By nature, I am an introverted person, however, whenever I feel anxious I can’t fully engage in conversation because my mind’s elsewhere. Now I am so much more confident in social situations, but my “friend” calling me weird for being so quiet definitely still plays on my mind.
I had never known why I got so quiet sometimes but therapy has helped me to understand why. By taking a specific example of when I was extremely anxious, I filled a page of what I was worrying about and the physical symptoms of anxiety. My therapist asked me, “You were with your friends at this point, did they notice? What did you appear like when you were so upset?”. I said that I just looked normal and when she said, “You had so many things going on inside your head, you couldn’t possibly be acting normally in a conversation”, I realised that that was the reason I was quiet. My brain was so distracted by other things that I didn’t even recognise that I wasn’t fully participating in the group.
That epiphany was a turning point; this has helped me understand why I become closed off and what to do when this happens. Whenever I feel myself pulling away from a social environment, I acknowledge I am anxious and I am able to share how I’m feeling with a friend, to allow me to move on. I used to get into a deeper state of anxiety if I became quiet, as I knew I was being “weird” as my supportive friend said, but I can now give an explanation that makes me relax.
When I think back to the last few years of high school, when my struggles with depression and anxiety started, I feel like I missed out on a lot. Of course, I was physically present at school, parties and holidays but I wasn’t there in spirit – if that makes sense. I was so focused onto solely making it through each day, I never put any thought into having fun. It felt like going out was hard work, but to give myself credit I did make myself go out most of the time, even though I wanted to be alone – if I hadn’t done that maybe I wouldn’t have gotten over it.
Starting University I was nervous on whether I would make new friends, as I was so quiet, but I became so much more relaxed and I’m not completely sure why. University forces you to put yourself out there and everyone’s feeling the pressure of talking to new people. After a few days, months and now years I have made some amazing friends I will keep forever. I never feel anxious with them or that I have to build myself up to go out with them.
I feel that my social anxiety has mostly disappeared, but I still become withdrawn when I am anxious. The last few months I have been very anxious whilst my friends have been around, for example, before exams and at the airport – but I confided in them and they helped me through it. Being honest and having friends that actually care about you makes a world of a difference.