Like most people who suffer from anxiety disorders, someone suffering from social anxiety that everything I listed above is who I am.Her words persist in my mind regardless of what I do to counteract them, in much the same way that social anxiety persists, despite facing the fears on a daily basis.Any childhood memories of being introduced to new people have dissolved into the sands of time, but when I was a teenager – when meeting new people is a prerequisite to be accepted – it was immensely difficult for me.
My first girlfriend became increasingly frustrated that I’d never write when she was around.She thought I was being elusive and hiding something sinister, where in actual fact, I just can’t write when people are watching me. I wrote recently of how my fear of being watched on stage ultimately led to me turning down Theatre at A-Level.Personally, I would choose an interview from a journalist any day of the year, as I fear whip-smart academics far more than journalists!perhaps because my grasp of grammar would most likely cause even the most kind-natured of editors to spank and send me to the naughty corner, perhaps because I simply envy them, editors are the supreme authority figure to this aspiring writer and therefore…runaway! There have been times in my life where I have deliberately starved myself rather than walk to the supermarket to buy food. When I had to do it at school I’d become tongue-tied and confused; the resulting mumble, oft ridiculed for months afterwards.Although my abuser erased that pride with numerous vicious comments regarding this period (and what I believed to be achievements) I’ve always remembered being the center of attention at my leaving BBQ and the increasing panic that grew in the lead up to my inevitable speech.
My words became muddled, my mouth dried and I made myself look like a twat in front of management and staff.
Meeting or being in situations involving important people are guaranteed to freak me out.
The usual suspects apply: Police: a recent comment on The Conversation stated that an interview from an academic was less ferocious than an interview from a journalist.
One time, whilst homeless, I saved for months to secure a motel room but, because I couldn’t bear speaking to the receptionist on that particular day, lost my money by simply not arriving. At work experience (at the age of 15) I was so nervous I admitted – long before Eccleston, Tennant and Smith made the show must-see television – that I was a fan; the laughter still haunts me to this day.
As for pre-arranged social encounters, nothing compares to the anxiety surrounding these. By the time I began training seminars I hated this moment so much I would ‘accidentally’ miss my train or ‘accidentally’ get a flat tyre purely to arrive late and avoid this cruel hell. As for college, I tried for days to talk to my girlfriend about my fear of this moment in the hope I would receive some understanding, but whenever I did she attacked, knocking my self-esteem so much that on the first night I fumbled my way through my introduction, mixed the names of my favourite film directors (annoyingly, David Fincher and David Mackenzie became Fincher Mackenzie and David David) and accidentally told the class my name was Mitchell. In a world where first impressions are the only thing that matters, fudging this moment immediately puts me on the back foot.
If I go I usually end up being so anxious I can’t tell the difference between a Bordeaux and a Claret and spend the entire evening saying nothing but the occasional, incoherent, gargle. Rather than making an impression that creates ‘I want to get to know this guy’ feelings it becomes the other way around. No matter what effort I make to overcome this aspect of my life I never seem to be able to get a proper handle on it.