I just wanna say I’m very aware that there are people in the world who have things much, much worse than me. I am aware that this is kind of a “first-world” problem unlike starvation, disease, prison, and being shot to death.
On the other hand this has fucked up my life for well over 20 years and continues to fuck it up to this day. I am almost 50.
I remember in about 1993 when I was going to college, one day I left class and needed to cross an outdoor courtyard between the buildings. It was full of people. I remember I looked at it and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk through a crowd. I just knew they were looking at me, judging me, waiting to laugh.
So the inestimably reasonable solution my brain came up with was to go behind one of the buildings and climb over the chain-link fence with barbed-wire on top of it. As I came over the top I tore a hole in my shorts, which made things 10X worse. Any thoughts of making it to the rest of my classes were totally gone. I just went home for the day.
It was a big factor in me not succeeding in college. I made the dean’s list, had a 3.5 g.p.a.. I flunked out because I couldn’t handle going to class, the crowds, the people. I feel like the nerd in The Breakfast Club, where he couldn’t make the lamp work when you pulled on the elephants trunk. The other guy is baffled. “How can you not do that? It’s so simple.”
To this day I’m afraid to go to the grocery store. I put it off, or buy fast food instead not because I’m lazy but because I’m afraid to deal with people. I’m afraid for them to see me, to be looked at, in any capacity.
I do not sleep the day before job interviews, doctors appointments, anything important. I can’t. My last job I would panic on the way to work every day. I’ve had several jobs that involve sales. Every call, every appointment was like a confrontation with Freddy Kreuger in my mind. I’m afraid to speak to people, anyone I don’t know.
20 years ago I didn’t know what it was called, wouldn’t have believed it if I did and neither would anyone else. If they did believe it you would just be made fun of for being so weak.
So yeah, it’s a thing. It’s like someone with schizophrenia in some ways. Some schizophrenics know their hallucinations or delusions aren’t real, but that doesn’t make you not hear them, or not see them, or not think those thoughts.
I know it’s ridiculous. I know these are the simplest things that a child can do. I’m a grown man and can’t handle going to a store, or a conversation. That doesn’t make it any better. It only makes it worse because it makes me more aware of what a failure I am. Knowing that none of it is real does not make the fear go away, because I can assure you that that, of all things, is very real indeed.
Even if you can make it part of the way up in the world, social anxiety can still stop you.
I worked hard at a job and was technically next in line for a promotion. It would have been enough to help with my wife’s future medical treatment. I was so sure I’d get it.
Then I don’t get and I get told its only because I’m not “interactive enough.” Or basically I’m not super social and friendly, so all my hard work meant nothing. I’m actively trying to push myself to be social, but I’m having so many mini heart attacks a day forcing it that its driving me nuts.
We definitely need more awareness on SAD.
And I know your feeling about going to the grocery store. I went for the first time in my life by myself to get a present for my wife’s b-day as a surprise. Mixed with a migraine, I almost blacked out in an aisle. But I don’t tell people because no one would believe me.