I didn’t know how to explain what was happening to me. For years, I had been extremely social and energetic. But after moving to University, I began to get extremely nervous before social events. My chest would feel like it was closing up, my palms would get sweaty, my breath short. If I went to a gathering where I didn’t know majority of the people, the feelings would get worse. My mind would race as to where the closest escape was, and how quickly I could get home. My friends began to wonder why I was behaving this way, but I couldn’t explain why.
When I finally spoke to my doctor about my experiences, she told me it sounded like I was experiencing social anxiety. I almost couldn’t believe it—how could someone who used to be the most sociable person in the room have social anxiety? Despite my initial shock, after speaking with my doctor about what social anxiety is and the symptoms I was experiencing, I realized that I indeed had social anxiety and was willing to get help.
And let me tell you—reaching out for help was the best decision I have made. From speaking to a therapist, we were able to identify my thoughts and events that triggered the anxiety. In addition, we worked on techniques to control my social anxiety. A technique that I found worked for me was going into a private space such as a bathroom and taking slow, deep breaths, to control my thoughts. Then, I would counterbalance my thoughts. For example, if I was becoming anxious over a thought that the people I meet may not like me, I would tell myself that I have an amazing group of family and friends who do love me. Lastly, I would tell myself that it is okay to be feeling how I am, and coming to the event is a huge step in the right direction. Sometimes, I would still have to leave, but other times, I ended up really enjoying myself.
I still struggle with social anxiety, although I have learned so much to help me cope. From this experience, I learned how important it is to reach out for help when you need it. There is absolutely no shame in going to a professional, or a family or friend for help. Reaching out is a huge step that takes extreme strength, but it is extremely rewarding.