12 March 2015

Social Anxiety or Just Introverted?

I recently got an email from someone who reads my blog :) She just went through a divorce, and she asked me if social anxiety ever became a problem after mine. She went on to tell me she's pretty much cut herself off from society, and she asked if I could relate. Here is what I have to say to this sweet girl:

Social anxiety is a weird thing. For a long time I debated whether or not it was just a matter of being introverted, and now I know it's a little bit of both. Anxiety is weird in general. It's illogical and irrational. But oh, so, so real to the one experiencing it.

For me, social anxiety didn't reeeally start until after my divorce. I mean, I went through phases in my life when I was more outgoing than other times. When I was young I was basically a mute. I hid behind my sister in family pictures, I made forts and stayed in my closet and I very much kept to myself. As I started getting into middle school and all throughout junior-high and high-school, I was anything but introverted. I was crazy. I was loud and I had a lot of friends and anxiety was the last thing I struggled with. After high school I quieted down a bit, but dance parties were still my most favorite thing in the world, introducing myself to total strangers wasn't by any means unusual, and making friends was still a piece of cake. 

Then I got married... 
and then I got divorced.

After my divorce I went into a silent hiatus for a good six months. I stopped associating with any living thing. People petrified me, (and not just men). Phone calls became too overwhelming. Text messages were never returned. "Hanging out with friends" could have brought on a nervous breakdown. I was living in total chaos, and my life was a catastrophic mess. 

When I moved back from New Zealand I tried getting myself back out there. I went to a dance party at BYU, and met waaaaay too many people that night. That was the first and last dance party I went to after my divorce. My social anxiety became a very real thing.

I had a few close friends, very close friends. I was still actively dating but not group dating. I had plenty of girls nights but those girls nights were never bigger than a group of 3.... maybe 4. And the people I spent time with I knew very well. I was extremely picky.

I developed a phone-phobia. Talking on the phone would make my hands shake. In fact, I went to lunch with a good friend a few weeks after I returned to Utah, and I had to get a priesthood blessing before I could go. What was I nervous of? I don't know. 

The thing with social anxiety, is it doesn't always have a just cause or reason to exist. A lot of times it can be triggered by events and situations, particularly difficult ones where one feels inadequate and isolated... but sometimes, it just freaking happens.

It's hard for people to get that. And when people can't understand something, it's hard for them to be empathetic. I wouldn't wish this trial on anyone, but the particular trials in my life have been a blessing, if solely for the purpose of others. I know anxiety. I have lived it. It has been a frequent visitor in my life. And although it's not now where it once was, it still likes to come and make an appearance.

To this sweet girl who wrote me: you're not alone. In fact, you're in good company. You would truly be surprised to know how many people struggle with the same thing... but heaven forbid we expose our weaknesses, right?

Therapy helps. Talking to someone who is unbiased always helps. There are a lot of good books I have read on the subject. But sometimes, once the intense feelings of a situation dissipate, (like a divorce), things will progressively start to get better. And then there are times we do what we can, and we just have to put the rest in the Lord's hands.