‘Can I perform an excerebration?’: 4 Things Everyone Should Know About Social Anxiety
There isn’t much to say to introduce this, which is nothing new. In truth, I’ve never been more afraid to write something in my entire life. It makes me look helpless, weak, abnormal, something my thoughts want to prevent but always let happen anyway. Why now? Why write this now? are very good questions, and this need to say something stems from seemingly miniscule incidents at a small get-together last month. My ex, bless his self-prescribed tiny heart, actually wanted to include me for once and asked me a simple question involving Lovecraft and antagonism, which clearly is the fear of the degeneration of the social stature, but no, my brain decided that was wrong and I stupidly said “I know it’s not the monsters.” I can feel I disappointed him for the hundredth time, whether that’s my shuddering imagination or no, he totally can’t stand me.
Not that I should be caring what other people think, but that’s the part of me stricken with the illness called social anxiety. It is an actual disease, contrary to what everyone from your grandmother (‘oh she’s just a little shy’) to Jon Stewart (joking at those who use social anxiety to obtain a prescription for medical marijuana) otherwise believes.
It’s difficult for me to explain in person, let alone at all, what I’m feeling when I’m engrossed in the throes of this mess. I’ve spent the last couple of years now trying to ‘fix’ myself, to stop blaming everything on some ‘fantasy disease’ and just ‘get over it’. Surprisingly (to me anyway), nothing is working. Except maybe writing this article and telling anyone who’ll read it what the hell is wrong with me in hopes of being pointed to some kind of normalcy. But since it’s clearly still manifesting in nearly every aspect of my life, am I doomed?
1. If you have social anxiety, you’re probably underemployed
I have a darling little job in my field, which is shocking for most twenty-two-year-olds these American days. This doesn’t apply to me per se, because I love what I do, but there’s the interesting factoid that half of the afflicted public don’t finish high school. Seventy percent are on the poorer end of the American socio-economy. I am lucky. So very, very lucky. As it turns out, with social anxiety disorder, you’re too afraid to think you deserve better and don’t make the necessary connections to climb the economic ladder. I now realize that’s why I was reluctant to go for my master’s, because that would involve eventually telling my boss that I’m leaving for somewhere higher-paying (and not my parents’). That would involve me presenting research and participating in class and going through the entire horrific process of interviewing all over again. With my disorder, those are all big no-no’s.
I can imagine how much easier it is to not challenge your own status quo if it requires the risk of ever looking stupid when it comes to education and career. But not testing the waters can lead to a considerable amount of unhappiness, especially for the undiagnosed in poverty. It’s embarrassing to admit when you have an issue that you can’t see with your own eyes, but it could also be tragic if you don’t.
2. Illegal drugs could work better than prescription drugs for you
I’m a little bad (or awesome, per your perspective) when it comes to searching out methods that could trigger whatever glutamate receptor I need to not panic in a normal social situation. If I could be brave enough to make a few phone calls, my home state does have a medical marijuana program now. Yet, as much as I can confirm there is a marked difference in me when I infrequently use it, it wasn’t my best use of something entirely desperate. That title belongs to a drug just starting to catch on amongst the younger rave crowds. I don’t recommend it for widespread recreational use like that only because I don’t trust most people
to be responsible enough to use it correctly. However, while on it, I experienced hyper-elevated levels of oxytocin, calming myself enough to where I was able to speak with no stumbling or stuttering or fear for a good four hours. Since the top prescriptions for social anxiety disorder are Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac, all with pretty glaring side effects, including making you worse, empathogenic therapy might be the better option for some sufferers.
There is kind of a big problem, though. People seeking that option have more of a struggle and a bigger risk to obtain what they want due to some of these drugs being Schedule 1 illegal. As pure as the intention is, just to feel like a communicative member of society, the law won’t differentiate between someone like that and someone with them at a Bassnectar concert. It’s all worrisome enough to not want help at all.
3. Depression (and other disorders) go hand-in-hand with SAD
Jesus Christ, the shorthand version of social anxiety disorder is literally SAD. It’s like they knew. But as mentioned above, most of the recommended prescriptions are antidepressants. It would make sense to make the leap that yes, the more lonely you are, the more depressed you’re going to be. But the trend in most studies (and there have been quite a few on this subject) is that SAD precedes depressive disorders and childhood SAD might actually have basis for the causation of long-term adult anxiety issues and depression. At least they’re in a bundle? As opposed to having two separate, flaming bags with dog shit in one and cat vomit in the other, it’s like having only one flaming bag of goodies on your doorstep.
I think the worst part of this is that the terrible two here are certainly able to delude the afflicted into something really dangerous. Depression brings more suicidal thoughts and actions than someone without it, obviously, but when mixed with social anxiety, the likelihood of someone attempting suicide increases by up to thirty-two percent. Notice I said ‘attempting’, as in taking that extra step and physically harming yourself. I myself have never gotten that far, but I never know if I will. There have been stretches of weeks where I would think of nothing else, where I have looked around and contemplated on-the-spot scenarios, where I have stayed awake in the bathroom at night waiting to see if I would go for it. So far, I’ve been able to break out and determine I was being selfish for even thinking of such acts, but I live in fear that my own mind is going to betray me and decide as such while I have no control over my illness. It’s barely a life, really. I’m content right now, and beyond grateful for those that stick around me despite it all. I must sound like a neurotic bleeding heart right now, but as bad as I get, there are those that get much worse. At the risk of sounding cliche, be kind to everyone, you never know if they need an external force to save them from themselves.
4. Long-term romance is damn near impossible
Love is something everyone craves, what with all the norepinephrine, dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, and serotonin, it’s probably the emotion that makes you feel the most. The logical way to keep a relationship going (and therefore, your feeling of love going) is communication and trust. Without keeping an open line of communication, that trust starts to become pretty brittle. Well, I’ll give you three guesses as to what sufferers of SAD would find difficult to keep up.
As soon as something is wrong, there can be a long-term unwillingness to respond to negativity on the part of the partner with the disorder. One of the characteristics of social anxiety is a fear of rejection by others, so if you feel rejected by the one person you trust the most, you shut down from them for a while. Say Person A points something out, something trivial like Person B’s shoddy video game skills, Person B could be afraid to say/do anything in front of Person A for a while in fear of disappointing them. Person A, probably rightfully frustrated with not being able to help, will say something potentially harmful or terminate the relationship altogether. I realize how specific this example is, but only because it has happened to me and it actually happens. Nobody should blame Person A, mental illness is as large of a wrench as a heavy physical impairment could be. To obligate someone to stay in a relationship simply because they feel bad for said illness is encroaching on personal freedom and just plain silly when it makes both partners undeniably unhappy, in my opinion. Not that I’m saying every single relationship involving SAD will end like that. There are people who are understanding and go through the issues with them. It’s like every other relationship; it all depends how much effort you’re willing to put in to keep the love up. The major issue is, though, that with SAD (and whatever other comorbid disorder exists), there is a lot more effort on behalf of Persons A and B, and that is time not many people would be willing to waste.
I hope though, for myself and for my peers, that this enlightens a potential partner, and makes life a little less scary for us in the long run.