Okay, so those who know me in real life know that I suffer from pretty extreme social anxiety. If you'd like to know the exact diagnosis, it's social anxiety paired with PTSD. Now I always thought that PTSD was something seen in soldiers who witnessed horrific things while deployed to war-torn areas. Apparently, while that certainly does happen all too often, PTSD can affect anyone who has suffered from traumatic events.
For me, according to the therapist, it was growing up with an addict as a parent and then going through an extremely abusive marriage. You see, to escape my home life, which was pretty awful, I got married WAY too young to a man who ended up being incredibly controlling, as well as physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive. I rarely went a day without being told how worthless I was, and my ex got pleasure out of causing me anguish. When he would hurt me or make me cry, he'd get this sickening look in his eyes and a little smirk of satisfaction. The running joke was that he could put me into a wood-chipper and no one would ever find my body. He also threatened to gouge my eyes out with a spoon....And a lot of other things.
I know this sounds extreme, and it was. This man also held a gun on me, and for all intents and purposes held me hostage in my own home when I was just 17 years old. The police were called and they ended up swarming my home with guns drawn and thankfully I was not harmed. Sadly, I couldn't go home to my parents so after a couple months of being homeless, I took him back. I had nowhere else to go. And I wanted to believe that he loved me, and that things would change.
So I was basically trapped in this relationship. Or at least that's how it felt when I was that young. For several more years I was subject to his tormenting. I was also controlled almost completely. I couldn't have friends, male OR female, because that would surely mean I was cheating. I had to literally sneak around to talk to anyone....How unhealthy is that?! After all, I was just a worthless woman, and women can't be trusted. (According to him.) I couldn't really even talk to family a lot of the time, since that had its consequences as well. He would even make it a point to ridicule me, telling me that even my own mother didn't want me. (Which was completely true...I didn't really have a mother, since alcoholism and drug addiction ran her life.)
I was allowed to work, as long as he approved the job, and I had to hand my paychecks directly to him, since as a woman, I certainly couldn't handle any finances. (That still cracks me up considering I am solely responsible for budgeting, paying bills, and doing our taxes now. And I do a damn good job of it, too.)
That man controlled me completely, and sapped me of any and all self-esteem. After years and years of being called ugly, worthless, etc,, you begin to believe it. Even years out of that situation, his voice is still in my head telling me that no one could possibly like me because I'm a worthless human being. I guess that's what abusers do....Tear a person's soul apart, bit by bit, until all that's left is a meek, timid, shell of a human being. I suppose it's easier to control a person when they're reduced to nothing.
Now let me clarify: I am not blaming my mother or my ex. I made my own choices. I CHOSE to stay with a man who was awful to me. I CHOSE not to run like hell and never look back early on...I did that. Even if it was completely out of fear, that was a choice that I made. I take responsibility for that. I am just explaining how I was diagnosed with PTSD, since it's not something you commonly associated with a wife and mother in her early 30's who has never been in the military.
Now it's several years later. I have remarried and have a wonderful husband who treats me very well. I also have 2 more amazing children. You would think that the years of abuse I suffered would be nothing more than a memory. I wish it were that simple. You see, I am still affected by this, and in ways that I hate. I am very unsure of myself a lot of the time, and I have it in my head that no one would ever like me. I have the constant fear that I am not good enough...Not smart enough...Not pretty enough...and the list goes on and on.
This fear is crippling, and it keeps me from getting too close to people. I don't have many true friends, and no one I can call up and go to lunch with. In fact, being in social situations is rather crippling. The anxiety I feel is pretty severe, and it's even been bad enough to make me physically ill. So I stay in my comfortable little "bubble" and just interact with people online. Of course my husband is my best friend, and he is amazing....But I still wish that I had people outside of my own home to confide in and have normal friendships with. I NEED that....I crave it. But I have a very hard time reaching out to people.
Social anxiety is something that no one really understands unless they've been there themselves. All too often, I am told to just "shake it off" and "get over it". DON'T YOU THINK I WISH I COULD?! It's not that easy. I can't just snap out of it. I can't just make my own fear and intense feelings of inadequacy disappear. I wish I could. I really, really wish I could.
My social anxiety is destroying my life, little bits at a time.
For example, we have a wedding to go to in a couple of weeks. Normally, that would be okay, since I would just cling to my husband the whole time. He's my "security blanket", so to speak. When I am with him, I feel a lot calmer and am usually able to get through social occasions without losing it. Well, I won't be able to do that this time. Dan, my husband, is in the wedding party. (Which makes no sense to me as he never even talks to the groom....Even he was a bit surprised that he was asked.) So he will have to head to the venue long before I do, and I won't be able to sit with him during the ceremony or at dinner.
This may seem trivial to most of you, but it has me in a total state of panic. I don't really know anyone that will be there. Not well, at least, and the idea of being on my own in such a large crowd has me literally petrified with fear. I have been crying non-stop, my stomach has been in knots, and I am absolutely dreading what should be a happy occasion.
So I am faced with 2 choices here...I can go to the wedding and attempt to tough it out, knowing damn well that I will more than likely be shaking like a leaf and probably have to leave the building to keep a full on anxiety attack from happening, which would definitely ruin the day for others. No one needs to see me totally lose my shit. For one, that wouldn't be fair to the bride and groom, and two, that would be super embarrassing for me. It could ruin the occasion, and I don't want to do that....
Or, I can stay home with my kids, which would then make me look like an uncaring bitch. (Which I'm definitely not.) But that's how it would look, since no one seems to understand how incredibly debilitating this condition is. They laugh it off and tell me to get over it. Obviously staying home is the more comfortable option as far as my anxiety goes, but that would end up royally pissing off my entire family.
So basically, I'm screwed no matter what I do. It's a losing battle, no matter what I end up choosing to do. I just can't do it by myself, and the idea of not having my husband with me to keep me calm is utterly terrifying for me.
Yes, I realize how ridiculous this sounds. It's just a wedding. I know that I shouldn't be so damn petrified. It's not about me at all., nor should it be. I know that. I should just go and deal with it. Rationally, I know that. But I can't seem to be able to rope in my anxiety, and it's literally making me sick.
And no one understands. No one ever understands. Social anxiety is no joke, and it's a pretty lonely existence for those who suffer with it. I wish I could make it go away. I wish I could wake up one day and be a brand new person, free of this self-doubt and fear.
I wish people would help me get through this...Call me up just to talk...Meet up for lunch or dinner, or just to take the kids to the park. Anything...It's so hard for me to reach out, and I wish someone would hand me a lifeline...I wish someone would see me for the good person that I am and make an effort to get to know me. I wish people would understand that I desperately want to get past this and live a normal life, but that initiating contact is just so damn hard for me. I don't want to feel like I am bothering anyone.
But my phone doesn't ring. No one invites me to all the fun stuff. No one gets it. And it breaks my heart every single day.
This is what social anxiety looks like. It's very real, and it's very hard to deal with.
If you've made it this far, thanks for "listening".