’t deserve privacy or space. It’s all about boundaries :)
    Hope your wedding planning is going well and that you’re enjoying the process! May it be a beautiful start to a beautiful life long relationship. xo!

  20. Yes to all of this. One of the things I appreciate most about hanging out with you is the fact that we can just sit or run in silence and there’s no need to try and fill the gap with small talk. The need to avoid awkward silences is one of the main things that stresses me out about interactions with most people.

    I definitely relate to the controlling your own pace nature of social media. Sometimes I just feel very overwhelmed but then I back off … and I think that in online social interactions, people get that. If I don’t immediately comment on a blog post or respond to a tweet, I don’t think anyone gets super offended by that. It makes it easier for me to genuinely engage with people because it’s on both of our terms.

  21. Yesterday was actually the last day of my anxiety group therapy meetings, and most of us in there have some form of social anxiety. The only thing I’ve done that’s helped me is basically forcing myself to just go and be social, but know that if I have a panic attack that I can leave. Group was nice because we were all together and knew exactly what each other had gone through, basically, so we understood and that was comforting.

  22. This is interesting. I grew up in a small town and hated it, though I had social anxiety even then. Now I live in a city and love it. I don’t want to talk to any of the people, I just like them being around. I almost never make phone calls or tell stories about myself. My avoidance of those things makes the anxiety related to them worse. Most situations where I’d have to talk in front of people result in my mind going blank, or just the fear of that happening, which makes me panic. It’s comforting to know other people go through these things too. I haven’t been brave enough to write about it on my own blog.

  23. I like the correlation between blogging and real life social awareness- I can relate to much of it, similar your point of view. Although typically, it’s around others whom I don’t typically associate with or new people. That is why blogging is such a freeing outlet!

  24. I understand social anxiety to an extent – as I have it but for different reasons. I am rather introverted, so I really don’t provide information on myself unless asked. I guess I’m guarded and it can come across maybe anti-social? IDK. I HATE big cities – NYC scares the crap out of me and I don’t like going there. Same with Chicago. I think crowds are overwhelming and there’s a fear of being unable to escape if I need to. I’m not 100% sure where that comes from, but I have some hunches on where it manifested for me.

    Going to Oiselle bird camp is going to be a HUGE step out of my comfort zone in terms of my social anxiety. But I’m doing it because I know it will be worth it. If you want to be my anxiety buddy, just let me know :) We can have a safety word!

  25. This is another good post. I’m sort of the opposite of you in terms of big crowds – I like going to huge sporting events, big concerts, races, cities, etc. Though my main fear at times is being able to talk on command to people at a certain time. Or calling someone new out of the blue at times. I will say that I totally agree with you about sometimes being annoyed with people filling conversation with meaningless small talk. I mainly like talking about bigger or meaningful things, or else I’m fine with simply not talking at all.

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